If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it. It’s a very simple concept, but one that is overlooked in many areas of business, and indeed many facets of everyday life. We all want to be successful in some capacity, be that personally or professionally. We all want our business to grow and flourish, and as event professionals, we all want our events to be the best that they can be.

So, how do you know whether your event was a success if you aren’t measuring the results? How can you look to make improvements or adjustments if you haven’t benchmarked your current standing? It may seem simplistic, yet a lot of people forget about the importance of benchmarking and analysis, and some simply make the mistake of assuming “if the event sold out, it must have been a success.”

And with that train of thought, consider what defines the success of an event. If you sold out all your tickets, does that make it successful? In a way, yes. But what if you sold out all your tickets and 50% of your attendees hated the experience? That wouldn’t be a success. Not only that, but they wouldn’t be likely to return to any of your future events. In terms of retention, that is definitively unsuccessful.

What are the key metrics for event success?

Measuring your event’s success requires you to analyse metrics that provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of your event. These are referred to as Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs for short. You may wonder how many KPIs there are for an event, but how long is a piece of string? There are a plethora of KPIs that could be applicable to any event, so you need to narrow down your question. For example, while attendance often serves as a primary indicator of an event’s popularity and reach (usually shown through event registration and check-in numbers), evaluating engagement levels is equally as important. Looking past the surface level of attendance numbers to aspects such as engagement and attendee feedback allows you to understand how the audience interacted with the event content and activities, reflecting the event’s overall impact and whether it resonated with your target audience. 

So, in a nutshell, what are some of the most important KPIs that you can use to measure the success of an event? According to our own experience and a survey by Market Splash, they are:

  • Number of new customers
  • Number of registrations
  • Engagement rate
  • Gross revenue
  • Social media mentions
  • Number of qualified sales leads
  • Sessions watched/attended
  • Number of check-ins
  • Active community/members
  • Length of stay
  • NPS (Net Promoter Score)

Do you need to use all of them? Absolutely not! It completely depends on your specific business goals. How to determine which ones to focus on depends upon what your end goal is. Ask yourself, what is the reason you’re putting on this event in the first place? Then reverse engineer your answer to form your KPIs. For example, if the main motive behind the event is to gain new business for the company, then the KPIs that should take priority will revolve around qualified business leads and the acquisition of new customers. If all you care about is the money specifically coming in from that event or a series of events, then gross revenue is the most important aspect. If your goal is to increase brand awareness and recognition, you may choose to shift your focus to things like audience engagement and social media mentions. You get the picture!

Once you have a clear idea of your motivation and goal and you’ve defined the appropriate KPIs, you’ll want to benchmark your current standing. This may not be relevant in every case, such as if you’re simply recording leads or gross revenue, but it will be helpful in other instances, such as engagement rates, social media following, sessions watched/attended, etc. You’ll want to keep a record of the results from your most recent event or any relevant statistics from your platform. When comparing statistics, it’s a good idea to take a long and short approach. So gather the numbers for the last 30 days AND the last 6 months so that you can see an average and pinpoint any spikes and patterns.

Arming yourself with this information can not only help determine how successful an event is and give insight into Return on Investment (ROI) but will also fuel your future strategies and goals. It gives you informed data that you can use to create a roadmap to success by aiming for percentile improvements and year-on-year growth. It also gives you the opportunity to make amendments and adjustments in order to improve the overall experience for your audience, ensuring that they want to come back again and again. Not to mention offering you a fresh perspective and highlighting issues you may not have been aware of, such as lack of accessibility or inclusivity.

Why a purpose-driven strategy can make all the difference

Let’s dive a little deeper into the art of goal setting and the power of purpose, shall we? When it comes to your strategy, setting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) objectives will benefit you a lot more than simply scribbling down “make money.” Instead of writing “increase revenue” as your goal, the SMART framework would look something a little more like this:

“Generate $20,000 in net revenue from ticket sales, sponsorships, and merchandise sales for [your event name] within the three-month promotion and event period, from [start date] to [end date].”

By aligning your KPIs with these objectives, you will gain a more focused perspective on whether the event met its intended outcomes. This approach allows for an informed evaluation of event effectiveness, empowering you to make data-driven decisions and continually refine your strategy for future success. If you’re interested in learning more about SMART goals, purpose-driven strategy, and how it can pave the road to success, we’ve written a white paper that covers why you should set goals and the ROI of a purpose-driven strategy: https://emc3.com/resources/the-power-of-purpose-driven-strategy/

Benchmarking your data

As we mentioned above, benchmarking is the critical building block that will highlight your current position and pave the way for improvements and growth. Our event grader tool will ask you a few questions to generate a personalised feedback form you can send to your attendees. Then, seven days after your event, you will receive a bespoke report that runs through the highlights from the data, along with an invitation to book a complimentary call with one of our team, where we can help you dive into the data a little further.

Boosting your strategy

So, to recap—in order to drive growth and achieve successful events, you need to invest time before the event. Defining your goals, strategies, and measurements helps to create the best and most transformative experiences for your audience. This largely comes from observing and analysing data from your previous events (but also your other platforms) to learn what worked and what didn’t so you can gather critical insights and feedback. This data helps not only determine your event’s success but also guide improvements and positive change in future events. With measurement metrics in place and a clear focus on setting SMART objectives and aligning them with your KPIs (key performance indicators), you can keep your teams aligned and unlock the true power of data-driven decision-making.

If you would like more guidance on defining your SMART goals, mapping out your KPIs and measurements, or building your strategy, then consider our bespoke workshops. Head here to book one with our strategy team!