The Difference Between Data, Metrics, Reporting, Analytics, and Insights

Clinical Researcher—December 2022 (Volume 36, Issue 6)


Chris Bryant


The words data, metrics, reporting, analytics, and insights are frequently used interchangeably by organizations while assessing a meeting’s results to inform future meeting planning. Knowing the distinction between these terms, however, can be the difference between analysis paralysis—a state of stagnation caused by too much raw information—and the evolution of meetings into strategic tactics that generate business opportunities.

Data: collected information, ranging from demographics to engagement during the meeting

Collecting data from the audience is a fundamental part of every meeting, whether it is an intentional process or not. Data are collected information, ranging from the most basic action to complex engagement. Data are generated when someone interacts with anything on a webpage, such as a button click or typing in a message. For example, datapoints could be the time the action happened or who took the action. At this stage, the data are uncategorized and only form the foundation for further analysis. Often, these data are collected, stored in a spreadsheet that is disorganized or difficult to parse, and inevitably forgotten or lost.

Data collection serves as the basis for all the other steps in this process. Raw data don’t mean much, but there are ways to measure these data against goals, which leads to the next important piece of meeting strategy: metrics.

Metrics: pieces of collected data that help measure against a stated goal

Metrics and data are similar, but with an important distinction: while data are random pieces of information (and therefore difficult to use on their own), metrics are data that are measured against a stated goal. While they differ across different types of meetings, goals often relate to things such as attendance, revenue generation, knowledge transfer, feedback collection, alignment, or any number of other organizational priorities. Turning data into metrics is a way to separate the useful information gathered during meetings from the noise.

Going into your meeting with the end goals in mind (i.e., the percentage of audience engagement you would like to achieve, or the percentage of knowledge transfer required for your session) gives you a tangible starting point for improving your meetings. Since metrics tell you exactly how closely the meeting or meetings met your goals, it is simple to start to create an updated strategy for the future.

However, even if you are only collecting the most relevant data to measure against your goals, metrics are still unstructured and can make the average meeting organizer’s or executive’s eyes glaze over. Reporting can make metrics more easily digestible.

Reporting: an organized collection of data and metrics

Reporting is a way to organize and communicate the data and metrics you collect. Reporting can take a variety of forms, such as a spreadsheet with ways to filter the data, or it can be more visually compelling with graphs and charts. However, not all reporting is created equal. If the reporting is difficult to read or doesn’t contain the context of the goals for the meeting, the odds of you being able to gain any actionable insights from it are slim.

If the reporting is organized well and reflects how far you are from the goals you set, the patterns should be more easily identifiable, paving the way for analytics.

Analytics: a summary of patterns within collected metrics

The term analytics refers to patterns that are identified within collected data and metrics. This requires digging into the reporting and revealing aggregate information, comparisons between data, benchmarking, and other analyses. Of course, choosing the right combination of metrics to analyze requires an understanding of what insights you want to reveal.

For example, metrics can show what content produced the most engagement interactions. If a goal of the meeting is to understand whether a gap in knowledge has been corrected, then these interactions must be filtered by attendee type to reveal opportunities to address and refine that content. By adding metrics as to which presenters were most effective and comparing that to correct answer scores on the topics, you could also identify potential opportunities for presenter training.

There are even technologies that can parse datasets and reveal patterns and analytics. However, the next step, translating analytics into actionable insights, requires a more human touch.

Insights: thought-provoking outcomes that lead to possible new courses of action

Insights take the data a step further than analysis by answering such questions as “So what?” or “Why is this important to my business?”

Knowing that 90% of people answered a polling question correctly is useful. However, an insight might indicate that you need to restructure part of a presentation because the 10% who got it wrong all made the same mistake, indicating that something they saw or heard caused the confusion. If confidence levels in answering that question have been measured, then analysis may show a group of participants who answered incorrectly but were extremely confident—and therefore have likely been misinformed. Appropriate follow-up would be to assess who falls into this category and address that potential misinformation directly, or en masse if appropriate.

Insights should be paired with action. If your analysis of the data doesn’t prompt you to take steps to progress and/or improve, then it’s not doing you any good.

Insights come from pulling actionable steps out of the analytics of your meeting data. Actionable steps are those that can be used to immediately improve your meetings, such as finding a knowledge gap based on polling responses that you can then pay extra attention to at a future session or point out in a follow-up. You might also obtain insights into information about how well you achieved your meeting goals, how engaged your audience was throughout, the breadth of your participant demographics, and what all those things mean for your meeting structure, audience satisfaction levels and evaluations, and more. Insights are the best way to take your meetings to the next level, since they provide you with immediately concrete and implementable steps that can improve meeting experiences for you and your attendees.


With a better understanding of the distinctions between data, metrics, reporting, analytics, and insights, and of how to use each to its greatest extent, meetings can become truly strategic resources for life science organizations.


Chris Bryant
Chris Bryant
is Vice President of Analytics and Insights Management for Array in Greenwood Village, Colo.