The digital landscape has made it easier than ever to measure the success of events. Social media platforms and event registration sites offer rich analytic data that helps planners dig deep into what has worked about their event, and what hasn’t. But for those new to events, or even just new to the concept of measuring event success, it can be hard to know where to start.
Let’s get stuck straight in.
Why is it important to evaluate an event?
Event evaluation is a crucial part of event hosting, as it allows organisers to glean key learnings that will help them make their future events better. All event hosts will evaluate their event on some level, even if they don’t look at official data. They’ll register how good the turnout was; whether the atmosphere was in line with what they expected. Many will look to social media to see what people are saying about their event after it happened.
And this, at its most basic level, is all event evaluation is – figuring out whether the event met expectations or not. Some other reasons why this is important include:
to make future events more profitable by looking at how things could have been made more efficient
to spot opportunities to reach new audiences or partners
to learn from attendees what would have made the event better for them
to learn whether or not the event met its official objectives.
Understanding event success metrics
To measure the success of an event, you’ll need a range of event success metrics. These are the things that give you real, tangible information that you can use to say for certain that the event performed in X, Y and Z ways. They’re what prevent you from relying on perception and opinion to measure the success of your event – which can be notoriously misleading.
Event success metrics also often get called ‘Key Performance Indicators’ or KPIs.
Key performance indicators for event success measurement
Let’s take a look at some classic event success KPIs, and how you can use them in your evaluation.
Ticket sales – who, what, when, where?
Rather than just looking at how many tickets you sell, it’s far more valuable to look at who’s buying them, what type of ticket they’re buying (VIP, early-bird, standard?), when they’re buying them, and where they’re buying them from.
Looking at this data will help you to decide things like when to release early bird tickets for your next event, and what locations to target with your social media marketing. You’ll also see what type of tickets do best, and useful demographics about your audience like their age, which will help inform your future marketing activities.
You can usually find this data through your event registration platform, who’ll be able to offer you ticket sale analytics.
Check out our guide to selling tickets online for more advice on this topic.
Website analytics – who’s converting?
If you have a website for your event, it’s a good idea to look at its analytics, which you can do so using tools like Google Analytics. Look in particular at your website's conversion rate to figure out how many people that land on your site end up buying tickets.
This can help you work out how useful your website is, or whether it’s draining your return on investment (ROI) and needs improving. You could also look at your website’s bounce rate, which will tell you how many people are landing on it but exiting within a few seconds – another indicator that your website’s not working and is currently a drain on your resources.
Attendance – good turnout? Or an unexpected flop?
Sometimes attendance just doesn’t meet expectations, even when you’ve sold plenty of tickets. To measure attendance, make sure to keep an accurate record of event check-ins. If there’s a big discrepancy between this and the amount of registrations you had, you’ll want to look into why this might be.
It could be that you didn’t push marketing and build hype enough in the final few days before the event, for example. Or it could be that you picked a bad date – like one that was too far away from payday, for example – resulting in lots of people dropping out.
Social media mentions – buzz or radio silence?
In the planning of your event, make sure to give it a memorable hashtag and to prompt people to use this whenever they mention your event. That way, you’ve got a useful measurement tool that’ll easily let you track who’s saying what (if anything) about your event.
And of course, you can also monitor your social media handles to see the same thing. If you’re finding there’s more radio silence than positive vibes on various platforms, you might need to consider whether you’re making enough valuable social media content around your event.
Surveys – were attendees satisfied?
One of the most effective KPIs for measuring event success is to send out attendee satisfaction surveys after it’s taken place. Get people to use a scoring system (0-9) to answer specific questions about how they felt about your event.
It’s also a good idea to get them to say how likely they would be to recommend your event to a friend (this is otherwise known as a ‘Net Promoter Score’ or NPS). If you’re getting a lot of low scores, you know there’s room for improvement.
Engagement with performers – impressed or passive?
Looking at data around how much attendees have engaged with the key performers at your event will let you know how impactful your event actually was. Look to social media to see how many of them went on to mention the performers, or like their page.
If you find there’s a lot of noise in this department, then great – the event clearly had the desired effect. But if people are more passive than full of praise, it might be worth considering whether your performers were up to scratch, or right for your audience.
Sponsorship satisfaction – would they sponsor you again?
If you’ve secured a sponsor for your event, check in with them afterwards to glean how satisfied they were with their experience. If they felt you delivered everything you promised and got genuine value for money (or whatever else they offered), it’s a good sign that you chose the right kind of organisation to sponsor your event.
If they weren’t satisfied – you might be better off approaching a different kind of sponsor. Or it may be that you need to refine your offering to sponsors in general.
When your event is over, it might be tempting to sit back and relax, feeling that the hard work is over. But with one final push – by taking the time to analyse what worked about your event and what didn’t – you’ll be putting yourself in an infinitely better position to grow your event planning success for a long time to come.