There is nothing quite like an event – which is why they are so popular – but what are the best ways to measure the success of your event, and how can you properly plan to quantify these in advance?
In other words, we are looking to answer the question of what makes an event successful?
In many industries, an annual event can be a make-or-break opportunity. For others, they may be less crucial, but still a major part of their annual revenue stream.
Quantifying the success (or lack of success) of an event is therefore vital, but what are the best ways to do this?
In short – event KPI importance matters. There are numerous event KPIs that can be counted, checked, compared, and critiqued, but here are our top 10 powerful ways to measure the success of your event.
Number of event tickets sold (vs. attendance)
You should easily be able to calculate the number of tickets you sold, but keep a count of the number of actual attendees as well, and then run a comparison.
Many companies (let alone individuals) will pre-book tickets for an event, but fewer will attend. So comparing this ratio against previous years is a great indicator of your current marketing success.
An increased ratio of bookings to attendees equals a better marketing campaign. If the ratio is up then congratulations! You are getting it right!
Alternatively, if your bookings to attendance ratio is down, then learn the lesson and find out what you did (or didn’t do) to cause this shift.
Event revenue by ticket type
One step on from looking at the raw data, you will need to drill down a little into the type of tickets you sold and run the numbers on those. This is a great way how to measure event engagement. Look to find the answers to these questions, together with any others that you find relevant to your circumstances:
Was the event a hybrid event? If so, which attendees turned up and for how long? Was the event more successful live or online? (Define your parameters for success).
Did you run a VIP ticket or other ticket types? What was the take-up and success of those various groupings? Did VIP attendees take full advantage of the benefits they had access to?
Of course, to answer many of these questions, you need to have the data in the first place, and this will involve some method of monitoring. The easiest approach is to have barcode scanners on entry AND exit, as well as entry to particular areas of the event, such as talks, breakout rooms, VIP areas etc.
Barcodes can be run against entry passes either on physical tickets or, more usually these days, on mobile app passes.
People are used to scanning in and out of all sorts of venues now and are quite accustomed to the technology.
Data can also be collected via an Event App – cheap to produce, simple to distribute and they can provide data in all manner of ways (see below).
Social media engagement/activity incl. event Apps
Do not neglect the power of social media interactions!
Today, social media activity is a KPI all by itself, and can provide you with real-time feedback on your event – both the good and the not-doing-so-well features.
As event KPI ideas go, social media interaction is a winner.
Promote specific hashtags, then keep an eye on how many mentions they get across all your social channels.
Have a team ready to interact with SM posters, as well as a virtual helpdesk for attendees both read and virtual.
Most people love media engagement – but it is a great event feedback tool as well if planned well.
If you have developed an App for the event, then that is another online way to engage with your attendees through their mobile devices. You can ask for instant feedback on speakers, live events, presentations etc and even adapt depending upon the results you get.
An event App can also be used to link to your social media pages and encourage attendee sharing this way as well.
The question of how to measure success of events can also be answered by post-event surveys.
Post-event analysis is incredibly important, and an often eye-opening part of this is to ask the attendees themselves.
You have all the contact data you need for everyone who was there. If necessary, you can even incentivise responses (by offering an early-bird booking discount on your next event, for example).
You can also contact all non-attendees and run a short survey to discover why they didn’t show up.
These surveys can be anonymised – the important thing is to get the responses and some honest answers, and depending on the type of event you hosted, can be targeted towards any aspect you need feedback on.
Event Revenue compared to costs
An important event KPI is revenue generated, obviously, but more importantly, revenue compared to costs.
Although events can be framed in terms of an investment, with sales and revenue coming later, for many businesses, the event itself needs to be a profit generator.
This entirely depends on the type of event you are running, its purpose and the other circumstances that pertain to your particular situation.
Just to say here that revenue, and revenue compared to the costs of hosting the event, should never be far from front and centre for your KPIs, and you should always have a clear idea of what you expect to gain from the event, and how you are going to measure its success in monetary terms.
At some point, now or in the future, it needs to pay back, and you need to know how and when it has.
Event sponsorship satisfaction surveys
Like post-event surveys for attendees, if your event has any sponsors then you need to be running the same careful analysis.
Sponsor surveys are a great event KPI and a positive experience will open the door to future collaborations.
As with attendee surveys, heed the comments (and any warnings) these may generate, but also take note of what you did right – and do it again next time!
You can also find how to measure event success by looking at post-event sales.
Not everything happens on the day, so an ongoing process of data collection is as important as it is while your event is running.
Always find the source of your customers, even long after an event. You may well find that you are generating sales and revenue six or even twelve months after an event, and this is important as it will affect your number-crunching on future occasions. Revenue analysis (above) may need to be reviewed from time to time, not only with products that have longer sales cycles; an event attendee today may well be your biggest customer of tomorrow, so always keep track.
Event presentation – audience attendance
As we have already suggested, it’s a good idea to keep track of attendees during your event.
If you hosting a large event, with several speakers in smaller auditoriums, as well as large keynote speakers, then track attendance at these as well.
As a bare minimum, count heads, but ideally, track who is attending as well, and there is even the possibility of running a mini-survey at the end of these presentations.
A simple paper survey with 4 or 5 questions left on each chair works well, especially if the speakers draw attention to it when wrapping up. Or add this feature to your event App and ask for live feedback while it is ongoing, or immediately afterwards.
Remember, the more data you have the better.
Returning event attendees
Finally, it’s not just about attendees – it’s about returning attendees.
This event metric can be an important indicator when compared year-on-year, for example. How many previous attendees come back is an important KPI – but if that number has increased from the previous year, then you are doing something right!
There are hundreds of different ways to measure event success – and we have only just scratched the surface – but if you can nail these ten, then you have gone a long way to ensuring you understand the successes – and failures – of your event.
At its heart, as it so often is, it is about the data. Get your data collection methods right, and everything else is (relatively) easy.
But correct data collection takes careful planning, so plan in advance what event KPIs will work best for you, then work out the best way to monitor them.
This should be built into the early planning stages of your event so that it is there from the ground up. Don’t ever add it on as an afterthought; tagged on, it will be inefficient at best, and will not generate the incredibly useful information that it otherwise could.
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