Events take a lot of time and effort to organise, so you want to know yours has been worthwhile. This is where measuring return on investment (event ROI) comes in – it’s assessing how much value you’ve got out of the event vs. how much you put in.

If you flunked GCSE maths, don’t panic; it’s not just about complex equations, there are many ways to understand how successful your event has been. The key factor is understanding at the very outset what your goals for the event are.

Write down the reasons you’re running the event. Is it to make a profit through ticket sales? Generate sales or qualified leads? Attract new employees or partners, or educate and motivate existing ones? To build awareness or launch a new product?

Try to identify your primary objective and then set up to two secondary objectives. For example, if you’re holding a fundraising event, your primary goal is to raise funds, but you probably also want to raise awareness of the charity and the cause it supports.

Attach metrics to each objective

In order to be able to measure how well your event has done in achieving each objective, you need to attach something measurable against it. For example, if your primary objective is building brand awareness, then metrics to measure that could include the number of people attending the event, the amount of press and social media coverage and perhaps the change in your net promoter score (NPS) post-event.

To help you further understand your achievements in each area, it’s helpful to set some specific goals for each metric. So, in the above example, this might include attracting 200 attendees, securing mentions in 10 national publications, 100 uses of the event hashtag etc. Basically, this is defining what success looks like to you.

Even the seemingly intangible can be measured if you quantify it. For example, if your objective is simply to increase community spirit you can poll attendees about their feelings before and after the event and look at the net difference. Just remember to use the same set of questions and seek quantitative (i.e. measurable) feedback.

Meanwhile, to measure the effectiveness of training or education, you can use a method such as Kirkpatrick’s Four Level Training Evaluation Model.

Select methods of data capture

Now you know what you want to measure, you need to decide how you’ll measure it. What tools will you use to capture the data you need? An event registration platform like Eventbrite can help you capture information such as the number of registrations (overall and by attendee/ticket type), revenue from ticket sales, amount of no-shows, referral fees paid out and revenue from merchandise sales.

Meanwhile, you can also take advantage of Eventbrite’s numerous APIs with other platforms. For example, you can use SurveyMonkey for pre and post-event attendee surveys, CRM tools like Salesforce for managing sales leads, JustGiving to monitor funds raised, and much more.

There are lots of different metrics to track when it comes to assessing the success of your event’s social media, while there are a plethora of analytics tools available to help you do it – check out this list by Buffer.

When it comes to tracking mentions in the press, you could use a traditional cuttings service or an online monitor such as Mention. Tools such as Moz Pro can help you track new backlinks to your website.

Work with the figures

The data you glean from monitoring will tell you much about your event’s success just by itself, but working with that data can give you even deeper insight into your event ROI. For example, let’s say your event succeeded in capturing 80 qualified sales leads and your target was 50, then you know you exceeded your goal by 60% – nice one.

But now you can take that one step further by calculating the cost per lead: the cost of putting on the event divided by the number of leads you got. If your event cost you £1,000 to stage, then each lead cost £12.50. By tracking subsequent sales, you will be able to see if the cost per acquisition is good value and make informed decisions about future event activity.

You can do similar sums against other metrics such as media coverage or employees recruited and work out if you could have achieved your objective for less outlay using another method like paying for advertisements or hiring a PR or recruitment company.

When looking at your event expenditure, don’t forget to include the man-hours you and your team put into it (even if you didn’t pay your staff extra for their involvement, it’s time away from their usual activities). This will give you a more accurate idea of its true cost.

If the goal of your event was to make a profit (either from ticket sales, through sponsorship or sales made on the day), it’s easy to calculate your return on investment. Simply subtract the total cost of the event from the total sales revenue and then divide by total cost of the event. The result is expressed as a percentage, which you multiply by 100. For example, if an event cost £1,000 to stage and generated £2,500 in revenue the sum would look like:

£2,500 – £1,000 = £1,500
£1,500 ÷ £1,000 = 1.5
1.5 x 100 = 150% event ROI

If that’s given you a headache, simply use an online ROI calculator to do the calculation for you.

Another way to calculate event ROI is dividing the total revenue by the total event cost. The resulting number is expressed in pounds e.g. £2.50 was generated for every £1 invested. Using these easy calculations, you can set out at the start of planning your event what you hope to achieve in terms of ROI.

Conclusion

Although the thought of measuring event ROI might seem scary, it’s not especially complex. It’s just about setting some goals and benchmarking against them. The hardest part is keeping track of all your data, but with easy-to-understand, downloadable reports, tools like Eventbrite lighten the load.

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