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Trade Shows Organizers Are Turning to Predictive Analytics to Keep Attendees Safe

VINCE ALONZO, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR
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PITTSBURGH — Though predictive analytics has been around for decades, for the trade show industry it is a technology whose time has come. More and more shows are turning to predictive analytics to keep their attendees heathy and safe at their shows which in turn boosts attendance and increases their bottom line. 

What is predictive analysis? Predictive analytics is the use of data, statistical algorithms and machine learning techniques to identify the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data. The goal is to go beyond knowing what has happened to providing a best assessment of what will happen in the future. 

Why now? With interactive and easy-to-use software becoming more prevalent, predictive analytics is no longer just the domain of mathematicians and statisticians. Business analysts and line-of-business experts are using these technologies as well — including trade show organizers.  

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Epistemix Inc., a Pittsburgh-based company spun out of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health that performs agent-based modeling, has been using predictive analysis to track epidemics for trade shows. Epistemix simulates the interactions of millions of imaginary people who are statistically similar to the actual U.S. population, taking into account their demographic characteristics and where they live, work or go to school.  

During a recent webinar, Using Predictive Analytics for Health and Safety Measures, hosted by the Center for Exhibition Research (CEIR), John Cordier, CEO of Epistimex, demonstrated through case studies how trade show managers are using predictive analytics to use specific data on health risks to keep exhibitors and attendees safe and plan for revenue or attendance increases or decreases.  

According to Cordier, it’s not just about tracking COVID. “Predictive analytics is based on behavioral forecasts that include the safety protocols of a particular organization, human behavior and what’s changing with the epidemic,” says Cordier. “But you also have to factor in what’s changing with the potential attendee and exhibitor pool. You need to quantify the number of people getting vaccines, who is continuing to get boosters and who have just been exposed. Other questions you need answers to include: Are businesses back to work? Are kids all back in school?” 

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) partnered with Epistemix for IFT FIRST: Annual Event and Expo, held this past July at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL. “It was important for us to make our members and attendees aware of our commitment to their health and well-being by aligning with a science-based company who could model risk based on past data,” said Melodie Anderson, CEM, DES, Senior Director, Meeting and Exhibit Experiences, IFT. “Using Epistemix’s program, we were able to make an informed decision to eliminate our health and safety protocols for the meeting after analyzing the low risk for our event. Our announcement, just a few weeks before the event, likely buoyed registration by offering science-based information to those who may have been on the fence to register.” 

Using a variety of forecasts that incorporate not only what’s going on with COVID, but also what’s going on with behavior of people can be used to help trade show organizers plan ahead. “If something is on the horizon, you can plan around it. When you’re looking at a weather forecast, you might look at that on a daily basis or weekly basis,” Cordier said. “But for bigger things, when you’re looking at rolling out entire protocols for events that might be months out in advance, having a good enough warning is key to helping show organizers set expectations.” 

Reach John Cordier at john.cordier@epistemix.com; Melodie Anderson at manderson@ift.org  

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