Traditionally, measuring the success of a conference was pretty simple. How many people attended and how much revenue did you generate. In order to get a more global assessment, truly reflecting the impact of a conference on all stakeholders, other quantitative measures should be included.
We asked a variety of people working in the field how they evaluate the success of conferences, what aspects they evaluate and how. Through these conversations, we learned that evaluating the success can mean different things to different people. For planners, it may indeed be attendee numbers and room pickup; for financial people, it may be profitability; for marketers, it may be the number of leads generated. Since conferences serve a wide audience, measuring the success of the conference should include the impact on all your stakeholders.
Robert W. Walker, CEO and Founder of Surveys & Forecasts, LLC, a Connecticut-based research company shares his thoughts from a professional surveyor perspective.
“We have conducted dozens of post conference assessments using quantitative surveys and/or in-depth interviews with presenters and conference hosts. In our work assessing conference success, we leave the calculations regarding attendance and profitability up to the hosts. Our focus has historically been on the metrics reported by attendees, presenters, and the event organizers. These include, but are not limited to:
- What were the objectives of the conference? Were these objectives met completely, partially, etc.
- Overall satisfaction with the conference, venue, breakout rooms, accommodations, staff, and food, all measured separately.
- Assessment of the schedule, including large morning session length, individual presentation length, breaks between events, and overall conference duration.
- Assessment of the content presented, audio-visual aids used, presenters, and the effectiveness of the presentation style.
- Usability and actionability of presented information in the attendee’s job, department, or organization.
- Perceived value for the money, and intent to return to the same conference in future years, and reasons why or why not.
- What would stakeholders fix or change about the conference that they just attended; do they have suggestions for improvements that could be integrated into future programs?
- Were there opportunities to adequately network with fellow attendees? What was the mix of clients and suppliers, and was that mix comfortable for each attendee?
- Are presentation materials made available soon after the conference is over, or for that matter during the conference itself? Can these materials be effectively used by the attendee in their job or organization?”
Kristi Porter, a writer and consultant with Signify shares:
“In addition to the number of registrations or tickets sold, another way I like to measure conferences and events is by tracking the “next steps” that are asked of attendees. Every event should be part of an overall marketing strategy, and therefore act as a bridge from one thing to the next. Therefore, events should have at least one major call to action before guests walk out the door. This could include items such as purchasing registrations for the following year, opting into a new email list, becoming part of an online or in-person community that will gather after the event, subscribing to a podcast that keeps them engaged throughout the year, or purchasing a course, product or service. Any or all of these things are important because they indicate the attendee’s desire to stay connected to the event and company, organization or cause, rather than limiting themselves to a one-time experience. It is an opportunity to engage with them on a deeper and more regular basis, which may lead to increased word of mouth, retention, and additional sales. These are all measurable activities that can be reported on post-conference or event.”
Mary M. Denson, CMP, Senior Sales Manager with Houston-based Corporate Events and Occasions, LLC shares:
“For years, conference managers have struggled to improve the communication and deliverables that their stakeholders need. What makes this a challenge, is that those stakeholders, may or may not be aligned in what they are trying to achieve, which makes it hard to measure!
The very first thing we must do in order to provide ROI, is to understand and articulate the goal. Is it revenue for the company or association? If so, why do they need the revenue? To provide education or services to customers, members, or vendors? To build awareness, launch a product?
In order to quantify and present ROI, we have to understand the objectives and goals and ensure that all stakeholders are in agreement. It's amazing to me how many times sales and marketing are working together on the same event, yet so focused on their departmental goals, that they don't make it a priority to communicate with each other and develop the strategies required to make each other successful.
This topic is deep because a conference or event is not a tangible product or transaction. Conferences and events need to provide an environment that encourages attendees to engage by providing customized content that will resonate with them and solve their challenges, not necessarily solve yours!
So, think outward instead of inward if you want to move the dial on your ROI.”
Charles Dugan, Owner of American Image Displays, a Seattle-based provider of trade show supplies, displays, booths, and exhibits talks evaluating the success from an exhibitor’s point of view:
"Calculating the ROI of a trade show or conference can be tricky. I recommend separating your leads into categories (i.e. Hot, Warm, Cold; or whatever works for your sales team). Ideally this should have been completed while the event was taking place, as each staffer observed his or her interaction with a lead. Then develop your follow-up strategy for each category. You can calculate your cost per lead by dividing the expenses related to your company participation in the event into the number of quality leads you collected. Tracking your team's follow-up results will allow you to determine how many leads were converted into customers, and the resulting revenue that was generated."
Emily Kratt, Managing Director at INNOVATX Events in Austin, Texas shares:
“Success can be measured by surveys, made much easier with mobile apps. Things to evaluate are attendance numbers? Did the attendees feel like the value of the event surpassed the cost? Did they get what they wanted, i.e. more education, more networking opportunities, the opportunity to find vendors? Was the content what your attendees want to hear about?
Attendees want to be part of the conversation instead just being spoken to. I see a trend in more think-tank-type meetings with crowdsourced topics. It is important that you truly understand the demographic of your attendees. They do not want a sales pitch. They want meaningful content, and be able to ask questions and share experiences using live survey tools that will help planners understand the overall success of meetings better.”
TOP TIPS IN MEASURING CONFERENCE SUCCESS:
1. Define clear goals for your conference.
If your goal is registrations sold and revenue generated, then measure that success. If you goal on top of this is to have a certain satisfaction rating with speakers, overall event experience, set that goal and measure the outcome. Your goals could be to facilitate connections and deal flow. To generate a number of leads. To increase engagement with your product, cause, brand or company. Key is to compile the goals of all stakeholders, then measure and report on these goals.
2. Define the mechanisms to measure.
Define if you will use paper surveys, apps or online surveys to measure the success. Will you measure using one survey or use a variety of options to measure success of individual sessions, lead gen apps to measure the success of leads generated? Some meeting management and registration software platforms like Eventinterface will be able to assist you with this on a variety of levels, there are other apps, and online sources such as Survey Monkey.
3. Evaluate the data.
Once you have collected the data, evaluate the date. Share the data and use the data to improve your next conference.
And please do us a little favor and share this post with others, for there’s a good chance that it will help them as they go about planning meetings and events.
Attendee engagement from basic to complete campaigns.
Analyzing the conference behaviors of Fortune-1000 executives.