Practical tips for event ROI: This is how the success of events is measured

Events appeal to emotions. That's all well and good, but how does one actually measure the effects of events for companies?

Today’s marketing world is increasingly driven by data. Zalando, Otto and the like measure the effects of online advertising or email newsletters in real time. Using artificial intelligence, they constantly change formulas, image motifs, and even colours to achieve the maximum conversion rate – in other words: to turn as many ‘interested’ buyers into customers as possible. But how does that work at a conference, a congress or product event?

Why measure Return on Investment (ROI) in the first place?

Something more complex than B2C marketing is at play at our events. Events appeal to a variety of senses all at once. They do not just aim at one target group, rather they focus on a variety of different stakeholders.

This could be employees you would like to convince on the new company strategy. It could be press representatives or bloggers you wish to bring closer to a new product. Or it could, of course, be (potential) customers you want to connect to your business. Sometimes all these people come together, e.g., at trade fairs.

Events are an essential tool for B2B companies. They often constitute the biggest individual portion of a marketing budget. When they assume such great significance – and when the ROI of online marketing is measured in such detail using Big Data – it makes sense to take a closer look at event ROI.

It all begins with objectives

“Emotions alone bring nothing to an event, except perhaps at a wedding! It's more about changing the behaviour of the participating stakeholders, increasing their knowledge, improving their capabilities, enlarging their networks and influencing their mindset through emotions,” says Gerrit Jessen. The event expert holds seminars and offers consulting on event design – and places high value, in the process, on the clear formulation of the event’s aims regarding what the respective stakeholders should achieve during an event.

In so doing, it is vital to formulate the desired behavioural changes that should be triggered by an event. “You need a clear analysis of the behaviour of all stakeholders before the event and a definition of the desired change in behaviour following the event, that will occur because of the event. Whether the event achieves this change can be proven using tools such as Experience Fellow,” says Gerrit.

Measuring attitudes using a five-point scale

Elling Hamso, from Norway, is something of an event ROI guru. The Event ROI Institute, which he heads, has occupied itself with understanding the success of events for many years.

If an event’s objective is to convince employees of the new company strategy, there is a simple formula that he has prepared: “In principle, a change in the attitude of employees in relation to their company is very easy to measure. We use simple statements related to their attitudes, e.g., ‘I am proud to work for this company’ (strongly agree/agree/indifferent/disagree/strongly disagree). This can be carried out before and after an event, and preferably again a few weeks after the event to make sure that the answers were not influenced by the so-called hallelujah effect as a result of the event. A 5-point scale works well for this,” says Elling.

That’s what Audi did when they implemented their Audi A8 Central Launch Training in Salzburg. “The objective was to provide training for around 10,000 salespeople from all sales regions worldwide in relation to our new Audi A8 (technology, design, infotainment, etc.). Our participants rated the content, the organisation and the destination of the event according to a grading system, and all of the aforementioned criteria were rated very positively,” explains Goce Petrusevski from the Audi Training Center in Munich regarding the approach of the premium car manufacturer.

Elling Hamso agrees: “It is impossible to measure success without clearly formulated goals as you simply don't know which data you need to collect.”

Events should form part of a wider strategy

It also depends on how well events are embedded within an overall strategy. “No event can perform miracles in one or two days. You will only achieve good results when the event is part of something bigger, such as when it is part of a campaign,” says Elling Hamso.

In the process, an event organiser should ask which concrete behavioural changes an event is supposed to induce – and why the target group is not already behaving in the desired manner. This analysis is crucial for event ROI and for the design of an event. According to Elling: “When I know why event participants are not yet behaving in a particular way, I can then tailor the event experience to exactly that. Perhaps they do not really believe in the brand? Then I must concentrate on this point and shift the focus onto their attitude towards the brand.”

Event design is what creates the necessary ‘wow factor’. “Space must be planned for participants to be able to discuss and exchange ideas, so that what they have learned can take hold,” is the event designer's conviction.

That's how Gerrit Jessen sees it, too: “Take your time when it comes to event design. Use structured stakeholder analysis to keep the participants’ needs in mind. Ultimately, only good design brings good business.”

The Salzburg Convention Bureau is happy to assist you in finding the right approach and partners for event ROI measurement.

Here you can download the Event ROI Methodology by Elling Hamso.

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