Big data means different things to different people. Or, perhaps more pertinent to the global events industry: It means different opportunities for different organizations, depending on how you slice and dice it.

ICCA, the International Congress and Convention Association, has introduced the concept of using big data to identify potential local ambassadors or experts in a given industry, profession, or vertical market who might help attract conferences in their industries anywhere in the world. The initiative is aimed at ICCA members—chiefly convention/tourism bureaus, convention centers, and other global suppliers to the convention industry—who can use those ambassadors to support a bid to draw association conferences in that profession.

But association meeting professionals can use that same data, said Martin Sirk, CEO of ICCA, “for less obvious connections. They can target non-member delegates and even sponsors in a new community.” Therein lies the opportunity for associations to find their own local ambassadors and champions, especially when exploring taking their meetings and events to a city or region where an affiliate or chapter doesn’t exist. Typically, U.S.–based associations need those local connections to go global with their events.

The big data in this case is public—and free, said Andrea Doyon, executive chairman, Human Equation, at a workshop he presented with Sirk at IMEX Frankfurt in May. “It is a new era for open data,” said Doyon, explaining that huge, free databases are available, including Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic Search. Through these, ICCA members—or anyone—can identify leading academic contacts in specified cities and regions.

ICCA is offering Human Equation’s Lead Analytics tool to its members, which identifies organization names and tracks online behavior of Web site visitors. (ICCA member Human Equation is a company that specializes in innovation in digital marketing.)

The tool offered to ICCA members can be related to a specific meeting in the ICCA Association Database or a specific meeting subject. Involving local association representatives, especially doctors, scientists, and other educators, is often critical to preparing a successful bid to host a future international association meeting, according to Sirk.

However, one doesn’t have to hire a company such as Human Equation to find the data. Doyon said there is a “10 million data set available, 1 million in Canada alone.” He suggests association meeting managers turn to the “data geek” in their association to start the process.

Martin Sirk from International Meetings Review on Vimeo.