Updated: Mar 6
Conferences and annual events are a powerful way for corporations, associations, and non-profit organizations to connect with their audiences in a meaningful way. The face-to-face nature of events help drive leads, build brand awareness, and increase customer or member loyalty.
In 2020, events often account for the largest part of a marketing budget for many organizations, so being able to track the return is extremely important. In a perfect world, knowing how to measure event ROI would be easy and effortless. And while it might seem simple on the surface, without the proper tools, it’s almost impossible to quantify.
Don’t let that get you down, though. We’ve put together a go-to guide to help you evaluate your event’s return on investment and overall success.
Measuring event ROI formula:
Learning how to measure event ROI starts with learning the formula to calculate it. More times than not, events are designed with a specific financial goal in mind: to turn a profit. Often, this comes from registration or ticket sales. If this is the case for you and your organization, calculating event ROI is fairly easy, at least on a basic level. We'll get into the more difficult stuff later on.
To calculate event ROI, all you have to do is subtract the total cost of your conference or event from the total revenue generated from sales then divide it by the total cost of the event. After this, you’ll notice the number is shown as a percentage. Simply multiply that by 100, and there you have it, your event’s ROI.
[(Total Sales Revenue – Total Cost of the Event) ÷ Total Cost of Event] X 100 = Event ROI
From a completely monetary perspective, this easy formula is all you need to calculate how profitable your event was. For example, if your event ROI comes out to 100%, you know you doubled your investment. Woot woot! You're killing it!
As easy as this formula is, revenue generated isn’t the only thing event planners take into consideration when thinking about overall ROI. Often, there are less tangible—but equally as important—things that can contribute to the overall success of your event. If your main goal isn’t necessarily to generate revenue from registrations or ticket sales, keep reading for other ways to learn how to calculate event ROI.
To accurately measure your event's ROI, consider the overall, non-monetary goal:
Calculating event revenue is usually only one piece of the puzzle when measuring your event’s ROI. Think about your goals that don’t necessarily have a monetary value and evaluate how well you reached them.
Here are some examples:
Networking/helping your attendees form meaningful connections with other industry professionals
Increasing attendee knowledge
Contributing to educational growth
Increasing organization/brand awareness
Increasing membership numbers
While many of these goals likely fall onto your list, consider which is the most important. If you’re unsure, think about what your attendees are hoping to take away from an event and what will keep them coming back year-after-year.
A recent study completed by the International Association of Exhibitions and Events showed that 76% of nearly 9,000 participants said networking was a top driver when deciding whether or not to attend a conference or event.
Taking this into consideration, networking should be something that’s not only a focus on your conference or event but also something you measure the effectiveness of. Companies like SpeedNetworking.com produce and plan structured networking sessions that help you measure the quality of connections and the number of follow-up meetings that are scheduled as a result of the conference meetings.
Or, if your event is fundraising focused, your monetary goal might be to raise money for a charitable cause, but your non-monetary goal is to raise awareness about the cause.
Determining the non-monetary goal of your event is a great way to have a better understanding of your event’s overall ROI.
To measure your event ROI, gather data and getting feedback:
Gathering data is key to having a more in-depth understanding of your event’s ROI. Data helps quantify and more accurately measure things. Deciding how to track performance can seem challenging, but with today’s technology, it’s not as difficult as you might think.
If you’re using event technology to help plan and/or run your event, you can usually start there. Today’s tools already collect an incredible amount of data for you. For example, your registration/ticketing tool should collect data about the number of attendees, the revenue generated from registrations, the number of people who don’t show, and many other things.
No matter what industry you’re an event planner in, we recommend measuring these things in addition to your total event spending and return:
Total number of registrations
Total number of attendees
Social media activity (mentions, likes, followers, retweets, etc.)
Website visits and where they came from
Survey responses and general conference feedback
All in all, knowing how to measure event ROI isn’t as difficult as it might seem. With the right tools, you can gain a much better understanding of the actual attendee experience and how that contributes to the goals of your event, whether they are monetary or non-monetary.