Meeting planners find it quite time-consuming to clean, compile and format data from various sources, to ensure coherent and consistent reporting along with the event’s life cycle.
You may ask yourself how many hours you spend cross-checking and compiling reports from various sources? Too many for sure!
Let’s first have a look at a few event reporting best practices.
4 key principles that you should keep in mind when designing your reporting plan:
- Reports must be coherent
- Re ports must be consistent
- Reports must be accurate
- Reports must be re-usable
Report customization and automation is the key to efficient information sharing.
Creating your reporting roadmap
List and categorize all your stakeholders, the reports they will need and any relevant delivery information. By creating a reporting plan, you will identify opportunities to streamline your reporting needs. You will seek to re-use the same report for several purposes or stakeholders, or simplify your delivery schedule.
Manage your stakeholders by proposing your reports and deadlines proactively, instead of waiting for them to require the reports they want when they want it.
A good reporting roadmap will serve during the whole life of your event. As a manager, it will enable you to delegate the production and delivery of reports to your team while controlling everything is on track.
Common event reports
You may ask what kinds of reports revolve around your events? Here is a list to help you categorize your reporting list:
Suppliers’ reports such as transfer lists or rooming lists. Participant lists with all kind of services booked, profile information or preferences to inform suppliers on reservations, latest changes and cancellations
Financial reports to inform budget owners on the project’s budgets, revenues and expenses. Financial reports can also serve the needs of procurement and accounting.
Session content & abstract reports to share the progress of program building with program committees, and to manage the program publication
Statistical reports to support decision making before the event, to help defining strategy for the next events, to inform organizations about the events’ success or to report on compliance. Statistical reports are also used throughout the event lifecycle to drive tactical actions such as promotion to drive registration.
Defining your report templates
When you create a report, ask yourself about the reader’s profile, needs and expectations, and what usage the recipient will make of it. If you don’t understand the purpose of your report, then you are likely to provide a report that will not be fully relevant to your stakeholder, who will come back with questions, or worse not read it anymore!
Once you have defined your report objectives and what data should be provided, check which format is preferred, or alternatively recommend one.
Data must be thoroughly filtered to ensure the target recipients are given access to the data of their interest: no more, no less! Providing with too much data can indeed impede on your reports impact.
- Remove unnecessary data to facilitate reading and avoid misunderstanding.
- Control what data is shared with whom and when
- Ensure confidential data does not appear on reports
- Design reader-friendly reports to ensure data is understood from the first reading
Reports are often presented in the form of:
- Lists of event participants with profiles, booking or financial information
- Pivot tables and graphs to report statistical and financial summaries.
- Budgets & account statements in line with accounting processes and rules
Create a template library
Once meeting planners have spent hours designing their reports, they need to save the format and structure to save time and to ensure consistency the next time they will create the report.
If you use Microsoft Excel or Word, save your reports in a template format (.xltx or .dotx for example) to keep the style and structure. You will then be able to open it as a new document and change the content without affecting the original template. If you are using an event management software, make sure it supports template management to help you provide consitent reporting.
In many organizations, compliance and processes actually require meeting planners to share best practices and use the same reporting formats across all their events. That’s where the ability to save a report and make it available across your organization becomes handy. Other meeting planners will thank you for providing best practices while your management will thank you for enforcing best practices!
Use reports as a two ways communication tool
Some reports such as participant lists can be used not only to provide information to third parties, but also to retrieve information from them.
As an example, meeting planners need to send a list of participants to a supplier in charge of participants’ pickup at the airport. The list is exported from the registration software in which all names and arrival information has been defined. The supplier will add-up information for each participant such as meeting point and time, or allocated vehicle, then will return the list. Ideally, you will be able to import the new report into your software and re-use the data (add it on the participant’s personal itinerary for example).
Share reports effectively
When sharing your reports, there are a few points you need to decide on:
- How you share reports: By email, on your event website for public view, or on a private section accessible upon login only.
- Who you are sharing it with: To a target person, a group of persons
- When you are sharing them: From and to specific dates, at a certain frequency, or at specific deadlines
- What reports you share:
- A static report, to give information set at a point of time
- A dynamic report to give up-to-date information in real time
Responsibility over data
You are responsible for the data you retrieve from delegates. Always make sure you announce your use of personal data if you gather it, communication of personal data to third parties without express agreement is prohibited in most countries.
Make sure data is securely kept, and that access to reports is controlled either manually or by a web-access.
In some cases, it might be a good idea to do your research on data prestation law to avoid any legal risk related to your sharing of information with third parties.
Share data with a system
Sometimes, your data need to be complemented with data originated from another system or platform. This is notably the case for financial reports. If you event management software does not include a finance management module, integration with an external accounting/finance software can directly feed your event data (i.e. services or registration purchased) to your accounting software to generate financial reporting.
Data sharing between two systems can be done through an API (Application Programming Interface), to allow the other software to retrieve data at specific frequencies. This part is more costly as it requires API configuration or even API programming. It is nevertheless the most efficient and accurate way to report when there is a need for providing regular up-to-date information to another software. An increasing number of APIs are developed to allow software interacting with each other and automating reporting.
Use reports to promote your event
Meeting planners often forget about using reports for promotional activities. You can publish your event registration statistics or your program information on your website to promote the event to prospected sponsors or delegates. Visitors of your website will be more likely to register if they see how many of their peers have already registered.
The automation of generating and sharing reports is a huge advantage for meeting planners. Firstly, as communication mistakes remain a pitfall of large and complex projects. Secondly, it removes errors with a standardized, accurate and continuous information flow.
To conclude, here are a few questions to ask yourself when designing your reporting plan: does your event management system automate the generation and distribution of reports? How can you optimize the time you spend cross-checking and compiling data for your reports? Are these reports consistent over time, and when should they be shared with entitled stakeholders?
B-Com offers all the capabilities you need to implement a comprehensive event reporting roadmap and processes, contact us.