As an event attendee, the most common measure of success is – “OMG, that event was so fun!”
And as an event planner, that is hands down the best response to ever receive from an attendee. But truth be told, there are dozens more details used to track success and determine the effectiveness of an event strategy. Event planners use a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) to help inform decisions for current and future events, using real time data more than ever to help course correct along the way. The key benefit being an event that is impactful and relevant for all those involved.
Wondering which KPI’s you should focus on for your next event? These are our top 15 that will ensure your event is a success:
#1 Attendee/Registration Numbers
The number of attendees is definitely the most obvious, and probably the most relevant KPI to be tracking, as it’s a pretty black & white indicator of the level of interest in your event. Tracking registration numbers can help you identify trends during the signup process, and can typically be tied to specific marketing messages or campaigns.
#2 Attendance Rates
This number could also be referred to as an ‘actual’. While registration rates are pre-event, attendance rates are calculated post-event. Or said another way – how many people actually showed up. Typical attrition rates for an event are 5-10%, and in Alaska, like some other states, this can swing greatly depending on unexpected weather conditions. But anything more than the typical 10% is something to be noted, as every attendee that doesn’t show, also means ‘x’ number of ancillary dollars potentially didn’t show up as well.
#3 Engagement Rates
Ok we have a sense of the amount of people that attended the event, and now we want to track how much they enjoyed the event. This can be tracked by analyzing the number of questions asked, comments made, or social media interactions during the event. The key note here is that the more engagement during and after an event, also typically translates to increased attendee enthusiasm as well.
#4 Website Traffic
When tracking, or reviewing, the website traffic around your event, you should be making sure to segment into before, during and after the event. Before the event you want to be keeping focus on the marketing and ad campaigns that create spikes, noting those for future reference. And during your event you should see a large and sustained increase in traffic throughout the event, with additional spikes happening during an opening or closing address, a featured keynote, etc.. Noting the peaks and valleys in your web traffic are crucial for identifying positive trends from which to replicate moving forward.
#5 App Downloads
Along the same lines as web traffic, would be a corresponding KPI of event app downloads. Obvi this only applies if your event has an app, but if so, you assume that attendees who are engaged and enthusiastically consuming your content, are also actively downloading your event app as well. As a cautionary note, this KPI can sometimes be skewed when the event attendee audience is older, or the availability of an app is not communicated well, or overall not user friendly.
#6 Social Media Reach
This KPI will also skew towards a younger more tech savvy crowd as well, so will not always be a true metric for every event. Events that offer more digital content, and target a younger crowd will typically have better overall social media results than an event that has neither. Data worth looking at here is to be monitoring your event and brand social media accounts to see how far your event is reaching, and also how people are engaging with your brand online. Sometimes a single industry influencer can help an event go viral, and sometimes it takes hundreds of users at an event to get the same effect. This is worth knowing. But probably the most important takeaway from social media results is to see, often in real-time, what attendees are talking about, including what they like and dislike about the event.
#7 Session Attendance
Monitoring which sessions are most attended can give you an idea of what topics are most interesting to attendees. This is a great KPI to monitor as it is a bit more truthfully reflective of the entire event attendee group, regardless of age, demo or proclivity for technology.
#8 Lead Generation
For many events, the overall goal is business development. To highlight a brand, feature a product, share information about an industry, or otherwise bring people together to meet, share and collaborate. Thus the amount of contact information exchanged, or leads generated becomes a very valuable and powerful tool for creating inherent value of an event, and using this for marketing purposes moving forward. The challenge here however, is that not every event naturally generates leads, and those that do, it’s often hard to track them. Most often this shows up in a post-event survey.
#9 Sponsorship Revenue
An adjacent way of tracking lead generating KPI’s and value from your event is sponsorship revenue. While this is certainly a key factor to know regardless, as this will ultimately affect budgets and financial statements. The higher the value of an event, the more willing a brand or company typically will be to get in front of your audience via sponsorship. Sponsors don’t typically support events that dont bring in leads, so tracking your sponsorship revenue is a key performance indicator of how inherently valuable your event is. In addition, the tracking and reporting on all the KPI’s listed in this article will help you to solicit next year’s prospective sponsors.
#10 Media Coverage
Media, not social media, still very much exists, and is still very much relevant. Local or national news coverage that happens on tv, radio or print, onsite press, or industry blogs are all ways your event can be distributed to the masses. Tracking this traditional media is a bit more involved than a scrub of your social media account, but companies exist specifically to collect and compile this data for you, and typically at a fairly reasonable charge. While it can be an added cost, the reporting of this positive PR can go a long way, and definitely worth investing in, especially when you are wanting to build sponsor value.
#11 Post-Event Engagement
Monitoring your social media accounts to note how attendees engage with your brand after the event can help you identify opportunities for ongoing engagement and brand loyalty. Typically an event will see a pretty significant drop-off in engagement once it is done, so the trick here is really to track, identify and hone in on the things that keep people engaged. Many event planners have parlayed this specific KPI into a year round, ongoing communications strategy, creating community and brand loyalty around their event, to outstanding results.
#12 Survey Response Rate
Collecting feedback from attendees is not only essential to improving your event strategy, but also a great way to keep attendees engaged after the event. Tracking survey response rates can help you to see how many people are hungry for more content and interaction. And the responses themselves can offer insight into what those messages and frequency should look like. This is also hands down the best way to get necessary user feedback to help improve your event year over year.
#13 Net Promoter Score (NPS)
This metric is really an effort to compile and quantify many of the KPI’s already mentioned above. It is calculated based on a survey where attendees rate a number of the elements listed above including: number of sessions attended, did you download the app, rate the sessions on a scale of 1-10, and so on. Typically the final query is asking their likelihood of recommending your event to others on a scale of 0-10, which is compiled and referred to as the overall event NPS.
#14 Budget vs. Actual Costs
Of course budgets are one of, if not the most, critical KPI to be tracking for any event, as no event can sustain when constantly losing money. Keeping track of the budget for the event and comparing it to the actual costs can help you ensure that you have an appropriate event budget and identify the areas where you may need to adjust your strategy. Aligning the budget with a number of the KPI’s above, can also shine a light on opportunities for additional revenue as well.
#15 Return On Investment (ROI)
Ahh ROI, that magical, mythical KPI in the sky. What is an ROI? Where does it come from? I joke, but seriously ROI is what you, your brand, or your stakeholders really determine or value this to be. Is the goal of the event to make money? Generate lots of leads for the sponsors? Maybe it’s to go viral in social media, and make a ‘splash’ in the market. Typically this is identified before an event, with a marketing strategy crafted around supporting this. But oftentimes the ROI can look a little different at the end of an event. That being said, a true ROI always takes into account, whatever those end results are (increased social, leads, media, etc.) vs. the financial results of the event and what it actually cost to acquire them. Yours will be different than mine, and will likely be different every year, but is truly the holy grail KPI.
By tracking these metrics, you can identify what worked well, what didn’t, and how you can improve your event strategy going forward. Additionally, having a clear understanding of your event’s success can help you make informed decisions about future event planning and help justify your investment to stakeholders.