This article looks at the benefits of creating a measurement strategy for events and how to avoid some of the pitfalls that can take you off track.
Meeting professionals know and understand the value of measurement, yet it is surprising how often it gets forgotten or is regarded as a ‘necessary evil’ to be done at the end of an event as part of the housekeeping. For example, a recent social media report shows that 55% of event planners are not measuring their social media activities.
What We Resist
Most of us resist measurement, especially when we think we are not winning or meeting our objectives.
Feeling overweight? The last thing you are likely to do is get on the scales. Not earning enough money? Then you are unlikely to be carefully checking your credit card statement. Ticket sales down? Then you are probably not investigating your website analytics and social media effectiveness.
This head-in-the-sand approach deprives us of one of the most important tools we have. Measurement puts us in reality and stops the guesswork. It is the antidote wishing-and-hoping and the doorway to effective action.
Measurement is important for three key reasons:
Demonstrate your value
It is essential to be able demonstrate the value of your event, whether that is to your CEO, your client or yourself. Recent research in the UK has shown that 50% of executives question the value of meetings and events. They need to see the numbers. They need to understand how the event fulfils the organization’s long term goals.
If you don’t collect the facts you have no way to demonstrate the value of what you are doing to the people who matter the most.
Improve your performance
Whatever you measure improves. If you want to improve your performance then start measuring. The very act of measurement makes you think. It creates a game to play and the ability to evaluate your effectiveness against some pre-defined criteria.
Do you want to increase revenue? Then start measuring your costs, ticket sales and profit margins. Do you want to increase engagement? Then start measuring attendee interactions with your speakers, content and social media.
Adaptability and flexibility
If you only pay attention to your metrics at end of your event, all you have is a stale report. When you measure during the whole lifecycle of you event you have tactical information that you can use to inform every decision you make.
Measurement is a daily, moment-to-moment activity that allows you to be flexible and respond to the current situation. Using measurement as a real-time feedback mechanism allows you to make course corrections and adjustments that will fulfill on your objectives.
Measuring our WHY
Measurement is only important in the bigger context of our event. What we are interested in is not the numbers per se, but what the numbers tell us about whether or not we are fulfilling the WHY of our events.
Every event should have an aim or objective:-
- Generate revenue
- Educate your attendees
- Grow / maintain membership
- Build brand awareness
- Create new sales opportunities
- Launch a new product / or enter a new market
- Staff training and development
- Build customer loyalty
- Create community
It almost goes without saying that generating your WHY should be your first step in planning your event. The point here is to make sure you create measurements that will tell you whether or not your primary objectives have been fulfilled.
There are some measurement basics that most event planners have their eye on. These usual suspects include ticket sales, attendance, return on investment, hotel savings, evaluations and surveys. However, this only scratches the surface of what it is possible to measure.
Technologies such as social media tracking, website analytics, customer relationship systems, email management and mobile apps have become so sophisticated that we are now able to track everything that is happening at every stage of our event.
We can track every touch point, event attendee interaction and marketing success (or failure). We can see who comes and who doesn’t come, where we lose our audience, what they are interested in, which marketing efforts are yielding the biggest reward and we can see all this data dynamically and in real time.
This information is gold and for the most part we are unaware and not using it to our advantage.
Score your Sprints
Your event measurement needs to begin long before your event actually happens. To use measurement strategically you need to analyze every stage from inception, through research, engagement, marketing, delivery and completion.
Your first step is to record your baseline. Before you even start on your event you need to assess your current metrics. How many people are visiting your website? What is your social media activity? What content are people engaging with? How many members or subscribers do you have? What are your current sales? What metrics you capture will depend on your WHY – just make sure you capture the starting point.
Creating, preparing, marketing and delivering an event is a marathon. While you will have some over-arching primary goals, an agile approach breaks your event down into a series of smaller objectives and tasks or “sprints”. For example, if you have a primary goal to increase ticket sales or event revenue, you might have shorter-term goals to increase website traffic, build twitter followers or generate social media mentions.
Short 2-week or 3-week sprints are best. Create your objectives, measure the results, find out what worked and take stock of what didn’t work. Use this information as a feedback loop for your next sprint.
Actions Speak Louder than Words
One of the common ways we measure our performance is through polls and surveys. This type of information is very valuable, however what people actually do can be even more informative than their opinions.
For example, let’s say you want to measure attendee satisfaction at a trade show. Think about the kinds of behaviour that you could measure to assess this. For example, the number of leads generated for each exhibitor, the amount of time attendees spent on the trade show floor, repeat visits, the number of exhibitor booths visited and the number of appointments booked with exhibitors would all give you very valuable information about actual attendee behaviour.
You will need to think about these metrics way in advance of your event and design a technology strategy to capture all this information (e.g. through use of a mobile app). While this may seem like extra work at first, this data will be invaluable in building your event in years to come.
A Final Warning: You are Going to Fail
When you start measuring you put yourself on a roller-coaster of success and failure. When your numbers look good you are going to feel happy and successful. When your numbers look bad, what’s predictable is that you are going to feel embarrassed, disappointed and a failure.
The biggest pitfall is to stop measuring when your numbers go down (which they inevitably will at some point). Instead, use the downturn as precious information to inform you about how to get back on track again.
It may help to know in advance that you will almost certainly fail at first. The whole point of measuring is to provide you with insights into the types of actions that are most effective. You don’t know what those are yet so you can be sure that you are going to make mistakes, take wrong turns and try things that don’t work.
You can also be sure that if you stick with it, keep measuring, make course corrections and analyze the response you will prevail. You will discover what works in reality and will gain more and more confidence in the effectiveness of your tactics.