Event planners across the globe are quickly adapting and learning to transform in-person events into virtual, and measuring virtual event ROI is going to be essential. The industry is resilient and this ability to pivot quickly and adapt to changing environments has always been a strong skill for event professionals, and thanks to existing prolific technology, virtual events are also an efficient, cost-effective, powerful way to connect people.

Let’s be clear: Virtual events might be today’s standard networking platform, but they will never completely replace face-to-face programs. In the future, virtual events will be linked to live experiences and may replicate many, if not all, features of an in-person program, making it necessary to measure virtual event ROI as well as combined event ROI. The good news is that whether it is a webinar, conference, or an internal or external hybrid event, program content will connect to wider audiences and stretch audience reach for longer periods of time.

A specific advantage of virtual events is the registration process where attendees are willing to provide data in exchange for participation. This willingness to provide information, as well as an ability to track engagement, makes virtual programs an effective way to enhance ROI. Let’s look at some ways to measure virtual events:

Set Goals

Much like face-to-face events or any program, virtual events start with two questions: what needs to be accomplished and what behaviors need to change? Setting SMART metrics allows companies to measure performance against objectives and determine success. Whether you are planning a hybrid or stand-alone program, align virtual event objectives with business goals and identify key metrics to define success.

Lead Generation

Every person who registers for a virtual event becomes an instant lead. Unlike in-person events where a lead-capture scanner is required, virtual event information is yours. Registrants who have shown interest in your programs are willing to provide data. One objective should always be to provide x number of qualified leads to marketing and sales for follow-up within 30 days. However, it is important to consider setting multiple goals for different segments within the target audience. Attendees can be global. Depending on content and target audience, leads could be for marketing, sales, investor relations, R&D, or leadership.

Lead Qualification

Another measurement of virtual events is lead quality. How good are the leads obtained at a virtual event versus an in-person event and is the cost-per-lead ratio as good or better than other marketing channels? As part of the qualifying process, identify not only the target audience but also relevant data that will be helpful to marketing or sales. For example, a CEO may merely be interested in keynote speakers and stay only a short time, while managers may stay longer, attend breakouts, and engage more. Go deeper into each role. Consider asking about:

  • Existing projects
  • Issues they need to resolve
  • Specific products, services, and areas of interest
  • Responsibilities in decision process
  • Purchasing timeframe
  • Budgeted versus not
  • Existing customers and products they own

Speak with sales, marketing, and leadership to define a good lead and the data required. Collect and collate data and use APIs to connect the event as much as possible with a CRM, social media, and analytic and survey tools. Rank leads based on criteria set with marketing and sales and capture data to address lead ranking.

One word of caution: Make sure to follow GDPR and CIPR guidelines and give people the option to protect their privacy by unsubscribing or declining further contact.

Marketing

Because virtual events have a larger reach and content will live on after the event, a good marketing plan is needed. It’s even more important to consider pre-, at-, and post-show marketing goals, tactics, and measurements. These actions should be no different than face-to-face event marketing.

While an in-person event may help attract attendees with a cool location, virtual events must rely 100% on powerful content. Marketing can be specific, segmented, and focused on the right target.

In the future, fewer people will travel but will still crave data, information, and engagement. Virtual events can expand reach to those who cannot attend. With targeted and focused marketing, your overall attendance might increase. Be sure to set and track marketing goals as part of a virtual event plan to extend targets and reach beyond what the in-person event provides.

Be sure to include registration, content abstracts, and relevant information links to encourage click-throughs. Marketing analytics are another good way to measure event success.

Track Engagement and Capture Data

Data analytics are valuable. Backend technology has been around for some time and becomes a critical success measurement. Virtual events can provide specific data that can help direct future communications, marketing, and ultimately sales. This data includes:

  • Email open rates (pre, at, and post)
  • Social media page likes and follows as a result of email, at-, or post-event communication
  • Session attendance, engagement, and timing. How long? What session? Did they engage in surveys, polls, Q&A, etc.?
  • Click-throughs and downloads
  • Website action: Which sites and how long? Product and services pages?
  • Registered and never logged in
  • Meetings scheduled
  • Post-event follow-up
  • Feedback

Benchmark from different angles and titles. How did CEOs, VPs, directors, or managers react to program content? Did CEOs leave after a few minutes while others stayed longer? There is a lot of data that can help focus marketing materials and sales pitches.

Measure Results

Use data to measure success against each objective. Analyze your data to improve the future. Be sure to have specific data and create dashboards demonstrating success.

Cost Per LeadSales Revenue, NewLead Generation/CRM IntegrationBrand Awareness
Conversion RatesSales Revenue, OrganicSocial Media/ Website TrafficProduct Training
Average Value Per LeadSales Funnel MovementRelationships/ConnectionsOpen/Click-Through Rates

Did the captured data support the business objectives? It may be easier to get qualified leads from a virtual event, but it requires twice as much conversion time because of so many more Zoom or phone meetings. Adjust accordingly and move forward.

Are Virtual Events Worth the Cost?

Virtual events might have benefits compared to in-person events, but they aren’t free. There will be technology, security, and licensing costs for software. Many companies already have a basic virtual meeting program, such as GoToMeeting, Webex, Zoom, or others. However, hosting a large online meeting or conference will require a production company to manage backend technology, speaker readiness, presentations, polling, and break out rooms. If a hybrid event, this cost might be in addition to the in-person production company.

There is also the added hurdle of overcoming resistance from those not ready to wrap their minds around virtual events. All the more reason to measure, measure, and measure more. To overcome these challenges and to demonstrate the value of the investment, measure virtual event ROI.

We’re all dealing with the unexpected here. In all likelihood, events will continue to evolve from this point forward.  But there’s a reason I say event planners are the MVPs of your marketing and leadership teams. When it comes to the unexpected, there’s no one better to take a situation and transform it into an opportunity.

Virtual events are here to stay. Grow Your Events stands ready to help you plan and execute virtual events and be ready for however the future holds. Get in touch.

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