A common misconception among marketers is that attendance alone determines an event's success, especially when the event is held online. Though attendance is certainly an important indicator, many other aspects of a virtual event play into its overall effectiveness and success.

The good news is that virtual event marketers have round-the-clock accessibility to a variety of useful analytics that can shed light on the highs and lows of any virtual event.

Here are four types of metrics to consider before, during, and after your next virtual event.

1. Behavior

With an in-person event, the ability to measure attendee behavior is either limited or unreliable. The benefit of virtual events is that you're able to monitor every activity attendees engage in—from interacting with the available content and speakers to how they engage with other attendees—very easily.

Attendance on its own doesn't provide the most accurate picture of how a session went, so looking at attendees' online behavior can help determine which speakers and sessions were most effective and which ones attendees enjoyed the most.

2. Engagement

Just because someone attends a virtual event doesn't mean he is fully attentive the entire time. Anyone can sign in and "attend" the event, but chances are, for at least part of the event, she's busy browsing the Web or checking email.

That's why it's important to track and analyze attendee engagement. Doing so sheds light on two important areas:

  • What worked and what didn't. If one session had high attendance, but low engagement levels, chances are the content itself or the way it was presented needs to be reworked or cut from your next event's lineup.

    For example, if you're using PowerPoint, you can monitor how many participants followed along through each slide and interacted with any additional links or videos included in the slide show. You'll also be able to tell which components of each presentation had the most engagement. If user engagement dropped after a long stint of text-based PowerPoint slides, but picked up again when you showed a video, then you should consider mixing up your presentation format.

    On the other hand, if one session had above-average engagement levels, you know it needs little alteration before your next event, and perhaps other seminars should be created in a similar fashion.
  • Qualified client prospects. Tracking attendee engagement also helps marketers identify which prospective clients to target.

    Most virtual events offer customizable solutions for engagement metrics, allowing you to assess which senior-level attendees were most actively engaged throughout an event. You can then assign the most qualified participants a higher prospect ranking based on their position with their organization and their overall interaction during each session. And then you can adjust your settings to automatically send any attendees with a ranking past a certain threshold to your sales team as potential leads.

    Also, with the ability to track specific information, you can make your sales follow-ups and connections more personalized.

3. Experience

Though monitoring attendee engagement and behavior is extremely beneficial, it's also important to consider what attendees thought of their overall event experience.

Once the event has ended, create a short survey to learn more about your attendees and their feelings towards the event. To ensure the experience is still fresh in their mind, send the survey no later than one or two weeks—preferably a few days—after your event.

Ask questions about what presentation format they thought was the best and which speakers they thought were the most interesting. Also, be sure to ask some in-depth questions. It's good to know what they liked and what they didn't like, but those tidbits of information won't be useful unless you understand why they liked a specific presentation or speaker.

But remember, respondents are busy too so avoid sending a 20-minute survey. Keep it short and to the point. Doing so will also make it easier for you to analyze the results and quickly determine what aspects of the event need to be improved.

4. Post-Event Reach

Typically, only half of the people who register for a virtual event actually attend, so don't get discouraged when only 60 people out of 120 registrants join your event; remember that attendance is not the most important success indicator.

One of the many perks of virtual events is their prolonged lifespan. Just because your live event has ended doesn't mean the material is useless or irrelevant. By providing additional options to registrants who didn't attend the live event—for instance, hosting an on-demand version on your website—you can reach everyone who registered to attend but couldn't. Doing so also lets those who did attend the event to go back and review any content they found interesting or parts they missed.

On-demand availability allows you to expand your impact and exposure, because you are able to share your event with an unlimited number of people—without their ever having to leave their desks.

* * *

Many factors during an event contribute to its success, and it's key you track each of them—not just attendance. With virtual events, you are able to track the engagement and behavior of individual people or large groups at any time during the conference. Doing so will provide you with useful insight into who attended your event, feedback on how successful each session or speaker was, preferred presentation platforms, and a rough guide on what needs to be improved for next time.

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Four Metrics to Track During Your Next Virtual Event

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image of Eric Vidal

Eric Vidal is the director of product marketing for the event services business segment at InterCall, a conferencing and collaboration services provider. Reach him via evidal@intercall.com.

LinkedIn: Eric Vidal