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Measuring the ROI of events: a beginner's guide

Updated: Feb 5

Knowing how impactful your events are is critical for a marketer’s event strategy. Research shows that 93% of global companies place a high priority on their event programs, but 55% of enterprise marketers admit they don't know how to calculate the return on investment (ROI) of an event.

Whether you are a marketer, researcher, or librarian, understanding the ROI of events can help determine the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and justify event spend. But measuring the ROI of events can be challenging, especially since events have many intangible benefits that are difficult to measure quantitatively. In this ultimate guide, discover everything you need to know about measuring the ROI of events and actionable insights to help you maximize your event ROI.

“Events need to be assessed with hard metrics, rather than just 'gut-feel' opinions and feedback forms to rate the coffee. Measure attendee engagement, rather than simply counting who registered and who showed up, as this is a great proxy for the effectiveness of the event."

Mike Piddock of Glisser for HubSpot

Before your event

Define Your Goals

Three coloured cubes, labeled 'goal' + 'Plan' = 'Success'

Before you start measuring ROI, you need to define your goals. Ask yourself, what do you want to achieve from your event? Is it to generate leads, increase brand awareness, or drive sales?

We like to ask 4 key questions when defining event goals:

1. What are your overall business goals? What do you want to achieve in the long term? Your event goals should support your overall business goals.

2. What are your specific event goals? What do you want to achieve with this particular event? Your event goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

3. Who is your target audience? Who are you trying to reach with your event? Your event goals should be aligned with the needs and interests of your target audience.

4. What resources are available to you? How much time, money, and manpower do you have to plan and execute your event? Your event goals should be realistic given your available resources.

Once you have identified your goals, you can start thinking about what metrics you need to measure to determine the effectiveness of your event. For example, if your goal is to generate leads, you may want to track the number of leads generated, the quality of leads, and the conversion rate of those leads.

Calculate Your Costs

To determine ROI, you need to calculate your costs. This includes direct costs such as event space rental, catering, and marketing expenses. But it also includes indirect costs such as staff time and travel expenses. Having a clear understanding of your costs means you can compare them to the results of your event to help determine the ROI.

During your event

Measure Your Results

To measure the success of your event, you need to track the right metrics. This could include things like attendance, engagement, social media mentions, or sales. Whatever your metrics, ensure they align with your goals and measure what is most important to your organization. Your key metrics might include some of the following:

  • Attendance: This is the most basic metric, but it's important to track how many people attended your event. You can track this by counting the number of tickets sold, or by using event registration software to track the number of registrants who actually attended.

  • Engagement: This metric measures how involved your attendees were in your event. You can track this by looking at the number of questions asked, the number of social media mentions, and the number of times people interacted with your event content, to name just a few suggestions.

  • Social media mentions: This metric measures how much buzz your event generated on social media. You can track this by looking at the number of times your event was mentioned on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms.

  • Sales: If your goal was to generate sales, you can track the number of sales that were made during or after your event. You can also track the average order value and the conversion rate (the percentage of attendees who made a purchase).

  • Website traffic: If you have a website for your event, you can track the number of visitors to your website. You can also track the number of pages that were visited and the average time spent on your website.

  • Customer satisfaction: This metric measures how satisfied your attendees were with your event. You can collect this feedback through surveys, interviews, or focus groups.

  • Employee morale: This metric measures how your employees felt about working on your event. You can collect this feedback through surveys, interviews, or focus groups.

You can use a variety of tools to track these metrics, including event management software, social media analytics tools, and website analytics tools. You can even use event management software to track these metrics in real-time and make adjustments to your event on the fly.

“Using social media to track activity pre and post-event is nothing new, but keeping up with what your audiences are saying during your event could lead to valuable clues and insights to help optimize your event for the future.”

Neil Patel, NP Digital

It's important to track your results as soon as possible after your event. This will help you identify areas where you can improve for future events. You can also use your results to report back to your stakeholders and justify the cost of your event.

After your event

Analyze Your Results

A group of people analyzing post it notes on a window strategising

Once you have gathered your data, it's time to analyze it. Look for trends and patterns in your data to identify what worked well and what didn't. Analyzing your data will help you understand the factors that contributed to your event's success or failure. It will also help you identify areas for improvement for future events.

Adjust Your Strategy

Armed with the insights from your analysis, it's time to adjust your strategy. Use your data to make informed decisions about how to improve your future events. This could include changing your event format, targeting a different audience, or adjusting your marketing strategy. Whatever your decision, make sure it is based on data-driven insights.

Key takeaways

Measuring the ROI of events is essential to understanding the effectiveness of your events and justifying event spend. By defining your goals, calculating your costs, measuring your results, analyzing your data, and adjusting your strategy, you can maximize your event ROI. Remember, measuring the ROI of events is an ongoing process. Continually learning from your events and adjusting your strategy will help you stay ahead of the competition and create unforgettable experiences for your attendees.

To be successful in marketing and planning events, it's important to make sure you have the right strategies in place. How can you be more strategic in your marketing? Discover our other resources, including a handy list of some of the top marketing events to watch out for in 2023.

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