Given that 85% of leaders believe in-person events are essential to their company’s success, you would think that they would have a robust process to judge event return on investment (event ROI). Yet this is often not the case. Which is a shame as everything we do provides us with opportunities to learn.
One vital component of event ROI is the knowledge it brings. That knowledge helps us make better business decisions. At its simplest level, your event return on investment is one sum.
ROI = the value you derived from the event ∕ the cost of the event
Measuring what you put in is relatively easy. At an exhibition, it consists of the cost of your stand, refreshments, staff time, travel, accommodation. At your own event, costs may also include event planners, AV hire, hospitality, business gifts along with those above. If you take staff from their usual routines, your costs also include the value of other tasks not completed by those people.
It may be more difficult to measure what you got out of the event. Business leaders need a system to analyse precisely what value the event brought to them.
The factors considered will differ according to the event. Objects of value might include direct sales, the value of leads generated, pipeline, media coverage, attendees’ word of mouth or social engagement. Not all of these are purely financial, so organisers will need to ascribe a financial value to each one if the calculation is to be meaningful.
What is striking is that you can only determine what counts as a desirable outcome (something you want to measure) if you totally understand your goals for the event.
In short, to get the best event ROI, set out your goals and purpose for the event and use that to dictate the measurable outcomes you want to see. There is a good graphic to help you set ROI goals here.
Let’s look now at the various stages you might want to assess.
Pre-event ROI – the marketing campaign
First things first. Did your marketing do its job?
One basic way to measure your event marketing is looking at how many people attended the event against the numbers that registered; if events are free, it is not uncommon to see a 50% dropout rate on the day. If you are selling tickets, you can obviously measure the cost of marketing versus revenue from sales – but remember, the value you generate from a business event is far more than the ticket income. There are lots of ways of measuring the impact of your event marketing, but what matters more is the impact of the event on those who attended.
Post-event ROI – better event planning
Getting people to your business event is just the first step of course. It is people's experience of the event that usually matters most. There is no point in attracting the right people if they do not leave inspired, engaged, ready to do more business with you and recommend you to others.
They may even be prompted to spend with you there and then. If so, great, you have another value point for your ROI. But how do you capture those other, less tangible points of value?
Soundbite offers two ways to do this:
1. Feedback Sheets
Feedback sheets are a tried and tested mechanism. However, it's worth refining these to make it easy for people to answer the questions. Most importantly, really spend time making sure you ask the right questions to get useful data and the fine-grained feedback you are looking for.
For example, many forms will ask delegates to rate their experiences of different elements of the event. A more useful question might be to ask what their next steps will be following the event – do they intend to contact any of the speakers, enquire about a product or service, recommend something they heard to a colleague or buy something having seen it demonstrated?
2. Event technology
By far the best way to measure delegate feedback is to integrate delegate participation during the event by enabling delegates to express their opinions and measure the change of their opinions before and after the event. This is really important if your goals are not immediate as you seek the answer to the question, “What do you intend to do following this event?” Event technology works well for this.
To gauge changes in attitude and behaviour, you can poll people (for example by using voting systems) on their way into each session and again on the way out. Have their views and, perhaps, their intent to act changed as a result of what they have seen and heard?
It is vital to engage delegates while you have their attention. People are likely to tell you more during an event than at any other time during the year. Event technology (booking, in-event voting and bar code scanning) gives you information about which sessions each individual attended, what they were interested in and even what questions they asked. Pump this information into your marketing CRM and that should direct what messages they receive from your marketing team over the following months.
It’s always important to ascertain which sessions are the most popular. That will determine what you put on again, which issues you dive more deeply into and what you drop for future events.
Much like feedback sheet input, it’s vital to make your technology easy to use to drive the participation rates up. Often delegates are asked to use on their own mobile devices with event apps installed. These tend to have a low participation rate because they are fiddly for delegates to sign onto. You have the added problem that you are diverting delegates’ attention from your presentation as they are tempted by other notifications and apps on their phones.
For these reasons, we believe easy-to-use, dedicated voting keypads are ideal for gaining delegates’ opinions during your event.
We find a combination of technologies and feedback points work best – e.g. at ticket stage you can ask detailed questions about what your delegates are looking for when they attend the event. Afterwards, and ideally while the delegate is still on site, you can ask whether they found it and what frustrations they encountered.
You can also use the feedback loop as a great opportunity to thank delegates for attending.
Some organisers also turn to social media. It is easy to create an event hashtag and encourage delegates to use it when they post about your event. This is one way of tracking which parts of your event delegates rate best. Such tactics work well where you have events where you want what is being discussed to go out in the public domain. For more discreet feedback, in-event technology provides the best event ROI data.
To conclude, here is a summary of what you might track: attendee check-in, session poll responses, session attendance, session feedback, one-on-one appointment conversations, exhibitor booth visits, product demos, and post-event attitudes and behaviours.
All this data will ensure your delegates feel their attendance has been appreciated, you are in the best position to follow-up one:one with any opportunities the event has created and you will be able to make even better decisions about your business strategy and your next event.