What Makes An Event Successful? | Metrics, KPIs and ROI
A successful event is what every event planner is aiming for. But when it comes to defining what this looks like, you’re likely to get different answers from everyone you ask.
Events are organised for a wide range of reasons, from celebrations to education. They also take place across a vast array of industries and are attended by a huge variety of people with different intentions and aspirations. It stands to reason that the success of an event will be determined by its purpose and target audience. This means that no two successful events are likely to look the same.
With all this in mind, it might seem like measuring event success is a difficult job. But once you’ve decided on the metrics you’re going to use, the KPIs you’re going to measure and how to calculate ROI, you’ll find that determining successful events is actually very straightforward.
In this article, we’re going to take you through what success might look like in the events industry and beyond, how to measure this success, and share some advice on event ROI and KPIs.
In this article:
What Does Event Success Look Like?
On the topic of events, success really is in the eye of the beholder. It’s important to remember that how successful an event is totally depends on why the event was organised, so there’s no straightforward measurement that can be applied to all events.
If you want to begin to determine what makes an event successful, you first need to go right back to the start of the event planning process and identify the goals and purposes that were outlined. This lets you know why the event was organised and what it was aiming to achieve, which you can compare to the reality of what actually took place.
For example, a company might have organised an event to celebrate and share the news of the launch of a new product or service. This occasion would likely have been planned with the intention of increasing brand awareness, the publicity around the launch, and the number of people that heard about the new product or service. Success could therefore be measured by the number of pieces of coverage the event generated, or the number of mentions the brand got on social media after the launch.
Being able to accurately measure event success is actually a key part of how to plan an event. In the next section, we’ll take you through organising an event in a way that makes it simple to calculate how well it went.
How to Measure the Success of an Event
The key to measuring the success of an event is in deciding how you’re going to do this right at the start. Plenty of event planning tips mention setting goals at the very beginning of the planning process, and one of the reasons behind this is that it gives you a framework from which to review your event after it has taken place.
When you decide on event goals, you should also decide how you are going to measure them. This is usually done through key performance indicators (KPIs) and success metrics, which we’ll come to in a moment.
Many event planners make their goals as specific as possible, so there’s a clear benchmark in mind that makes it easy to determine if a goal has been reached. Without this benchmark, it’s a lot harder to say for certain whether you have been successful.
Setting goals at the beginning of planning an event is also likely to make the overall event more successful, as it will have been organised with specific intentions in mind. This will mean that it is more tailored to the target audience and therefore more enjoyable, as well as bringing about benefits that specifically benefit the organiser where they need it.
Once an event has taken place, go back to the goals that were set at the beginning and calculate whether these were achieved. If they were, you can feel pretty certain that your event has been successful.
If you’re looking for a straightforward way to measure the success of an event whilst it is happening, speak to attendees and ask them how they’re finding the experience. If the feedback is generally positive, you will have at least been successful in planning an event that people enjoyed. If you’re given feedback on what could be improved, you have a clear set of starting points to help improve the success of the next thing you organise.
Setting and reviewing goals is the easiest way forward, but more factors can be considered when looking at the wider success of an event. Meeting goals is the main priority, but many event planners also use other metrics to gauge whether an event went well and what they should and shouldn’t do next time around.
KPI stands for key performance indicators, which are a kind of metric for measuring success. They might be used in conjunction with goals, or they may be used as a separate, general measure of success.
There are plenty of different KPIs that can be used to calculate event success. Below are some of the most common examples.
A very popular KPI for event success is how many tickets were sold for the event. If the event you’re planning is free to attend, then you can instead measure how many people registered to attend.
This metric indicates how popular your event is with your target audience and lets you know how successful you’ve been in advertising and promoting it.
If you are selling tickets to your event, another KPI is the amount of money you make from ticket sales. This is an easy metric to use in setting goals, as it’s very straightforward to estimate how much money you want to make and then measure if you reached this value.
Leading on from that point, the overall profit you make from an event is another good metric to indicate success, if making money is one of your intentions. It also indicates whether you were successful in budgeting for the event and if you made back more than what you started with.
If you’re hosting a non-profit event, this metric might be ‘money raised’ instead.
The number of people that actually attend your event is another pretty straightforward KPI. When you compare this number to other metrics however, you can gain more nuanced insight into an event’s success.
Comparing the number of people that bought a ticket to an event vs the actual number of people that showed up could be considered a success metric, although some attendees might have valid reasons for not being able to come on the day.
This metric is more valuable if you’re hosting or running an event for free, as the difference between the number of people that registered and actually attended indicates how valuable the event was considered. If the gap is large, you might need to reconsider how you advertised the event and the value it provided.
If the event you’re hosting is a recurring one, a great success metric is the number of new attendees. This lets you know that your reach and audience are growing, and also indicates that the reputation of your event is encouraging more people to come.
This can be an especially valuable KPI if you compare the number of new attendees you get every year, and try and highlight what it was that caused or encouraged this.
Press courage and mentions can make a massive difference not only to an event’s reputation, but also improve the reputation of the brand behind organising it. Therefore, many event organisers use the amount of press coverage they receive as a metric of success, especially if journalists or representatives have been specially invited.
If you send out press packs or press releases in line with your event, this metric can also indicate how successful these were at encouraging coverage.
Social Media Mentions
Whilst mentions in publications are very valuable for events, social media mentions are almost as influential when it comes to establishing the success of an event and solidifying its reputation. This metric can be measured either by how many times your account is tagged or included in a comment/caption, or by encouraging attendees to use a hashtag and measuring how much this was mentioned.
Social Media Engagement
Along with specific mentions, you can also measure the success of event social media marketing by looking at the level of engagement your posts receive. This lets you highlight the overall success of social media campaigns, but also pick out which kinds of posts were most successful and use this data to refine your approach in the future.
Event App Use
If you have an app designed for your event, many event planners gather data from this after the event to determine whether it was a successful element. You can look at which features were most popular, encourage reviews to see what could be improved, and use this to refine the design if you plan to use an app for another event.
In the case of networking events, conferences or trade shows, the number of leads generated is a very valuable KPI that indicates success. If you’ve put together a meeting or networking schedule as the event organiser, the number of leads generated translates to how successful your ‘matchmaking’ was and shows the value of these opportunities.
Alternatively, if you’ve hosted an event and invited potential clients or partners, the number of leads generated from this event is also a good indicator that the event was successful in meeting its intentions.
Finally, many people consider that an event has been successful if the attendees have enjoyed themselves. It’s harder to measure this metric quantitatively, but you can gather useful data by asking people to review their experience and get a general feeling for whether the event was enjoyable or not.
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ROI in Events
ROI stands for return on investment, which indicates whether something has delivered a profit or been valuable in comparison to the effort or resources put in. Calculating ROI is another good way of determining if an event has been successful, requiring a slightly more strategic approach to general event KPIs.
You can measure return on investment for various aspects of an event, from how much money was made overall to the value of certain marketing approaches or organised activities. This is another area that requires you to determine goals and ways of measuring them at the start of planning a successful event, as these are needed when working out ROI.
In general, you’ll need to calculate what was put into an aspect of the event (time, money, effort) and then capture data measuring the impact of this. This data will then be compared to the original value you identified, and ROI can be calculated.
For example, if you wanted to calculate the ROI of an email marketing campaign promoting your event, you would start off with how much time and money was spent on setting up this campaign. You would then measure the success of the campaign using certain metrics (open rate, engagement, replies) and calculate the ‘return’ you received on your original investment.
There are plenty of tools available to help you measure and calculate ROI, and it’s definitely worth doing if you’re investing in a new approach as part of your event or want to streamline how you spend your time and resources.
It might seem frustrating that there isn’t a clear-cut way to measure event success, but this is actually a benefit. Instead of there being a single way to successfully plan and host an event, success is defined based on the organiser’s intentions and the metrics they see as valuable, which allows you to put together a much richer and more useful picture of whether your event was successful.
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