Best Practices for Evaluating Event Success
The great part about evaluating event success is that by the time your event is over, you’ve already done most of the hard work. The goals you set at the beginning of your planning cycle should be what you are measuring your success against. Goal setting is not a quick exercise, but the payoff is yours when you have a concrete set of measurements post-event.
The goals for every event are different and how you measure success against those goals will be individual to the event you produce. However, there are two key areas that should be on everyone’s goal setting list: financial success and attendee satisfaction. Without these, your event will be short lived.
Analysis of your event data after your event can be used to determine your event’s Return on Investment (ROI). ROI is an indicator as to how much your meeting, event, or conference created value in relation to the cost and dictates financial success.
Financial success will look different for every event. Your definition of success will be based on whether your event is set up for profit, break-even or as a loss-leader. Regardless of your budget type, you are simply measuring the final numbers against what you projected. As much as this is part of your post-event reporting, financial success should not come as a surprise.
Careful monitoring of both revenue and expenses throughout the event life cycle is necessary. Set a meeting with your accounting team to review their expectations for reporting. Accounting’s goals are simple – for you to come in on or better than budget. However, understanding the how and why of those numbers is what will benefit the event most.
- Evaluate ticket revenue and timing. Were there reasons behind those buying patterns? If you want to change the pattern of purchase, it’s essential to understand the pattern, not simply the final financial outcome
- Examine your attendance make up. Who invested the most in the event? Why? If it’s not apparent to you, create a special survey to find out. You can then document ideas to leverage this knowledge for acquisition of new attendees at future events. Was there an increase or decrease in spend by exhibitors and sponsors?
- Were there factors that impacted your event’s budget this year that were beyond your control? Weather impacts, competitive landscape, economic conditions, staff turnover and more should all be fully reviewed and documented, not only when determining the success of your event from a financial standpoint but for future event development
Go back to your notes, flush out your ideas on how to grow revenue, increase profit, or reduce costs. They can’t impact the financial outcome of this year’s event, but reviewing them in tandem with your finances gives you a firm start on budgeting for next year.
Good to Know: Measuring Return On Investment (ROI)
The benefit-cost ratio compares the monetary benefits of the meeting to the costs, using a simple ratio.
An annual agents’ conference for an insurance company was conducted. In a follow-up evaluation, the first year payoff for the meeting was $2,091,880. The total, fully loaded meeting costs were $1,369,745. Therefore, the ratio was:
BCR = Meeting Benefits: BCR = $2,091,880 = 1.53
Meeting Costs: $1,396,745
This means that for every dollar invested in this meeting, 1.53 dollars in benefits were received.
This is the traditional financial ROI and is directly related to the BCR. The ratio is expressed as a percentage when the fractional values are multiplied by one hundred.
ROI (%) = Net Meeting Benefits x 100 Meeting Costs
ROI (%) = $2,091,880 – $1.369,745 x 100 = 53%
An ROI on a meeting of 53% means that the costs are recovered and an additional 53% of the costs are reported as “earnings”.
Attendee satisfaction is critical to evaluating event success. Simply put – a satisfied attendee believes they received value from your event. If it’s a paid event, value for money invested. But, beyond the money, value for time spent. As stated, attendees begin to develop a relationship with you the moment you begin communicating with them. How they rate you at the end of the event is the culmination of all the touchpoints created from beginning to end.
- Was the registration process quick?
- Could they download the app easily?
- Was their customer service call returned promptly and resolved to their satisfaction?
- Are they sharing your event with their network?
You will have a sense of your attendees’ sentiment towards your event before you arrive onsite. It’s again a blend of quantitative numbers – social shares and likes, attendance (for events where people have a choice to attend your event over others), session selection, pre-event networking and more. Plus the qualitative data – your customer service team can share caller details, social media sentiment (are they excited about attending?) and then onsite comments and post-event feedback all build an understanding of your attendee’s satisfaction. If at any point, you sense dissatisfaction, step one is to act upon it. Step two – communicate.
The session rooms are too cold and you receive complaints through the app’s help desk feature and at registration. Once you’ve adjusted the temperature with the venue, send a push notification through the app to let attendees know you’ve addressed it and they should expect to feel more comfortable soon.
Action goes a long way when quelling frustration and increases attendee satisfaction.
Once your event is over, the feedback received in post-event surveys rounds out your understanding. When developing your post-event survey, don’t forget to add open-ended questions and opportunities for general comments. Attendees want to be heard – give them space to do so. But don’t limit these fields to a few characters; if you do, it could be more frustrating than helpful. Also, consider adding the Net Promoter Score (NPS) question “How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?” The scoring for this answer is based on a 0 to 10 scale. It is one simple question that, according to the Net Promoter Net, divides your attendees into three distinct categories based on satisfaction:
- Promoters (score 9-10) are loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and refer others, fueling growth
- Passives (score 7-8) are satisfied but unenthusiastic customers who are vulnerable to competitive offerings
- Detractors (score 0-6) are unhappy customers who can damage your brand and impede growth through negative word-of-mouth
Leverage the knowledge gained from your NPS for marketing, engagement and more. Plus, you can track your event against business event industry averages. Wrapping up your survey with a question like “Is there anything else we need to know?” can go a long way to demonstrate you are listening and care about their satisfaction.
EVENT PLANNER PRO TIP
Exhibitor, Partner and Sponsor’s Satisfaction
It’s not just your attendee’s satisfaction that matters. Your exhibitors, strategic partners and sponsors all play a role in your event’s success. Their monetary investment in your event is significant. Create surveys for your exhibitors to gauge their satisfaction of the price paid for their exhibit booth, to quality of attendees/leads, to the number of business transactions they expect to make from exhibiting.
Open-ended questions for this group will give you a vast number of ideas on how to improve their experience. Consult directly with sponsors and partners. Not only will they feel you value their relationship, they are a key source of insight into your event.
Ideally, your post-event analysis and report should be completed within two weeks of your event. If you are releasing a public report on the event, you should release that information within the first 48 hours to 4 business days. The longer you wait, the less people will care enough to read it. Using infographics to reveal your public report leverages the trend of displaying information graphically and makes the report easy to read and share. Tools like Canva offer free infographic templates that will give your report a professional look with very little effort.
Invest the time to build an internal report template that you can use year over year. By analyzing and displaying your event report data in the same format each year, it affords you the opportunity to do year-over-year benchmarking. You will begin to see trends within your events. And, if for any reason you need to review historical data, it’s easy to find and understand.
Your post-event report should include several sections based on the type of event you are planning. A basic event report should at minimum contain an event overview, attendee breakdown, exhibitor/sponsor breakdown, financial summary, attendee satisfaction/post-event survey results, marketing/media overview, and recommendations for future events.
EVENT PLANNER PRO TIP
Sending Your Survey
Post-event surveys should be sent to all attendees, sponsors and exhibitors within 2 days of the event, or better yet, make it available in the event app. Collecting feedback immediately after the event generates a greater number of responses and the feedback received is more valuable. You want to capture their thoughts and feedback while it’s fresh in their minds.
Evaluating event success is a process that should begin as you begin planning your event and involves your entire team. Putting the measures in place from the start will allow you to see how your event is faring, essentially in real time. And, although it’s not necessary to measure all elements for every type of event having a firm understanding of your financial success and attendee satisfaction leads to improvement in all areas of event development and execution. When it comes to engagement, continuous evaluation can give insight into the success of all elements of your event.
Ensure your attendees feel they have a voice throughout the event as it leads to greater satisfaction, survey scores and future attendance. Remember when it comes to tracking and evaluation, choose what you want to evaluate, set up the plan and stick to it. The post-event report that follows will become a strong basis for your future events.