Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, event organizers have been forced to either cancel their shows or rethink the way they deliver content. Many companies have decided to move their events online in order to continue generating revenue and satisfying the needs of stakeholders in their industries. Although this pivot to virtual events has been an adjustment as organizations find new ways to engage their audiences, it also comes with numerous benefits—extending the life of an event, opening it up to a broader audience with the possibility of reaching attendees from around the world, and increasing the value proposition provided to sponsors, exhibitors, and attendees. In fact, online shows are so effective that events and exhibitions industry professionals predict that even as lockdowns are lifted and venues are reopened, virtual events are here to stay with many companies electing to organize hybrid events so attendees can enjoy both face-to-face and online experiences.
But this new approach still comes with an old concern: Are events providing a good return on investment? Although an event can be moved online, expenses for technology, marketing, and employee work hours are still costly. As a result, if you decide to move your event online, it’s every bit as important to understand your ROI as it would be for a face-to-face event. The following nine steps can help you figure out whether or not your virtual event has provided a good return.
Create clear event goals.
Before you begin planning your event, you should set clear goals so you know exactly what you want to get out of it. Whether you want to boost sales, get more qualified leads, increase awareness of your brand, get more media coverage, have a successful product launch, or attract traffic to your website and social media platforms, you need a clear picture of your objectives going into the event planning process.
Choose metrics to track and how to track them.
Once you know what your goals are, it’s time to think about metrics that will help you judge whether or not you’ve reached them. These key performance indicators, or KPIs, can include social media follows and engagement, post-event follow up, white paper downloads, email open rates, and show revenue.
After you’ve decided on the metrics you want to look at, it’s time to choose the tools that you will use to track them. For example, you if want to increase your engagement on social media, platforms can provide information on how well your posts are doing in terms of views and engagement, as well as the follower losses and gains you’ve made during the period of your event.
Understand your current metrics.
You can’t evaluate if you’ve gotten where you want to go with your event unless you understand where you currently are. As you plan your show, document your current metrics in all of the areas where you want to get results so you have an accurate point of comparison when evaluating the ROI. During this process, you should look at data going back several months before the show in order to get a baseline of your present numbers.
Crunch the numbers.
After the event is over, it’s time to gather the data for each metric that you decided was important for success. Compare the pre- and post-event numbers to analyze how well you did. Then think about what you can do to improve on the areas where you missed the mark and increase your success in the areas where you hit your goals.
Survey the stakeholders.
Understanding raw data is one step in determining if you got a good return on your investment, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Make sure you survey your exhibitors, sponsors, and attendees to find out what their event experience was like. Were exhibitors happy with the leads they gathered during the show? Did attendees feel the speakers and content were useful for helping them reach their own goals? Ultimately, the success of your event hinges on your ability to make stakeholders happy, so you need to review their opinions right alongside the metrics.
Although virtual events may be logistically different from traditional ones and have their own set of challenges, they both serve the same purpose—to help your organization boost its bottom line while serving your audience. To get the most out of your event, you want to have a plan for measuring ROI and use that as the roadmap for future shows.
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