Why are job interviews and first dates so stressful? In my expert opinion as a person who has been through the best and worst of both situations, it comes down to uncertainty. In everything we do, be it in a personal or professional capacity, we feel more comfortable in situations where success is a matter of objectivity — not subjectivity.
Event planning evokes those feelings on a whole new level because success is tied to things like budgets, bottom lines, and even careers. That’s why accurately measuring the return on investment (ROI) of your events is absolutely essential. As you know, though, every event is unique, which makes measuring ROI a time-consuming, complicated process.
We can help with that. After years of working in the events industry, AAE has developed a framework for measuring event ROI that gives event professionals the confidence that comes from knowing, not just feeling, that your event was a success. Here are five simple steps to solving the ROI challenge that you should consider before writing a single survey question.
1. Identify your stakeholders and determine what they care about
Just like event professionals must understand who their audience is before creating a successful event, you’ll need to understand the stakeholders involved in the event planning process. Think about who they are and what matters most to them, respectively. Most organizations will have these types of stakeholders involved in the event planning process.
The executives, founders, and leaders of your organization will want to know how the event performed overall for meeting objectives and goals of the organization versus any specific team or function. The sales team will be laser focused on revenue potential and client satisfaction metrics. The marketing team, which will brand sentiment, social media engagement, and future promotion opportunities. And then there’s the operations team, which most event professionals find themselves a part of.
Learn how our client Pendo utilized this approach for a recent virtual event and garnered an impressive 5/5 attendee rating.
2. Confirm with stakeholders what success looks like to them
Knowing what you are measuring against will help you better meet the organization’s expectations. Start with getting clarification from each group’s stakeholders about what success looks like to them. As mentioned earlier, you can expect the answers to look a little different depending on the role and responsibility of each stakeholder.
Another important note is that if you get an excessive number of success measurement ideas, more than you can reasonably measure, you may then need to prioritize what metrics are most important.
Pro tip: try asking each stakeholder for their top five success metrics. We recommend trying to level set expectations at this point also, especially when there is an abundance of different opinions on what matters most to measure success.
3. Define the questions that will measure success
Following the discussion with your stakeholders, your role becomes translating their vision into measurable potential data points. You’ll determine what can (or can’t) be measured and define how you plan to measure these things. Shape your questions to measure success as your stakeholders have defined it. This will likely include collecting two different types of data: Facts and Sentiment.
Facts are items that are not based on or subject to anyone’s opinion or impression. These are always measurable. Sentiment is subjective feedback is just as important to collect, yet sentiment can sometimes prove more challenging to quantify. In our Calculating Event ROI guide you can find specific examples of what these kinds of questions may look like.
4. Classify and organize your event ROI metrics to track
With the help of your stakeholders, you’ve now defined what success looks like and built questions that will measure your event. You’re on your way to ROI greatness. Now, it’s time to get organized. Classify your questions into one of the following buckets, and make a note of whether they’re fact-based or sentiment-based, as we discussed above.
Operations: The tactical and operational elements of the event. From attendance numbers to opinion about the venue, group these metrics together.
Investment: The money goes here. Start with how much you spent to coordinate the event, collect sponsorships, and build a memorable experience. End with what revenue is expected to be generated from the event.
Participation: How engaging was your event? Here is where you’ll group questions that involve event participation, from session attendance to booth visitors.
Experience: This is both important and challenging to quantify as event professionals know. Questions about the attendee and sponsor experience go here.
One of our recent clients is a great example of this concept. In their first attempt at virtual, AAE helped Shine Initiative secure a speaker who was a perfect fit for their audience, and the results spoke for themselves.
5. Collect feedback and measure event ROI results after the event
You’ve done the pre-event groundwork. Now it’s time to use the metrics you’ve laid out to actually measure success. Let’s do some surveys. For an event that lasts less than half a day, send a survey within 24 hours of the event concluding. For events that were a full day or longer, request feedback from attendees within two to three days of the event’s conclusion.
Especially if your event spanned multiple days, you want to give your attendees a chance to catch up at work or school. But, don’t wait too long to ask either. You want the audience to remember details and opinions accurately.
Depending on your typical sales cycle, determining revenue potential from an event may not come immediately, so it’s important to set expectations. It’s also important to continue to measure, track, and report on successful business that was driven or influenced by event attendance.
Ready to get started?
Now that you’ve got an idea of what it takes to build a comprehensive ROI plan, we invite you to download our free Calculating Event ROI guide, which has more details, examples, and helpful tips. Cut through that pre-event uncertainty, and experience the peace of mind that comes with a solid plan for measuring event success.