The Science of Event Planning: The Right Metrics


Event planning had been thought of as an art, rather than a science, for a long time. Recently there’s been a strong push to approach the field in a more scientific manner. As an event planning platform, we try to empower our hosts with the tools they need to become event scientists over night. With the explosion of #EventTech, hosts everywhere can understand their events and their attendees in ways never before possible. But the impressive analytics that some platforms offer can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to look for.


EventMarketer‘s Sandra O’Loughlin had an interesting post breaking down the most effective metrics to track, pilfered below. You’ll notice that some of these categories are more scientific while others remain more of an art form. A good planner is able to find that sweet spot between the two. Research and the right tools can make a good event scientist but usually only experience can lead to a true event artist.

1. Attendee Demographics. Event marketers have always counted heads; now, they can track when and how attendees registered, which in turn reveals valuable information about which promotions and registration methods are working best. Are the attendees responding to an ad, Twitter, email or a referral from a friend? Knowing who is attending also matters. Is the attendee a decision maker with purchase power, a top sales person or just tagging along for the ride? Remember, it’s not just a numbers game anymore.
2. Attendee Satisfaction. What is their perception of the event? Was it meaningful? Will they return next year? Should you change the event or eliminate it from your marketing portfolio?
3. Attendee Mindshare. How did the conference or event move the needle on brand awareness and knowledge? Will the attendee buy your product or service? Recommend it to others? Does the attendee even remember who sponsored the event?
4. Attendee Journey. Which sessions and product demos did they attend? Did they comment in chat rooms or on social media?
5. Sales Leads. Quality counts. Event marketers must determine which attendees wield the buying power and know their position in the sales funnel.
6. Customer Acquisition Cost. Like sales leads, this metric is necessary to determine just how much time, effort and expense goes into acquiring actual customers, and then, the cost to retain them and increase their purchases.
7. Customer Lifetime Value. Measuring the sales value of an attendee over a period of time versus someone who didn’t attend reveals the impact of the event or conference on the bottom line and shows that the relationships that develop from those events lead to more significant lifetime value.
8. Revenue and Sales Growth. For many meetings and events, it’s all about the bottom line. Make sure it increases year over year and track spikes in relationship to event activations.
9. ROI. Measuring the expense and return equation demands that you know what your business value is minus your investment, and it reveals what marketers are getting for those dollars.
10. Expenditures. Keeping tabs on outlays for travel, audio-visual, catering and other services can identify opportunities for savings efficiencies.
11. KPIs. Key Performance Indicators contribute to an event’s ultimate success and return on investment and provide additional context for that success. Two top KPIs, Event Body Language and Digital Body Language, are detailed next.
12. Event Body Language. A term that tracks attendee activity at an event and encompasses which sessions they attend. For example, knowing whether they attend high-level, industry thought leadership sessions or skip those in favor of training on specific products or tools allows for better follow up post-event.
13. Digital Body Language. Measures attendees’ online activity, which may begin with an email, a website visit, then a click to a link or to download an event-associated white paper. Digital body language reveals whether an attendee is in a shopping mindset. That lead can be passed along to sales, along with details on the prospect’s specific interests.
14. Insights. Insights are metrics that are interesting to track and provide additional information that is good to know but doesn’t necessary change outcomes. For instance, insights might include where attendees came from, their age, their gender, whether they enjoyed the food, all data that help plan for the future but don’t necessarily impact the ROI of an event.
15. Communications. How effective are your marketing messages? Are they connecting with your audience
16. Press impact. How many media mentions did the event or conference capture? Which editors and publications? Then calculate what the cost would have been to reach those audiences with paid advertising to put a dollar value on media reach.
17. Social Media Buzz. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest represent social currency that should be measured in terms of likes, tweets, fans and followers.
18. Management Response. What the execs think of your meeting or event matters, too. The executive team can kill a program or keep it going.
We’d love to hear from #EventProfs about what they find to be the key indicators of a successful event. Of course, “event” is a big category and different types of events have very different goals. If we get enough demand, we can put together an event science post on the most important metrics for the different event niches. Leave a comment or tweet @squadup.