Measuring Event Success: Goals and Tools

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How to Measure Event Success


Every event has a goal.


Hosting a webinar? You’re looking to share knowledge and get new prospects for your business. Throwing a party? Your goal is to have people enjoy themselves. Playing a gig with your band? You’re out to gain new fans and make some money.


Sure, you won’t always be aware of what your event goals are; some are more implicit than explicit. But identifying those goals is key to hosting a successful event...or even knowing whether it was successful in the first place.


So how do you measure event success? What goals should you focus on?


You’ll often hear about SMART goals. That is, your goals should be:

  • Specific: The goal is clearly defined and easy to communicate.
  • Measurable: It’s possible to tell when you’ve achieved the goal.
  • Assignable: There is a person responsible for achieving the goal.
  • Realistic: The goal is achievable with available resources.
  • Time-related: Within what time frame will the goal be achieved?

"That’s all well and good," you might say, "But what actual event goals are we talking about?"


That’s what we’re here for. A few goals are especially relevant when it comes to organising events. Here's a table outlining how to measure event success - with specific goals to consider and tools to track them.


Category Goal Tool to measure
Operational On-time performance Project management software
On-budget performance Business budgeting software
Number of attendees Event booking platforms
Brand awareness Social shares Social media monitoring tools
PR mentions PR monitoring tools
Word of mouth Online survey software
Customer satisfaction Net Promoter Score NPS software
Reviews & testimonials Online review sites
Business impact Attendees CRM software
Partners
Sponsors
Revenue Ticket sales Event ticketing sites
Other guest revenue Business budgeting software
Sponsorhips

Now let's look at each goal more closely. Keep in mind that for tracking the vast majority of goals, you’ll get quite far with basic spreadsheet programs or online web forms. We’re recommending the more niche tools designed with a specific purpose in mind. So feel free to add a mental "...or any basic spreadsheet / web form software" to our recommendations.



Operational goals


Operational goals are tied to tangible inputs and outputs that directly relate to hosting the event.



On-time performance


This comes down to measuring whether you’ve stayed on track with your stated key timelines.


Did the event take place on the originally announced date? Did the doors open when you promised they would? Was the food served on time? Did the speakers wrap up their presentations on schedule? Was the venue cleaned up and handed over when specified? Etc.


Tools to use: Project management software.



On-budget performance


This is about managing your costs and staying within budget.


Did the venue end up costing more than you expected? Did you overpay for the flowers and decorations? Were there some unexpected costs that you forgot to budget for?


We’ve talked about putting together a budget, and it’s important to follow up and compare estimated costs with actual costs.


Tools to use: Business budgeting software.



Number of attendees


This is quite easy to track. The tricky part is finding a good benchmark for what counts as "success."


For many events, that benchmark will be the number of guests vs. the number of available tickets. But you might have other targets: The number of guests this year vs. last year, the number of guests at your event compared to similar events from your competitors, and so on.


Tools to use: Event booking software or an event ticketing platform.




Brand awareness


Whether you’re hosting events to help your brand or your events are your brand, you’ll want to measure their impact on brand awareness.


Social shares


This is the social media buzz your event generates: People using your event hashtag on Twitter, sharing photos from your event on Instagram, mentioning it on Facebook, and so on. Tracking all of this chatter seems like a daunting task, but you have robust social media monitoring tools to help you do just that.


Tools to use: Social media monitoring tools.



PR mentions


Similar to social shares but coming from expert publications and the press, both offline and online. These PR mentions are a great indication that your event was successful in increasing your brand awareness. Just as with social shares, you have numerous PR monitoring tools to help you track these mentions.


Tools to use: PR monitoring tools.



Word of mouth


We chose to separate this from social shares because word of mouth is traditionally more personal - direct recommendations to family, colleagues, and friends - and is therefore less visible. Positive word of mouth (WoM) can be the strongest indicator of brand awareness...but it’s also a bit iffy and not so easy to quantify.


The most common way to track WoM is to ask your future event guests (or customers) "How did you first hear about us?" in a survey. The amount of people who answer "From a friend / family member / colleague" will give you an idea of your WoM impact.


There’s also an indirect way to gauge WoM through your Net Promoter Score, which we’ll address next.


Tools to use: Online survey software.




Customer satisfaction


One of your key goals is to ensure attendees are happy with the event. There are a few ways to measure this.



Net Promoter Score


Net Promoter Score (NPS) has become the go-to standard for measuring customer loyalty and satisfaction. It’s usually determined by asking a single question: "How likely are you to recommend our event / product / service to a friend or colleague?" The answer is a rating on 0 to 10 scale.


People who score your event 9 and 10 are "Promoters" (very loyal and likely to advocate for you). Those with 7 and 8 are "Passives" (satisfied but not particularly loyal or engaged). Finally, the 0 to 6 group are "Detractors" (unhappy with your service and likely to actively voice their dissatisfaction).


The overall NPS is calculated based on how many Promoters, Detractors, and Passives you have.


It also gives you an indirect yet pretty good indication of how much WoM you’re likely to get. (The higher the NPS, the more positive WoM and more new customers you can expect.)


Tools to use: NPS software.



Reviews & ratings


You might be present on an online review site or two. Here, your customers can give you a thorough review and rate your performance. This measure of customer satisfaction is especially relevant if you’re either an established event planning company or a business trying to establish your reputation by organising events.


Tools to use: Online review sites.




Business impact


This is a relevant success criteria, whether organising events is your core business or you’re simply using events to promote a company, product, or service. So how do you measure event success in terms of its impact on your future business?



Customers


This goal is about measuring the growth of your customer base.


If you’re a business: Did your event result in new business leads or customer contacts? If you’re an event company: Did you gain new followers or sign-ups for your future events?


Tools to use: CRM software.



Partners


If you’re a business, your events may revolve around attracting new suppliers, marketing partners, and so on. If you’re an event organiser, you want to build relationships with new vendors and venues or strengthen your existing ones.


What was the impact of your last event on these relationships and how many new partners did you gain afterwards?


Tools to use: CRM software.



Sponsors


Gaining sponsorship for future events can be a major goal, especially if you’re an event company. Did your event attract new sponsors or make existing ones more likely to increase their spending? Did you secure more favourable terms and contracts?


Tools to use: CRM software.




Revenue


Last but almost certainly not least, your event may well be about turning a profit. If your goal is to sell tickets and earn money, here’s what you’ll want to keep track of.



Ticket sales


The obvious one. This is what you earn directly from selling tickets for the event itself. What was the revenue you expected and how much did you actually earn? Is there a growth in event revenue compared to your last event? How does it compare to what your competitors make on similar events?


Tools to use: Event ticketing sites.



Other guest revenue


You might aim to sell other things during your event - like food and merchandise - so you’ll also want to track the revenue from those. How does this revenue compare to expectations and your original budget?


This goal is also relevant for not-for-profit events. What were your fundraising targets and how much revenue in donations did your event bring?


Tools to use: Event ticketing sites or business budgeting software.



Sponsorships & advertising


If you have event sponsors or advertising deals, this is yet another source of revenue to set targets for and to track. What did you earn from sponsorship deals and advertising contracts? How does it compare to budgeted earnings or revenue from past events?


Tools to use: Business budgeting software.


These are the most common goals and measures of event success. The final list you’ll end up with will depend on the type of event you’re organising and its primary purpose.




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