Your event is over, everyone has packed up and left, and it’s time to assess whether or not the event was a success.
All of the time, money, and resources you’ve poured into it are juxtaposed to the post-event benefits to determine the return on investment (ROI). What you learn about your current event will determine where you invest your time and money when planning the next one.
But what metrics should you look to as a return for all of this effort?
I’ve put together a list of five metrics that will help you determine your event ROI, from attendees down to the brass tacks of revenue, by using different tools, including event management software. When weighing the cost vs. gain, these metrics will give you the full picture that you need to assess the benefits your business or organization gained by hosting this event.
1. Attendee numbers
This is the most obvious metric for return on investment for events. The best way to analyze attendee numbers is either to make a comparison year-over-year (if your event is annual) for attendee growth, or to research average attendee numbers for similar events.
In particular, you should focus on two numbers: who registered for your event and who checked in to your event. Your event management software should be able to track these numbers.
Questions you should ask yourself when measuring attendee numbers:
- What is the ratio of registrants to attendees?
- Did your pool of registrants grow year-over-year?
- Did your pool of attendees grow year-over-year?
- If the discrepancy between registrants to attendees is significant, where are you losing individuals between registration and check-in?
It is important that these numbers are as accurate as possible so as not to shift your event planning strategy in an unnecessary direction, such as dedicating more (or less) resources to marketing based on inaccurate data.
Using technologies such as RFID and iBeacons can help combat human error when comparing registrants to attendee numbers as they wirelessly account for your guests through wearable technologies or mobile check-in.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what your larger event goals are—if you don’t have the attendance, all else is irrelevant.
2. Website traffic
Who doesn’t want to draw more attention to their website? Events are a great way to drive website traffic through online offers, push notifications to event attendees, and social media posts while the event is happening.
Depending on your type of business or organization, increased web traffic will lead to different results, such as increased product purchasing, donations, or future event registrations, but we’re going look specifically at web traffic and not the subsequent consequences of the increase.
Measuring web traffic requires some kind of analytics program, either provided by your hosting platform (WordPress, Squarespace) or through a third-party solution (Google Analytics, Kissmetrics, or Adobe Analytics).
Website metrics you should measure include:
- Number of sessions: The number of website visits
- Percent of new sessions: How many of these sessions are new versus your average traffic?
- Channels: Where is your website traffic coming from? Search engines? Social media? Email? Your event app?
- Bounce rate: How many website visitors are leaving after only viewing one page?
- Engagement: A combination of the amount of time visitors spend on your website as well as the number of pages they visit
- Devices: What devices are your visitors using to view your website?
Looking at web traffic will show you the immediate growth in traffic while the event occurs, but also the subsequent growth (or lack thereof) after the event. The initial spike in traffic during the event is helpful, but if you don’t learn from your analytics what content pulls in visitors and keeps them coming back, there is no long-term return on investment from increased web traffic.
3. Social media numbers
Similar to website traffic, your social media accounts should also see a boost in traffic during and after your event. The relationship between your social media outreach and the event itself is cyclical. The effectiveness of your social campaigns affects the turnout of your event and how you leverage your social media during the event will determine the post-event social media boost.
For example, once you’ve publicized your event, you can encourage your guests to engage with you on social media by commenting on your Facebook posts, tweeting with a designated hashtag, sharing Instagram photos, you name it.
There are several ways to measure social media traffic. The first option is to use the native analytics tools for each social media website, such as Facebook page insights and Twitter analytics. However, some apps, like Instagram, don’t have their own native analytics dashboards.
The second and more convenient option is to use third-party social media management software which not only gives you analytics for your accounts, but gives you the ability to centrally manage and coordinate the content streams for all your accounts.
What should you look for when measuring social media numbers?
- Likes: How many people like your content
- Retweets/shares: Who is sharing your content and how many people are doing it?
- Follower growth: What increases in followers are you seeing before, during, and after the event?
- Impressions: How many times is your content showing up in people’s feeds?
- Mentions: How many people are mentioning your business or organization, or using your event hashtag?
- Demographics: How do certain types of people react to different types of content?
Any increase in traffic during and after your event is a success—even better if it leads to sustained, increased traffic for weeks after the event.
4. Feedback through surveys
Rather than guess what it is that your guests loved or were looking for in your event, why not ask them? Post-attendance surveys are the perfect way to look at ROI in terms of guest satisfaction.
Did they enjoy your catering? How about the speakers? What would they like to see in the future? Gathering the thoughts of these attendees allows you to adjust things to better serve your guests at future events.
Not only are these surveys useful for gathering attendee feedback, but they also allow you to get in touch with those who registered but did not attend, and those who passed up on registration.
There are plenty of survey software options out there to help you gather feedback post-event, such as Survey Monkey, Google Forms, and Zoho Survey. Some options offer free versions meant for small surveys (ergo small events), while others offer reasonably priced options for larger surveys.
Some questions to ask in your event surveys:
- Who was your favorite speaker?
- How would you rate the catering?
- If there was a topic we didn’t cover but should have, what would it be?
- How would you rate the event venue?
- Was the event better, worse, or about the same as you expected?
- How would you rate the preparation of the presenters?
- How beneficial was this event for you?
- What prevented you from attending the event? (travel, work, price, etc.)
These answers are key to measuring the overall success of your event. Either your event was a smashing success with few fixes to implement in the future, or the return on investment is learning from the bigger mistakes and fixing them.
5. Event cost versus revenue
Finally, the big measure of any business decision: Did the revenue justify the expense of the event? The revenue doesn’t have to come just from ticket/registration sales (although those are a large bulk of the equation), but also from increases in sales or donations to a cause.
Of course, this all depends on how much you spend on an event versus the projected returns. Event Kickstart has a list of the average costs of event services with ranging prices on different variables.
In order to track all of these expenses, I recommend event budgeting software, such as those offered by Cvent and eTouches. Once you’ve added up all of your expenses, compare them to your sales increases or donation levels. A simple deduction is if the short- and long-term increases surpass the event costs, your event is a success. If not, either you need to reassess your event budget, your fundraising goals, or your marketing strategy.
Other event management guides and best practices
How have you tried to increase your event ROI? What worked? What didn’t work? Let me know in the comments section below!
The Capterra event management blog is full of guides, tools, and resources to ensure you are able to get the most out of your events and your software. If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to also check out:
- 3 Signs You Need to Upgrade to Full Event Management Software
- 3 Productivity Tips for Busy Event Planners
- Secrets to Success: 3 Best Practices of Event Planners You Can Follow Now
- 10 Event Management Statistics and Facts You Need to Know in 2017 and Beyond
Looking for Event Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Event Management software solutions.