How to Measure Event Marketing Performance and ROI

Events are often one of the biggest marketing expenses. If this is the case, why do so few of us measure the real impact of these initiatives?

According to Event MB, 85% of event planners use event registration software, 61% use event marketing tools, and 54% use survey tools. While this is promising, these tech stacks can often lead to uncertain attribution models that fail to calculate the true ROI of events.

In this article, I’ll share an ROI attribution model that will help you accurately measure the results from your events. It all begins with assigning the right metrics to your goals.

Attaching Metrics to Event Goals

Before looking at the metrics and tools needed to measure success, you must have a clear vision on the outcome you want to achieve from your events.

Setting marketing goals is nothing new. But it’s worth mentioning here, as event goals can vary depending on the shape and format of your event. For example, a workshop that accepts only a dozen or so people will have vastly different outcomes to a 2,000-attendee conference.

The best goals are specific, but that doesn’t mean you should only choose one. Yes, you need a primary goal, but secondary outcomes usually come as an added bonus (whether you intend them to happen or not).

Why not implement them into your plan from the very beginning for the best results possible? This way, you can split your goals into two buckets:

Here, I’ll outline the most common event marketing goals and the metrics attached to them.

Generating Brand Awareness

Starting at the top of the funnel, events can be an effective method of driving brand awareness with your audience and industry as a whole. Awareness goals include:

  1. Event registrations
  2. Presence on social media
  3. Media coverage
  4. Direct website traffic

Event registrations are, of course, the lifeblood of your event marketing, and should be a leading KPI for how well you’re performing. With these goals in mind, it’s time to apply some metrics. These include:

Measuring Engagement During Your Event

How are you going to measure the level of engagement at your event? While this outcome can often seem “fluffy,” there are several ways to do it. These goals include:

  1. Session attendance
  2. Session engagement
  3. Event app engagement
  4. Social media engagement

Engagement metrics provide a litmus to measure how attendees are enjoying your event. Metrics for measuring these goals include:

These goals are important for any event manager. They help you figure out what works well, what doesn’t and what needs fixing in real time. These metrics allow you to address unhappy attendees and improve your event in the future.

Acquiring Customers & Educating Your Audience

Goals that fit under the umbrella of “education” bridge the gap between awareness and ROI-driven goals (such as sales and lead generation).

Attendees are often looking for events where they can sharpen their skills and learn about new technologies. These technologies can include your own product.

Education- and acquisition-driven goals include:

  1. New customer acquisition
  2. Customer satisfaction
  3. Customer retention
  4. Partner engagement
  5. Partner satisfaction

Metrics for these goals will seem obvious, and include the following:

As you can see, these metrics are designed to measure several stages of the sales cycle before and during an event. Even the post-event NPS survey is designed to gauge how much value attendees got from your event.

3 Tools & Methods to Measure Event Marketing Success

With these goals and metrics defined, you can now effectively measure the overall ROI of your event marketing.

ROI is considered the holy grail of all marketing metrics. But how do you measure it effectively? It all starts by capturing the right data at all stages of the event marketing funnel.

Here, we’ll dive into three different tools that you can use to measure the performance of your events in real-time (and after the fact).

1. Get Attendee Insights with Event Surveys

Generating insights from attendees is best collected during the event itself. For example, if you want to ask what your attendees thought of a speaker, you can get them to fill out a survey right after they’ve attended. This way, you’ll collect accurate data to inform future session choices.

Uncover insights such as how much they enjoyed the session and how long they spent there. You can also ask them which topics they wish you covered. This can help direct your future event strategy, not to mention your content marketing efforts.

Marketers who take the time to respond to these surveys are usually engaged and invested. They’re more likely to convert into leads. These people should be qualified and scored accordingly.

You can capture this data from a survey tool or your own mobile app. If attendees use your app to express interest or register for sessions, you can time the delivery of your survey to strike while it’s fresh in their mind.

Measure Buzz with Social Listening

Your attendees will be engaging in conversations across several channels during your event. For example, Twitter is a favorite for those who enjoy live-tweeting during events.

Use social listening to measure engagement around your event before, during and after it happens. Use it to measure:

Keep track of the number of posts/tweets, as well as any images and videos to fuel your user-generated content (UGC) efforts post-event. Social listening can also measure engagement during sessions. Do this by looking out for speaker quotes and overall sentiment (e.g. if they’re going on too long, how excited they are etc.)

There are many tools that can help you set up dashboards for social listening. Define which keywords, hashtags, and branded terms to monitor and you’ll get a real-time report as they happen.

Utilize Proprietary Data with an Event App

Proprietary event apps have become a mainstay of the event marketer’s toolkit. It helps boost retention, engagement, and generally build buzz around an event.

They can also provide insights on your attendees. By building your own event app, you’ll begin to build a treasure-trove of proprietary data around your events.

For example, you can see how many attendees actually turned up vs. those that dropped off. This provides you with a churn rate from sign-up to attendance. You can also use it to measure the most popular sessions or keynotes. This provides insights into which topics and speakers interest your audience the most.

This data also provides proof to exhibitors and sponsors. Provide data into how many attendees interacted with their brand. Use this insight to increase sponsor retention for future events.

There will be times where you’ll want to avoid using event technology to provide a positive experience for attendees. You must balance a streamlined experience and the use of technology for technology’s sake.

How to Practically Measure Event ROI

By collecting data and measuring the metrics outlined in this article, you’ve set yourself up to measure the level of success from your events (based on your goals).

However, there’s one final step: applying these insights to an ROI model. To wrap-up this guide, I’ll share an effective model to help you measure both objective and subjective goals (as described earlier in this article).

Step 1: First, Calculate Your Costs

To measure ROI, you first need a complete 360 view of your event expenditure. This is often referred to as the “total cost to execute,” or TOCE for short. These are usually split into two different categories:

  1. Upfront costs: Usually approved by stakeholders as part of the budget, and are therefore easier to measure. These costs include catering, venue, printing etc.
  2. Hidden costs: Involve elements such as people- and time-related costs, i.e. the total time and resources needed to execute the event itself.

To calculate hidden costs, multiply the wages (or contractor fees) of your event staff by the average number of hours needed to execute the event. This includes before, during and after the event itself.

Step 2: Measure Objective Results

So, your event is all wrapped up. Now it’s time to figure out what fruits have come to bear, starting with the results that matter most: your true-north goals.

As defined earlier, your true-north metrics will typically be one of the following:

Again, it all depends on why you ran your event in the first place. You may also measure long-term impact, such as customer retention and renewed deals as a result of your face-to-face efforts.

With these figures at hand, you can calculate the ROI based on your total costs (both upfront and hidden) along with revenue, projected deal flow, and retention.

Step 3: Measure Subjective Results

Measuring these outcomes is slightly trickier, but still well worth taking stock. Subjective results include the following:

You can measure these outcomes based on “soft” metrics. These include numbers such as visits to your booth, attendees to a keynote and brand-related mentions across social and web. These numbers work both for exhibitors and event organizers alike.

Leading Event Marketing Strategy with ROI

ROI is too often left as an afterthought for brands. Sure, benefits such as brand awareness can lead to long-term results. But your eye should still be on your overall return.

How are you currently measuring the results from your events? Does ROI matter most to your organization, or do you run events for other benefits?