How to Measure The ROI of Your Virtual Events

Post by 
Karen Ashwin
Published 
August 27, 2020

The business environment is changing rapidly and marketers need to adapt accordingly—more now than ever before. Virtual and hybrid events (events that include physical and online options) don’t only make for an attractive alternative, they are, in and of themselves, wonderful tools that can be leveraged for some remarkable results.

Unfortunately, however, it is not unusual to find marketing managers who can’t prove the worth of investing in such meetings when presenting their budgets. The reason is that, in most cases, such professionals can’t measure the ROI of the online events they are planning. As a result, the budget for such gatherings for the next financial year lacks justification.

Virtual event ROI focuses on the measurable contribution of such meetings to your bottom line. That will, in turn, help you to discover how such events assist your company to achieve strategic objectives. Interested in learning more? Here are the steps to help you measure the ROI of your online meetings.

Set Objectives for Your Virtual Events

First and foremost, when it comes to virtual and hybrid events, you need to ensure that you have solid goals and objectives in place. The online event you are planning will dictate the goals you adopt. For instance, a sales kick-off will have different objectives from an executive briefing or a hybrid event for clients.

You can also measure the ROI of online exhibitions or events as a sponsor, exhibitor, or guest. The results, in this case, will be different from what you expect when you measure the ROI of such gatherings as the host.

All event-related goals should be SMART;

  • Specific — this refers to such things as splitting the attendees you expect by profile, increase in brand awareness, potential new leads, among other aspects.
  • Measurable — you need to specify incremental objectives such that you can measure them in scores, numbers, percentages, or in terms of money.
  • Ambitious and Achievable — avoid overestimating or overselling the impact of your online meeting by focusing on what is possible.
  • Realistic — the objectives you adopt should be relevant to you and your team, and they should fit into your company’s strategy as well.
  • Timely — your objectives should be time-bound. For example, generating 100 leads, of which 10% converts to business within a year.

Note that part of the significant reasons for hosting virtual or online events includes touching base with customers, lead generation, and creating brand awareness.

Define KPIs and Determine How You Will Measure Them

Below is a characteristic example of how to define and measure your online event KPIs as well as the tools you need.

  1. a) Strategic Objective – Optimize event participant engagement

            Quantified Event Objective – Event participants networking

            ROI Metrics – #networking connections

            ROI Measurement Tool – Event app, virtual event platform

  1. b) Strategic Objective – Build brand awareness

           Quantified Event Objective – Social media presence

           ROI Metrics – #likes, retweets, shares

           ROI Measurement Tool – Social media tools

  1. c) Strategic Objective – Drive sales revenue

          Quantified Event Objective – TOFU: generate new leads

          ROI Metrics – #marketing qualified leads

          ROI Measurement Tool – Event app and marketing automation

  1. d) Strategic Objective – Respect budget guidelines

          Quantified Event Objective – Stay within budget

          ROI Metrics – $ ticket sales and $ sponsor funding

          ROI Measurement Tool – Event management tool, finance tool

  1. e) Strategic Objective – Drive revenue through business partners

          Quantified Event Objective – Achieve a number of new partners goal

          ROI Metrics – #new partners

          ROI Measurement Tool – Marketing automation and CRM

  1. f) Strategic Objective – Educate event participants

          Quantified Event Objective – Achieve customer satisfaction goals

          ROI Metrics – Average score of a satisfaction survey

          ROI Measurement Tool – Survey tool, virtual event platform

Note that the details above serve as a guideline and are not exhaustive. You can enhance the information in the table to reflect the insights you need for particular online events. You also need to ensure that the virtual event platform you opt for can allow you to measure maximum online interactions. Additionally, choice and deployment of technology have a direct impact on the KPI measurement results you can expect.

Fully Understand the Metrics to Measure

Once you’ve set your data-driven goals and KPIs, you need to learn how you will be able to measure your success based on your specific data metrics (mentioned above). You need to have an in-depth understanding of each of the key metrics, such as:

  • The number of registrations: The number of people who signed up for your event is the most obvious and easiest bit of data to measure.
  • The number of registrations per session: If your event has multiple sessions, you’re able to gauge which of them were the most popular and why. This can also help inform decisions that you make regarding future online events and the types of sessions that will take place.  
  • The demographics of attendees: Virtual and hybrid events allow for participation from attendees across the globe. This metric is important because it gives you invaluable insights into who your audience is (from age and ethnicity to country of residence) and how to better appeal to them.
  • Email open rates: It’s valuable to glean insights into how many people actually open your pre-event marketing emails and then how many of them click through from your emails (the Click Through Rate or CTR).
  • The level of social media engagement: It’s crucial to understand how many people are engaging with and promoting or speaking about your event on social media channels. It also reveals how much the event is resonating with attendees. Another huge perk about social media engagement is that most of the platforms make it easy to track this data.
  • Lead sales: When you put time, effort, and resources into an event, you really want to know how many leads were generated and how many of them converted as a result of the experience.
  • Audience engagement: It’s not easy to determine how engaged your audiences are during an event unless you strategically put some mechanism in place to encourage them to interact. Polls, satisfaction surveys, and net promoter scores (or NPS) are great forms of testing the audience engagement and provides interesting insights into what worked well for people and what didn’t. This data will also highlight areas to hone in on more or improve for your next event.
  • Engagement with sponsors: Sponsors are key elements of many events and help brands to build important partnerships. Knowing how much your attendees interacted with the sponsors through various actions plays a crucial role in lasting relationships. It also gives you an idea of which sponsors worked the most for attendees (and what type of sponsor to work with in the future).
  • Connections: This data centers on attendees that exchanged contact information at a networking event. They show how engaged your audience was and how likely they were to exchange information.

Leverage tech to track data

One of the biggest blessings of virtual events and the online portion of hybrid events is both the type of data available to you and secondly, the number of software programs you can utilize to gather and analyze that data to prove ROI. Two of our favorite data-tracking software programs include Funnel and Hive9 but there are many more out there. Do some research, determine which would be best for your needs, and go from there.

At the end of the day, the ROI approach is circular, as is the case of most strategy-planning-execution-analysis-adjust processes. Completing this cycle yields valuable insights and provides recommendations for the upcoming event calendar and budget planning too. Keeping, and reinforcing, what works, as well as suggesting ideas for optimizing online events, should be part of the recommendations in this case.

Conclusion

Online and hybrid events can indeed prove a strategic approach that yields a desirable outcome in today’s business environment. You can’t know whether your virtual meetings are a success or not if you can’t measure the ROI of such gatherings. The steps above can help you understand the aspects you should focus on when calculating ROI for your virtual events.

At The Event Production Company, we can help you justify event spending by creating successful events that lead to greater ROI. If you need more information on measuring the ROI of your virtual or hybrid events, take a look at our comprehensive new eBook (where we dive into all of this in greater detail) or contact us today.

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