Events have undergone an evolution. Over the last three years, event professionals have adapted to changing environments, pivoted to virtual events, and embraced the power of data to shape event strategy and demonstrate ROI.
But the goalposts moved, too. Event success looks different from a short time ago; it now has a greater focus on quality over quantity.
That shift in perspective has precipitated a change in how event professionals measure and report event outcomes—a shift away from vanity metrics and toward pipeline and measurable business impact.
Registration: A Metric Losing Its Standing
Registrations once defined event success; they were a crucial indicator of an event's effectiveness.
Many event organizers would watch hour by hour as registrations poured in, sighing with relief when they hit their goal. But like other metrics focused less on the big picture and more on a big number, registrations offered a short-sighted view of the power of an event within an organization's broader marketing strategy.
Most marketers agree: Only 11% of event organizers now count registrations among their key success metrics, according to recent Bizzabo data.
A combination of factors contributed to the shift away from registration as a key metric.
Consider the registration numbers for a virtual event. Whereas about 25% of hybrid and in-person events require a fee to attend, 90% of virtual events are free. In addition, virtual events don't require financial and time commitments, such as travel and hotel stays. When those common barriers are lowered, registration can be an easy yes. But no-show rates for virtual events are around 35%, so registration can't tell a reliable story about the business impact of your event.
The ability of registration to predict in-person event attendance has also waned. In-person events are returning in force: 85% of event organizers are planning to host at least three in-person events in 2023. However, hotels have indicated that there has been an increase in room reservations later and later in the pre-event timeline: They peak at around three weeks before the event.
As attendees wait longer to decide whether an in-person event is worth their time and money, in-person event registration alone cannot offer sufficient insight to predict the value of an event.
Attendance: A Metric Gaining Prominence
Rather than relying on inflated registration numbers, event organizers have shifted their focus to registrant-to-attendee conversion.
Attendance tops the list of event success indicators organizers are using, the Bizzabo report found:
- 54% are tracking attendance.
- 33% are tracking engagement.
- 27% are tracking pipeline.
- 19% are tracking overall satisfaction.
Event professionals are developing choose-your-own-adventure registration forms, customized pre-event communications, targeted content, and coordinated social media posts to spark early engagement and motivate registrants to attend.
Event management technology that connects every key business system enables organizers to use the rich data they already have. Such data integration ensures more registrants become attendees while also laying the groundwork for an engaged attendee experience that accelerates pipeline and contributes to revenue goals.
Engagement: A Metric Embraced by Advanced Marketers
Although attendance as a standalone metric offers more insight and evidence of event value than registration, attendance is less indicative of revenue success than metrics focused on attention and engagement.
The news that 1,000 people attended an event sounds impressive as a short-term goal. But that number doesn't reflect how attendees drove and accelerated pipeline before, during, and after the event. Attendance doesn't answer questions about customer retention or deepening engagement with the brand.
To glean those insights—which go far beyond attendance numbers—and better demonstrate the value of events within an organization's broader marketing strategy, event marketers are embracing engagement as a measure of event success.
Engagement has always been at the heart of event marketing: The most effective events connect people and build community. The 2020 shift to virtual events introduced an unprecedented amount of data connected to engagement. Unlocking event professionals' abilities to report on engagement opened new pathways to understanding and advancing event engagement's role in feeding pipeline and contributing to sales conversion and, ultimately, the bottom line.
By capturing insights into attendee activity (the exhibitors attendees spent time with, the polls they participated in, and the sessions they checked into), organizers can use robust event experience technology to segment attendees by their level of engagement. Organizers can then personalize post-event follow-up.
Engagement data also equips sales teams to focus on those highly engaged segments, prioritizing outreach to maximize conversion success. From there, sales teams can determine whether a correlation exists between attendees' engagement level and their likelihood of becoming an opportunity.
Engagement data creates a virtuous cycle that effectively improves event experiences, sales efforts, and revenue outcomes.
The Future of Event Metrics and Event Success
The convergence of returning in-person events, increasing economic uncertainty, and robust event management technology has accelerated marketers' need to embrace a data-led event strategy.
Marketers focused on aligning events with revenue must increase their emphasis on these areas:
- Pipeline generation
- Pipeline acceleration
- Pipeline engagement
- Customer revenue engaged
- Customer revenue influenced
As events take their rightful place in an organization's marketing strategy, event professionals must activate even more of their event data to make a business case for their resources.
By leaving vanity metrics in the past and embracing more robust measures of success, event organizers can show the business impact of events and build better experiences for their attendees.
More Resources on Event Marketing Metrics
Four Key Metrics for Evaluating Event Marketing Performance
The ROI Resurgence: How a Year of Virtual Events Made Measuring ROI More Important Than Ever
How Marketers Measure the Effectiveness of Sponsorship and Event Initiatives
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