Measuring events is almost as difficult as breaking into Fort Knox. Ok, maybe not that difficult, but the goals are elusive; it seems as though searching for the right way to measure events is like searching for the Fountain of Youth. But it doesn’t have to be this difficult when you understand the basics of event measurement – and that you must measure every event differently.

Event marketers have it tougher than their counterparts in other areas. Think about our digital marketing friends who can turn to Hootsuite to measure the effectiveness of social media, Google Analytics to measure web performance, and tools like Marketo and HubSpot to measure lead generation and nurturing. But what about event marketers? Where can we turn?

Sure, we have lots of new emerging technologies that measure different parts of events, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are a number of different options and ways you can approach event measurement. In this guide, you’ll find five tips that will help you determine what your event KPIs should be.

Events Are in Demand More Than Ever

People are craving more experiences than ever before. Organizations large and small are taking notice and adapting their marketing strategies to incorporate more (or bigger bang) events. In fact, a recent study shows that 67 percent of B2B marketers think that events are their most effective marketing strategy. B2B marketers aren’t the only ones who feel this way. Constant Contact found that nearly 60 percent of marketers across multiple industries consider events an integral part of their marketing strategy.

The great news is that technology is now available to cut down on marketing costs, optimizing performance, saving time and collecting data to improve the attendee experience. It’s a matter of picking your objectives and finding the right solutions for your needs.

How to Start Measuring Your Events

Tip #1: Every event is unique – pick the goals and objectives that matter to you.

This may seem like an obvious point, but why would you focus on event attendees if your goals are really about PR and buzz? Or why would you measure PR impressions if your event is all about product trials? (See Tip #5 for recommended metrics for your goals). Marketers wear many hats – you’re part creative genius and part data scientist – and marketing as a whole loves measuring things. But don’t measure things that don’t matter; you will spend your time focused on the wrong areas.

For example, if you’re looking to increase awareness, some metrics to measure would include traffic to your event or registration page, as well as mentions on social media and in the press. If you’re looking to generate more leads, you would look at how many people at the event signed up for a product demo or free trial. Include a strong call-to-action for each tactic to ensure you optimize your event marketing initiatives and increase conversions. Measuring apples when you’re looking for oranges won’t do you any good in the long run. Identify what’s important to your organization and measure it directly.

Tip #2: Measure your event individually AND as a part of your integrated campaign.

You wouldn’t judge the success of an entire campaign by looking at one email – so don’t do the same with events. As a marketer, you know that your events play a larger part in your master corporate and marketing strategy. So while we do recommend looking at event performance, make sure that you also look at the larger picture of the event and its role to measure the success.

Tip #3: Use technology to measure as much as possible.

There are numerous event tools on the market today. And many of these tools help measure anything from the number of people visiting your event site to the number of people “tweeting” about your event to the number of people interacting with your activation, etc. As we mentioned earlier, there are tools out that that can measure almost any metric.

Once you have your goals, explore an abundance of options to help you meet these goals. For example, you can use Near-Field Communications (NFCs) technology to collect real-time data for crowdshaping during an event. You can use EventMobi, a mobile app that allows attendees to participate in fun challenges such as meeting someone new, finding the CEO or competing to have the most check-ins.

Overwhelmed, and don’t know where to start? Check out some of our favorite event tools.

Tip #4: Enlist other divisions to help you paint the picture.

Chances are you have a lot of people in your organization who are a part of or are impacted by your event. For instance, 65 percent of brands say their event and experiential programs are directly related to sales, according to EMI & Mosaic. Bring your teams together to get metrics buy-in and also to work together to figure out the higher-level story they want to convey to the larger organization.

For example, if influencer adoption is critical to your event, make sure your PR team, talent team, digital team, social media team, etc. are all bought in and helping provide you with the data you need to tell a cohesive and comprehensive story.

Tip #5: Pick your KPIs

You’ve established your goals, selected your tools and figured out how to incorporate other teams. So what are the exact measurements that you should be using?

As we’ve said before, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for this question. It depends largely on the goals you’ve set for your event. Here are some KPIs you might consider measuring, based on different intended outcomes:

Attendance Metrics

If you’re looking to measure…attendance

Track these things…registrations, no-shows, check-ins, demographics

Are you hosting an event where you are dying for people to show up? The more the merrier, if you will. Or getting the right people to show up might be ideal. If getting people to show up is important to you, then measuring the number of people that both register and attend your event is critical. This includes accounting for those who don’t show up as well – by digging deeper into the data, you can figure out if there’s a solution for improving no-show rates in future.  

Also account for attendee demographics; how many showed up is often less important to your goals than who showed up.  In event management, it’s often the quality of the attendees that matters, particularly if you’re aiming to increase sign-ups or influence purchases down the road (more on that under Engagement Metrics). By enlisting other divisions to have a stake in your event (Tip #4), you’ll know better what kind of attendance metrics are important – and whether they should be considered in light of other metrics. Did you have low attendance but hear about high qualifications from sales? Sometimes, those results are just as important, if not more so, to your business.

Buzz Metrics

If you’re looking to measure…buzz

Track these things…PR placements, social interactions/listening, influencers

Sometimes the best way to measure the success of an event is by assessing the general “buzz” around it. How did attendees value your event? Did they engage with your hashtag, express positive sentiments on social, get thought leaders talking? Each touch point where they interacted and engaged with the event in questions presents an opportunity for measurement and reflection. In addition, it’s helpful to track brand sentiment over social channels. Social listening tools like brandwatch can be a big help when it comes to assessing customer sentiment over social media.

For example, if you invited 100 influencers to an exclusive event, you might want to track how many of them tweeted about you, in addition to traditional social metrics like how many followers liked or shared your own event posts. Engagement from others, unsolicited, can be just as valuable as the content you work to promote on your own. Make sure you’re measuring it! Also make sure that you’re measuring engagement both before and after an event, not just during. Your hashtag will live on. Are you utilizing assets from the event for months afterwards?  All of these engagements should be tracked as part of a focused effort. Make sure you’re taking credit for wins down the road.

Engagement Metrics

If you’re looking to measure…engagement

Track these things…email opens, trials, NFC swiping

If you’re looking to measure quality of attendees rather than quantity, look no further than engagement metrics. Things like email opens, downloads of apps and sign-ups for trials, and Near-Field Communications (NFC) swiping at the event itself tell you not just how present your attendees were, but how engaged they were with your product or experience.  

By opening an email about the event, you can see how interested they were in your messaging, and whether or not it needs tweaking down the road. Downloads and sign-ups are your bread and butter; how curious were attendees about your product? Might they be good candidates for future sales?  Continued use of a trial after an event will only further reinforce this conclusion. In addition, swiping of NFC badges or wristbands at the event itself will tell you how engaged attendees were during their event experience. All of this data is valuable in telling you just how interested and alert your audience is, and whether you need to alter it for your next event.

Sales Metrics

If you’re looking to measure…sales

Track these things…indirect sales, direct sales, sales growth patterns over periods of time

Sales metrics seem obvious – if money changed hands and revenue went up, you should be able to count that as a win. But what about indirect sales? Did you get a bump in sales after your event? What other activities did you have going on at the time in marketing? Can you correctly attribute this long-term sales lift to your event?  

Indirect sales are, by their very nature, tricky to measure – and that’s okay. It’s worth tracking sales growth patterns over time – in some industries with a long sales cycle, it’s what happens after the event that really matters. In some large companies, sales trends are critical as it is hard to determine what worked when you have millions of marketing dollars deployed in the market at one time. And not all attendees are going to feel comfortable buying at an event, but when taken into account with engagement and brand awareness metrics, post-event sales can show that your actions had a deep impact on their perception and interest in your brand.

Brand Awareness Metrics

If you’re looking to measure…brand awareness

Track these things…survey results, increase in direct website traffic over time, share of voice

Brand awareness is key, especially for event sponsors and others. If this is the metric you’re being goaled on, spend your efforts in tracking things like survey results and share of voice. Are event attendees happy with the event and speakers? Is there room for improvement? These things will come out in social listening and survey results.

In addition, brand awareness can be measured by survey results and share of voice analysis in your industry, as well as by an increase in direct website traffic or branded searches over time. Be aware, however, that if you’re sending out direct mail or marketing materials with your website and brand name on them, these could also account for the latter two metrics. Always keep your full marketing campaign in mind before claiming attribution for any one event – but looking at these metrics is a good place to start.

The Bottom Line

Once you’ve established your goals, gotten team members on board, and found the appropriate tools, you’ll be well on your way to picking the right KPIs for your event, your team, and your overall mission. Good luck!