Refining Event ROI Strategy: Questions to Address Before You Get Started

By: Anna Boggs
person using calculator to measure ROI for event

Measuring return on investment (ROI) for events has become a primary concern for most planning teams.

In-person events are a cornerstone touchpoint for many B2B companies. New research from Demand Gen Report shows that in-person events are crucial to many B2B companies’ business: More than half of US B2B marketers said that in-person events and tradeshows were an effective channel for driving conversions. Events were seen as more effective than digital channels like email (48%), product demos (39%) and the company website (34%).

With social distancing a buzzword everyone now knows, successful (and resilient) businesses will use this time wisely. Whether the effort is reskilling at the business-unit level or a company-wide aspirational transformation, companies should take this time to focus on critical workplace learning, even as they move rapidly to put employee safety first.

During this sobering period, the stronger learning capabilities that emerge could stand as a positive long-term outcome.

This will be something to keep in mind when designing events. If you’re an event marketer with an eye to the future, calculating (and proving) ROI must be in your toolkit.

But …

What’s Different About Measuring Event ROI?

Event ROI Calculation Formula

Measuring event impact is more complicated than a straightforward equation. And it’s more specific. There’s a halo effect of an immediate impact of increased knowledge, brand perception lift and emotional engagement after attending an event. But there’s also sustained engagement that comes 3, 6, 12 or even 18 months down the road.

Your event return on investment could also be intangible. What if success for your organization is social engagement? Or sentiment change? Or prospect value growth? All of those values and inputs should factor into your event ROI story.

Where Should You Start?

First thing’s first: Determine the ultimate goal of your event. Is it to generate qualified leads? Attract new employees? Train or educate your audience? Build brand awareness? Launch a new product?
Before anything else is decided, make a list of every goal you can think of, then whittle down your answers to just one primary goal—the most important. (The remaining goals are good to keep in mind, but won’t be what you measure your success against.) You need to align your entire content and planning team to what success looks like for your event. That alignment—on both your objectives and success definition—paves a path for collecting data, asking the right questions and, ultimately, proving the value of the event.

How To Define Your Event Goals & Objectives

To get your team started with your objective alignment discussion, start with a list of areas that classic event metrics or objectives fall in. Here are value areas we typically see events focused on:   
  • Education: Do you want your attendees to understand a certain product line in a new way? Do you want to train them on a specific skill? Is the return you’re hoping for tied to knowledge gains that would translate to higher sales? You need to track both sales and knowledge.
  • Brand Perception/Loyalty: Are you measuring what percent of your audience returns? What’s the value of someone’s perception of your company improving? Do people who rate your company higher in the post-event survey than they did in your pre-event baseline end up with higher referrals? Or higher sales? Does their Intent to act or take next step in conversion funnel pan out?
  • Emotional Engagement: Is your ultimate goal to get people excited? Or feel certain feelings tied to attendance? What data points mean that someone was engaged to your company?
  • Advocacy/Amplification: What do social media impressions do for your bottom line? How will they impact referrals? NPS score?
  • Momentum/Business Impact: Did we achieve our goals? (These are the ultimate quantifiable outcomes—quality of sales, leads, opportunity value, etc.)

Use Data That’s Already Available

Remember to use the data you have. It could be in another part of your organization, ready for you to leverage. If the data isn’t immediately available, paint a picture for your data or event team of what data points tie to the goals and objectives you’re targeting. If your team or your executives need a hard output of ROI, you must make sure each attendee profile is tied directly to the metrics that matter. An ideal state would be:
  1. Attendee profiles tagged within your CRM platform so you can track the lift YOY for attendees versus non-attendees; and,
  2. You have event data stored within your sales platform.
Are you training your sales people on a certain type of prospecting at the event? If done well, do you expect or hope for higher sales? What’s the length of your typical sales cycle? Would you expect change immediately or would change be seen a year from now? Is there a data point or several data points in your CRM that are tied to the outcome you’re looking for?

A plan needs to be in place to be able to track outcomes to events that happened months before.

Let’s say the main objective at your Sales Kick Off is training your sales team on how to close business faster. At minimum, a few metrics you would need from the previous year would be aggregate average time to close and total volume of sales, as well as both metrics by sales person to act as baseline data. You could also consider looking at a few “steps to the sale” to see if other indicators of business closing are happening even if the sale hasn’t yet happened. Then to measure the return or change that results from the event, you’d want to track those same metrics at a few intervals after the event, depending on the length of your typical sales cycle. If you’ve identified the data you need to track and planned for it by setting up a custom report in salesforce or another CRM platform, pulling the post-event metrics can be as simple as a calendar reminder to pull a report a few times. Once you have the data, compare it to your baseline to capture growth in those targeted areas.
Ultimately, any sale or change in outcome and/or ROI is tied to multiple components of engagement on-site that tie together as a whole. For some teams, lift in one area is the ROI a team is looking for. Or an overall lift in sales measured YOY is enough. Start somewhere. Even if it’s small. Pick one metric that falls under the value area your organization is most focused on. Capture the data so you can show return or growth in that metric as a result of having the event. As buy-in to the value of your event grows, expand the metrics you’re capturing to paint a fuller picture of event ROI. 

Connect On-site Moments With Overall Outcomes

The truest and most ideal ROI is found by using a combination of on-site interaction metrics you’ve targeted before the meeting started, and tying those to your expected outcomes. Measure the change that happens YOY as the highest ROI. Then drill into specific event components and their relationship to the outcomes to a more granular event component or activation ROI. If you’re overwhelmed with where to start, we can help.
Demonstrating event ROI to leaders and stakeholders is vital to the future of your event. Are you sharing all the metrics that matter? Download our white paper: Prove Your Event ROI With These 8 Overlooked Metrics.
Anna Boggs
Anna Boggs

Anna graduated from Purdue and has 13 years of experience in the industry. Eight of those years have been with ITA Group split between the Event Operations and Analytics and Decision Support teams. Solving puzzles with data is her jam, using the lens of operations and industry knowledge as a guide. She’s passionate about creating new things—currently making homemade bread and quilts from her home in Minneapolis are top of the list.