Event analytics, surveys, and metrics can help you demonstrate quantifiable success.
You’ve set your event goals and planned every detail, but how do you know if your event has been successful? The words “analytics and “metrics” get thrown around in your planning calls, but what do they really mean? What are they even measuring and tracking? Are event analytics and metrics even necessary?
We think so! Let’s get started with a couple of definitions:
Metrics are a standard of measurement that provide you with quantifiable accountability (and data!). Being accountable through metrics means something like you set a goal to increase registration by 20%, then you executed marketing campaigns to completing that goal, then you show how well your actual registration results compared to your goal.
Analytics help you make business decisions and measure performance by helping you see patterns through math models and statistical analysis. You don’t technically need metrics for analytics, however, they can be incredibly helpful in providing you with the data sets you need to create models if you’re looking to, say, add a new event or get rid of your tradeshow.
As for that last question, are event analytics and metrics necessary? Yes! — Meetings mean business. Event managers play an important role in helping your organization and decision makers understand how the events you plan and execute have value. Whether you’re hosting an association annual meeting or a corporate incentive or tradeshow event, here are a few ways to measure, calculate (formulas included!), and interpret your event’s success.
Let’s examine with how you can measure event success overall…
Measure Overall Event Satisfaction Through Surveys
After your event is complete, sending a post-event survey is an important assessment in helping determine the success of your event. From the results, you’ll get hard quantitative metrics you can show to your leadership and (usually) helpful qualitative comments you can use to improve the conference experience.
You can send this type of survey through messaging in your conference app or your normal email marketing. We discourage paper evaluations because it’s manual, time-consuming, and not very green.
When Should I Send the Post-Event Survey?
Immediately after the event (like as attendees are on their way to the airport).
Pro tip: schedule an automated email series where it sends two or three reminders for the attendee to complete the survey, only stopping the survey once they complete what you’ve requested of them.
We’ve also found that sending quick, daily event surveys can be effective, with one final post-event survey asking attendees to recap their overall experience sent at the conclusion of the event.
How Many Questions Should be in the Post-Event Survey?
For best response rates, we recommend asking no more than five questions. And remember, even if you don’t receive 100% response rate, the answers you receive are still valuable in helping you create a better attendee experience at your next event.
Some sample questions:
- Did you find the event satisfactory? Please rate on a scale from 0 – 10, where 0 = not at all likely and 10 = extremely likely
- How likely are you to recommend (your event) to a friend or colleague? Please rate on a scale from 0 – 10, where 0 = not at all likely and 10 = extremely likely
- Can you share your favorite experience today? [Open ended answer]
- Can you share your least favorite experience today? [Open ended answer]
Sample question for the overall event final survey: Will you attend the event again next year? Please answer yes, no, maybe, or other [and allow them space to share their reasoning].
How To Interpret Likert Scale (on a scale of 0-10) Attendee Event Satisfaction and Recommendation Answers
You can break up survey responses into 3 categories:
- Attendees who answer 9 or 10 are called event promoters. These attendees are highly likely to recommend the event to others and actively promote the event
- Attendees who answer a 7 or 8 are called event passives. These attendees are indifferent to the event. They aren’t likely to actively promote your event but also aren’t likely to say anything negative about it either.
- Attendees who answer 0 – to 6 are called event negatives. These attendees are actively likely to talk poorly about your event.
If overall attendee satisfaction or recommendations are low, this is a signal to take a very hard look at your program and logistics and see what might have contributed to the low-scoring. We also recommend completing a scan into your open-ended questions too. It will help you target areas you could choose to follow up with a selected attendee segment and ask for more insights.
The Importance of the Open-Ended Question
It is to your benefit to have an open-ended question at the end of the post-event survey. An example would be: Anything else you want to share with us?
Why have the open-ended question? Open-ended questions give you insights into the nuances behind the numbers.
For instance, why did that person rate the conference a 3? The attendee shares in the open-ended section that her breakfast experience every day was terrible. You don’t necessarily see the pattern that breakfast was terrible from other attendee responses, so you choose to follow up with this attendee by phone.
The attendee is surprised you called but offers more insights. You see, the attendee is a diabetic. Food is vitally important and she didn’t find enough health-conscious options on the menu. She shares in the phone call that if it hadn’t been for that, she would have given the event a 9 out of 10. And now that you’ve called, she’s going to attend again next year (because you’ve promised to improve the breakfast experience). She’s also going to recommend your event to three friends.
Sometimes the open-ended responses can be painful. Sometimes, they can be time-consuming rabbit holes. However, attendees who fill these surveys out tend to really love your event or really had something go wrong. You need to hear both. And, as showcased above, it gives you an opportunity for an in-person outreach to those who had a bad experience so that you can win back early personally rather than hoping your next sales cycle brings them back to the event again.
Silver lining? It also provides great happy attendee testimonial material.
Next, let’s drill down and see how you can measure individual event/session effectiveness at your conference.
Measure Session or Selected Event Effectiveness Through Evaluations
You’ve likely heard of event ROI. But what about ROA, or Return on Attendance? You can measure ROA through individual session evaluation. This metric is valuable in two ways: it helps you better understand what attendees are seeking for their sessions and conference education goals (by the popularity of topic) as well as better help you assess the effectiveness of your conference speakers (paid or volunteer).
This type of measurement is also effective if you’re wanting to measure your attendee satisfaction with a selected event at your conference, like breakfast, your annual luncheon, or awards banquet.
Using a similar Likert scale found in your overall event evaluations, ask attendees to assess sessions (or other individual events) through a survey found in your mobile event app rather than on paper. In fact, with your event app, you should be able to have the survey appear as part of the session information your attendees are viewing.
Some sample statements to include in a session survey can attend include:
- I can clearly understand know how to do something new or actionable that applies to my job or role by the end of this session.
- I am motivated to do this new skill or implement this new knowledge by the end of the session.
- I have been provided with the information and/or tools so that I will be able to do this new skill or ability by the end of the session.
- I will know that my answers to the first three bullet points are honest because I can demonstrate evidence of my learning and understanding in three different ways.
- My organization will know that my answers to the first three bullet points are honest because I can demonstrate evidence of my learning and understanding in three different ways.
Attendees should answer yes to at least three of the five statements. If not, you need to delve a bit deeper into what kind of content and what types of presenters you’re hosting at your event.
Some sample statements to include in a targeted event survey (like for a meal) can attend include:
- I liked, was ambivalent, or did not like the choices of food and beverage that this meal offered me.
- I enjoyed, was ambivalent, or did not enjoy the program that accompanied this meal (or event).
- Open-ended question
Your post-event survey and individual event/session evaluations give insights into the onsite experience. You should also measure how effective your marketing and communications strategies and tactics were. The results you find can better inform how you attract and inform attendees so that they’re prepared and engaged onsite at your event.
Measure Effectiveness of Event Marketing and Communications
There have never been so many ways to talk to and with prospective and current attendees. However, how do you know for certain what ways are the most effective to boost registration, provide logistics information, or supercharge attendee engagement and communication?
Your marketing and communication tools, like your email marketing and social media platforms, your conference app, or your AMS or CRM can provide to you a variety of analytics to help you visualize the effectiveness of your marketing and communications. Once you have this data at hand, a few simple pivot tables can provide you with a complete view into your event market effectiveness.
Measuring Direct, Email, Social, and Earned Media Impact
The saying “you have to pay to play” still rings true to a certain extent, but in a many different ways from how Mr. Ogilvy might have done it. Whether you choose to pay for space in that industry magazine or pay for space in digital mediums, marketing your event through ad buys can still be powerful.
With the proliferation of social media channels now, you can measure how engaged and satisfied your attendees were through a variety of social channels. In fact, check all your social media platforms to see the results of your social media increase after your event. Examine all your likes, tweets, comments and number of fans and followers, and determine which of your social media channels was most successful.
Depending on the type of event, you should also calculate your press impact. (When you receive media attention without paying for it this is called earned media.) Earned media is very valuable, especially when a well-known publication picks up the message or story you’re trying to get out about your event. It essentially does the work of a paid advertisement without you having to shell out a dime.
Track how many media mentions did you receive and which publications wrote about your event. By calculating the cost to reach those same audiences with paid advertising, you’ll be able to put a dollar figure with the media reach.
An example on measuring event marketing and communications
Let’s take your registration numbers as an example: There is usually a bell curve that attendees register on, driven most typically through the discounts and increases in your registration prices over a date range. You can gauge effectiveness in your marketing and communications by how your prospective attendees interact with the message you send by comparing open and clickthrough rates with your registration numbers.
How will you know what’s effective or not effective messaging? Look for patterns: Did they register for your event after seeing your event promotional video on Facebook or was the spike in registration due to a message from your CEO in the monthly newsletter? Or did no one open it or you had lots of people unsubscribe? Maybe there was a big story about the event in Forbes that caused an increase in registrations.
By paying attention to when they registered, how they registered, why they registered (what was the call to action?), and where they registered, you can better replicate and most effectively spend and budget for the next event. You’ll also be able to determine which messages and media channel were the most effective for your event audience.
We’ve talked a lot about what you should measure. Now, let’s explore how you can calculate those measurements.
Qualitative feedback is delightful: “I can’t imagine going anywhere else to interact with my tribe. This event completes me!” says one attendee. But your finance chair or CEO may not be as effectively swayed by only those assessments. You need quantitative (cold hard numbers supported by real data) in addition to those emotional qualitative voices.
(BTW: These formulas calculate effective and efficient event metrics from an event planner’s perspective. Want to better help your sponsors and exhibitors better calculate their financial investment and ROI?)
Here are five formulas to help you calculate what exactly what effective and efficient about your event.
Formula 1: Attendee Lead to Event Registration Sales Conversion Ratio
What is an attendee lead? A prospective attendee. However, you only have so much marketing money, and you want to spend it wisely. How can you tell what is is a satisfactory ratio of money spent on event marketing?
Use this formula: Divide the number of actual registrants from this year’s event and divide it by the leads you promoted your event to (from all promotion channels). Then multiply that answer by 100. That’s your registration sales conversion percentage rate.
Let’s say, for example, your conference had 10,000 prospective attendees. Of those attendees, 5,000 ended up actually registered. Of those 10,000, 5,000 of them actually followed through with a purchase. 50% is your Attendee Lead-to-Registration Sales Conversion Rate.
5,000 actual attendee registrants / 10,000 potential registrants marketed to = .5 = 50%
Formula 2: Marketing Cost Per Prospective Attendee
Cost Per Prospective Attendee is another important metric, designed to calculate how much money per event marketing touch your event marketing is costing you. This is valuable if your boss or board is encouraging you to increase attendance at your event next year.
Simply divide the overall event marketing cost by the number of registered attendees. This metric can be used to let you know whether or not your event marketing is cost effective based on how many people it reached and converted into registrants. Note that this metric is usually shared along with the first ratio we shared, as it isn’t typically a stand-alone measure of success on its own.
Formula 3: How Much Money Did the Event Make? (Gross Margin Rate/Event Revenue)
How much did your event make your organization overall? That’s the question that Gross Margin Rate seeks to answer and that your boss is likely most concerned with. (*Note: This metric is important even for associations and nonprofits. Why? Events tend to be the strongest non-dues revenue generator associations and nonprofits have annually.)
Subtract the total cost of any sales generated by the event (sales can include but are not limited to: trade show and sponsorship sales, registration fees, or book sales) from the total revenue generated by those sales. This is your gross profit.
Now divide your gross profit by total revenue (this is your total number of sales generated by the event). The number you wind up with when calculated as a percentage value is the event’s Gross Margin Rate.
Formula 4: Was the Event Cost Effective? (Event Cost Per Attendee/Revenue to Expenses Ratio)
This is actually kind of a two for one formula because the two metrics really need to be talked about together. To determine if your event was cost effective based on the number of attendees reached, divide your event cost by total attendees. This gives you your total cost per attendee.
To calculate the ratio, divide the total event expenses of an event by the total revenue (total sales) that your event generated. If your expense in running the event is higher than the revenue, you’re looking at problems with efficiency.
Formula 5: Total Return on Investment/ROI
ROI can be talked about in a lot of ways. This formula only calculates the financial ROI of an event. When talking about overall event ROI, you want to prepare yourself with many pieces of quantitative assessment you’re gathering from all angles of the event, including but not limited to pieces of the qualitative feedback your attendees share with you in your conference evaluations, the quantitative results of attendee engagement found in your mobile event app, the event net promoter, and satisfaction scores, etc.
However, financial Return on Investment is still one of the best demonstrations of an event’s success or failure.
To calculate ROI, subtract the total expenses of your event from the gross revenue of generated sales. Then, divide that new number by the event’s total expenses.
For example, if you have an event that cost you $1,250,000 to host, but the event generated gross revenue of $2,000,000 from the event; your ROI would be 60%. If your gross revenue were $750,000, however, you’d wind up with an ROI of -40%.
In conclusion, event data, analytics, and metrics matter
Different types of events have different goals. Determining how successful you were at meeting or exceeding those goals, depends a lot on who you are presenting too. Regardless of your audience, showcase both event data and metrics plus the qualitative feedback your internal and external stakeholders provide.
Finally, remember, data, metrics, and analytics shouldn’t be presented in a vacuum. Tell a story and customize your reports for your audience. And use what you learn in the quest we all work towards: designing and executing a phenomenal attendee experience.Tags: attendee satisfaction, conference app, conventions, event analytics, event app, event planner, measurements, metrics, mobile event app, net promoter score, ROI, surveys, tradeshows