How can associations track and measure outcomes?
Event return on investment, or ROI, is important on a number of levels. It determines if an expenditure is cost-effective, assists in planning an event, translates client business goals into profitable event goals, and makes the outcome tangible for the client.
There are a number of metrics that can be used, including post-event surveys, social shares, social check-ins, social commenting, and registration.
Well before the event takes place, be sure to invest time defining goals and objectives. Cate Banfield, senior director, event solution design & strategy, at BCD Meetings & Events, suggests asking the following questions:
- What does success look like and how will you measure it and why?
- Who is your audience, and what are the demographics of those attending?
- How can you ensure you are developing content in a way that is palatable across various audience demographics?
- How does your audience like to consume information?
Banfield added that it is important to understand where your attendees are going, who they are connecting with, and what piques their interest at the event. This can be measured via an event app. Valuable data can then be integrated into a company customer relationship management system to develop more targeted communication and lead generation campaigns post-event.
Caroline Mackenzie, operations director at Open Audience, which specialises in engaging people across events and conferences, said she believes that associations can look toward the corporate event sector for some ROI lessons.
“Corporates are looking to better understand the thoughts and behaviour of those attending, to demonstrate that the event spend has value, and, ultimately, if the objectives of the event have been effective,” she said.
Tech solutions, she added, are being adopted to capture delegates’ behaviour information, check learning outcomes, and gather information in advance, during, and after the event, to provide more meaningful data that can be tracked to measure event outcomes.
“Most associations believe that asking ‘How good was the event?’ and ‘How did you rate the speaker and catering?’ is enough,” Mackenzie said. “But this is really missing the opportunity to engage attendees — their contribution can be used to help direct content or event design to better achieve ROI.”
Developing a personal touch is also key for event ROI, according to Leah Carter, global head of events at the Association of MBAs, which runs events across the world, with several hosted in Asia Pacific.
“We use feedback from surveys sent post-event but we also reach out to people by contacting them for their opinion, particularly when feedback has been negative,” she said.
Carter added that meeting planners need to conduct qualitative research that delves further into any highlighted issues or concerns, and then look to improve on these. This is particularly important for the Association of MBAs, as not all events are run for profit.
For Carter, ROI is not just about hitting financial targets. “We look at the delegate experience, examine issues such as low turnout versus high turnout, and how we can create increased levels of delegate engagement,” she said.
“Try not to have a singular view with regards to ROI,” she added. “For example, at our events, if professional and personal development is rated well by our delegates, that is a high return on investment for us, and in the long-term it means they will come back for more.”