The data dilemma: how to measure event ROI effectively

Each week it seems that a news story breaks about budgets being cut or teams being ‘down-sized’ and, more often than not, it is the events arm of the marketing department that is being forced to face the music.

This trend simply highlights that, as an event organiser, there has never been a more important time to equip yourself with all the tools available to produce a convincing justification of spends and demonstrate that all-important Return on Investment (ROI) to the powers that be.

When the operational elements of planning, logistics and administration are stripped away, what is the actual core purpose of the event you are organising? Every event, of course, has a set of objectives against which the success or failure will be measured and the ROI assessed. This could be in the form of lead generation, attendance figures, turnover, or a plethora of other criteria, but the ultimate way of measuring success consistently relies on accurate and relevant data collection.

Extensive data has become available the world over with just a few clicks of a mouse. With 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created every day according to IBM, the Big Data phenomenon highlights just how much is now within reach, which can be hugely beneficial in many ways, not least when it comes to marketing and events. The danger of dealing with this amount of data is that it can, at times, become overwhelming and while reams of figures and charts may look impressive on the surface, the majority of it may be largely irrelevant. The same is true when it comes to events – lots of data is available, but which data is most important to collect and analyse to give you an accurate picture of ROI?

When it comes to international events, analysing event ROI can become even more complicated. There may be multiple languages to consider, currencies to convert and potentially multiple sets of data to synchronise to get an accurate view. Collating delegate information on a single platform that can produce cross-event reports becomes even more important at an international level. Without this functionality, the ability to truly assess event ROI becomes at best a laborious, manual task and at worst simply isn’t possible at all.

When do you measure event ROI?

One factor which has always amazed me is that event organisers often don’t establish at what point it is most relevant to measure ROI. Often the most immediate results are only considered: attendance, sign ups, specific enquiries at the event, etc. And yet for some events, real results can come much later, perhaps even a year after the event itself. Let’s take the example of a seminar event on a topical issue. Attendees may be interested in the subject, but not yet far enough along the buying cycle to be interested in purchasing. However, with good quality data capture and effective integration with other sales and marketing systems, their behaviour could be tracked and monitored so that when they are in a position to buy, perhaps even six months later, this could be tracked to the original event and ultimately become part of the ROI.  

As we look to the future of events and measuring the value they bring, understanding how technologies can assist with analysing effectiveness is an increasingly important fact of life for event organisers. Far from merely looking at registrations, attendance and no-shows, event organisers need to start looking at the longer term benefits that event data brings to their organisation. Getting data savvy is something smart event organisers are already doing; understanding how clever registration and data management software can improve your event ROI measurement will certainly give those organisers the edge in the boardroom.

As internationalisation of events increases, both physical and virtual, a robust registration and data management platform capable of dealing with multi-lingual, multiple events will become a core requirement.

We are already working with major agencies and corporates at an international level who are ahead of the curve when it comes to getting data savvy. The next phase involves further technological developments to make the most of integration with other sales and marketing software tools so that events are seen as part of the strategic marketing mix at an international level.

This was first published in the September issue of CN. Any comments? E-mail

Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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