“To not measure an event is a careless use of funds in these financially challenging times. How can you ask for event funding if you cannot objectively report how well your previous events have performed?,” challenges Harris Schanhaut, a 20-year veteran in the events industry in our recent interview. His question is a valid one.
Which options for quantifying corporate event success are available to the events industry, and how can they best be implemented?
Reasons for measuring corporate event success:
“A salesperson is measured by the amount of sales brought in. An ad campaign is evaluated based on the results achieved. Both are compared to their relative cost vs. results. The same should be true for event programs,” reasons Schanhaut. “Senior executives should be able to objectively review the results of an events program, and compare them to other sales or marketing efforts,” he continues. “To make objective decisions, they should have numbers that allow them to see which is providing better support to the corporate bottom line.”
Tools for measuring corporate event success:
Two of the most common and successful metrics for measuring event success are Return on Investment (ROI), and Return on Objective (ROO). To keep it short, ROI focuses on corporate marketing dollars spent and returned as a result of the event. While ROO focuses on the corporate marketing goals that should be fulfilled by the event.
Just as there are multiple ways for calculating ROI, there is no one-fits-all template for determining ROO. Objectives and measures differ for each event, and organization. They should ideally be specified by senior management during the initial planning phase, and carried through the entire event life cycle by the event team.
Setting-up event measurement programs:
Setting up the initial measurement program, and determining measurements to use are the two areas that require the most work, according to Schanhaut. “Once that is accomplished, the rest can be as simple as data entry.”
It is management’s responsibility to specify why the event is happening. Key stakeholders have to determine the results they want to achieve with the event. They also need to decide on how results should be reported. And, they will have to agree on how event success can objectively be determined. Most importantly, finalized event objectives and metrics have to be SMART – specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-related – to assure objective evaluation is possible.
An event manager’s role:
During the initiating phase, the event manager’s role is to point out the importance and opportunities of establishing an event measurement program to stakeholders. It is essential to show how success can be measured at a relatively low cost, with a high impact. The event manager guides key stakeholders through the process of defining SMART objectives and metrics, and produces documents for evaluation. The entire team needs to understand their role in the process, so 360-degree communication is key. And, above all, the event manager needs to assure that deliverables are met. “If those who pay for the event want ROO and you provide ROI, the event program will not last,” Schanhaut warns. He continues: “Simply put, if you don’t make those who pay for the event happy, don’t expect to do it again.”
Industry status quo:
While many corporations are still tightening their belts, only few are monitoring how well their event marketing dollars are spent. Currently, only half of special events are […] measured for their return on investment, according to the 11th Annual Special Events Magazine Corporate Event Forecast 2012-2013. The results of the survey are concerning, and not only to Schanhaut. They concern me as an event professional, and likely many of my colleagues in the industry. I agree with my interview partner that “event metrics, be they ROO, ROI, or a blend of both, should be more than a best practice. They should be a required practice.”
What is your take on measuring corporate event success?
This post is based on an interview with Harris Schanhaut, CME. Harris has been managing conferences, meetings and events for over twenty years in diverse industries. He is also a repeat guest lecturer on events and trade shows for St. John’s University.