All In! – The Corporate Event Industry Talk

Symbol reading the words ‘Measuring Corporate Event Success – Return on Investment and Return on Objectives’Measuring Corporate Event Success – The Importance of ROI and ROO

“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:

Formula for calculating Return on Investment for Corporate EventsTwo 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. Sample Metrics for Evaluating Return on ObjectivesObjectives 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.”

Arrow on US dollar bills indicating growing return on investmentIndustry 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?

- Mona


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.

10 thoughts on “All In! – The Corporate Event Industry Talk

  1. Harris Schanhaut, CME

    Thank you so much to all who have enjoyed this article. There is an old adage: “If you can’t measure it, you cannot manage it.” A responsible event manager will take whatever steps are required to set up a measurement system. Even if senior management is not presently interested, it is the right thing to do.
    At one company I did exactly that. My direct leader was not interested; however, I put together a number of measurements. There was a meeting a few months later with all the managers and directors of the various sections of marketing and the senior VP of marketing. He asked about metrics for the various programs that were underway. I presented my measurements. No other unit was as prepared to do so. At the end of that year there were some significant budget cuts. The events program was not affected and most of the others were.

  2. Arwin Adriano

    Great post. Valuing ROI is one important thing to successfully measure the outcome of the event. This is one of the factors that you could consider, to identify if your event was able to achieve what you are expecting.

  3. Michael Ng

    In any event, one can never forget the process of Pre Event, Event and Post Event.
    Sometimes we focus too much on the Pre – Event and Event phase, we tend to forget how important the Post Event phase is. Post event or after event evaluation is to evaluate whether objectives were met, were there profit or losses? The most important thing at this point besides measuring ROI and ROO is also about what can we improve in future, if ROI or ROO is not met, how can we further improve for the next event. I totally agree with Ashley, that Too often event pros limit themselves to logistics when their real value is determining goals and objectives, developing the best strategy and measuring results. See the event’s manager does a lot here from research planning, coming out with strategy and objectives and the plan and then to putting it into execution, aligning it with the objectives given, evaluate whether objectives were met and suggesting or recommending on how event can be improve.

  4. Denise Jones

    Events must be evaluated. ROI and ROO are key components for sustainability and viability of events, particularly as economic constraints continue. Great piece. Thank you.

  5. posh productions, LLCAshleigh Dorfman CSEP

    Great article, Mona! Measuring results is so critical. Thank you for including the event managers role. Too often event pros limit themselves to logistics when their real value is determining goals and objectives, developing the best strategy and measuring results. If leadership doesn’t ask for a post-event report, the event manager should take the initiative; its the final phase in proper event planning … and really separates the good from great.

    1. Admin by Mona

      Ashleigh, I absolutely agree. Developing an event strategy, and following through with it, is a key responsibility event managers should not shy away from. Thanks for your input!
      - Mona


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