How to Measure the Success of an Event

by Harry Prince,

17 May 2021

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Contents

People don’t just do things for the sake of it. Likewise, people don’t just host events for the sake of it. You can throw an event for one or many reasons: for the fun of it, to sell something, to celebrate something, to inform, spread awareness, you name it. 

So if you’ve hosted an event for a particular reason, there has to be a way to measure how successful you were in satisfying it. Surely. 

Unfortunately, there is no tell all master number that defines how good an event is. A shame. Maybe you could invent one? You could name it after yourself. Maybe we could, The Spacehuntr Formula, or The Spacehuntr Scale. Hmm, we’ll get back to you on that. 

Realistically, you can probably get a feel for how your event is going by walking around, seeing people’s faces, and taking in the atmosphere. But what we’re proposing is a real deep dive, and we’re going to show you how. An analysis that has meaningful things to say about how it was, and how it could, should and can be!

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Key Performance Indicators

Like when you open a pack of biscuits, one is never enough. You’re going to need anywhere between 3 to 5 Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s). 

And just because one of your KPI’s is low, it doesn’t mean failure. For example, say you have a poor attendance rate, your event can still be a success if you yield a high number of qualified leads, you know? 

Mixed Methods

It’s also a good idea to have a mix of both qualitative and quantitative indicators. Qualitative is describing and analysing with words. Quantitative is using numbers. 

Having clear numbers that say, we sold x amount of our new product is as clear an indicator as you can get. But, that doesn’t say how you can improve, what do you learn? They say you should play against people that are better than you otherwise you don’t learn. 

Meaningful qualitative feedback allows you to learn. People explaining in their own words why they don’t like your event or what you do – although might hurt feelings – can be very important. 

Sure, if it’s one person, it’s probably meaningless. But if a pattern emerges you’ve got something to work with you never had before. 

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Post Event Surveys

If you can get a big sample of surveys completed, they are gold for measuring a whole load of things: the success of the event (obviously), and feedback on your company, your products, their consumer habits. Stuff your in-house stats and research geeks will love.  

Here’s the thing though, people generally can’t be bothered doing them. And you know what, fair enough. So, you can ask them nicely, and prey on their goodwill. Or, you can bribe them. With a voucher, a discount, a gift, use your imagination. 

Questions like, Are you more or less likely to attend the next event? Are you more or less likely to buy this product? 

Monitor Social Media Activity 

Social media – contrary to belief – isn’t a space solely for procrastinating. Case in point, the days leading up to your event, you should be on social media, building excitement. You want to give your attendees a reason to talk about your event before, during, and after. 

You want to keep monitoring and cultivating these precious posts after your event too. You want to read what people are actually saying. Enjoy the praise; seriously take on complaints. 

Social media, despite what its critics say, is just another theatre of reality we’ve not fully come to understand yet. So take it seriously. Even things like likes, and retweets can be metrics of event success too. 

Sales Numbers/Attendance 

If nobody turns up, it’s safe to say an event has bombed. So sales numbers and attendance is a very clear metric to measure success. 

But don’t stop there. You’d be missing an open goal. Because it’s not just about how many people show up, it’s also who shows up. 

Are the people repeat customers? First timers? Folk returning after an absence? How many attendees bought your products, signed up for your newsletter, took advantage of a free trial? 

Have you already announced or put tickets on sale for your next event? If so, have this year’s attendees expressed an interest already? Have they bought tickets? 

The deeper you dive into this information – which is already there ready for you to harvest – the ammunition you have to make a success of the networking you’ve done, and the events you go on to hold in the future. 

Measure Revenue vs Overhead cost 

 Easuring Vent Uccess Nfographic Via Rsvpify
Measuring Event Success Infographic via rsvpify

Corporate events, of course, want to solidify and celebrate branding, as well as luring in new customers. But the most successful corporate events also make money. Here’s the thing though, more often than not, you need to spend money to make money. 

So there’s every chance you spend more than you make. Which, friends, is never usually a sign of success. This is why you need to include these things in your KPI’s. 

There are three measurement comparisons you should make: 

Anticipated Cost v Actual Cost

Anticipated Revenue v Actual Revenue

Actual Cost v Actual Revenue 

These figures aren’t gospel though. For example, your actual cost could be higher than your anticipated cost, while your anticipated revenue didn’t reach your actual revenue. And yet, the event could still be a financial success! 

Incorporate an Event App

Walking around with a map, a brochure, an agenda, a lanyard, and god knows what else, is such an old school way to go. Very quickly all these clucky bits of papers and booklets become a nuisance.

Make your attendees’ life easier by putting everything they might need and want vis a vis your event. With an app like Whova, you can do all of the following really cool stuff… 

A humble little app can tell your guest the agenda, a personalised schedule, reminder notifications, post comments, feedback, store, scan, exchange digital business cards, embed company and sponsor banners. 

It will also allow you to send announcements and changes to proceedings as the day unfolds. And most importantly in the context of this article, it allows you to send surveys measuring success and feelings about the event. 

Sponsor Recognition 

Good Sponsors aren’t last year’s toy you throw away after Christmas. You want a long and healthy relationship with a good sponsor. 

Your sponsors are the backbone of your event. They pay for all the nice things that make your event so special. 

Their thoughts on how the event went are very important. You need to listen to their feedback. Sit down with them, and take their advice, concerns, and praise to heart. 

Just remember, what they want from an event isn’t always going to be what you want from it. 

Speaker Engagement 

When was the last time you watched a film and didn’t burst into IMDB during or after to see where you recognised that actor before? Well, we don’t care about the answer, what we’re saying, you have to be engaged in the film to some extent if you’re doing that. 

So what we’re proposing is, if your audience is engaged in what the speaker is saying/has said, they’ll be straight on to the event app to read more about them. That is a measure of success. And while they’re on the app, give them the chance to put their thoughts to a poll. Double whammy! 

Live Polling Response Rate

Live polling is a statistician’s Christmas and birthday rolled into one. And you can do it on an app like Whova

Apart from being fun, it’s a superb way of understanding attendees attentiveness in real time. It also gives you a well rounded view of what sessions and sections of your event are more appreciated than others. 

Number of Returning Attendees

Most events take place fairly regularly. Unless it’s the FIFA World Cup, or a Solar Eclipse, or a Halley’s Comet. We put stock in good, and useful events, so we think you should host them regularly anyway. 

So, if people keep coming back, then surely you’re doing something right. If people don’t return, maybe you need to rethink some things?

Sales leads and New Opportunities Created 

Do you know what’s a good way of motivating a sales team? Competition! If your event is designed to generate sales prospects for your team, then you absolutely want to measure how your team gets on. 

New opportunities created at your event is the proverbial pot at the end of the proverbial rainbow. 

Regardless of whether it’s a business prospect that is a done deal, or the beginnings of one, these new opportunities have a potential monetary value for you. 

Wrapping up  

Measuring your success is standard business practice. But don’t become too obsessed. Remember to try and enjoy it! Because we think being able to enjoy your own event should be a measure of success too! 

If you’ve read this far, you clearly are passionate about putting on a successful event. Maybe we can help you further? We’ve also put together an article about the most common event planning mistakes and how to avoid them.

Featured image: Luminous multipurpose venue with rustic character via Spacehuntr

Harry Prince
Harry Prince

Creative Content Manager who sings to his dog.

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