Measuring & evaluating the success of events
That which can be measured can be improved, and in event planning and management, measurement is critical for evaluating an event’s success and for creating actions to improve future events.
Professional Event Organsiers can measure all kinds of data about their event – from beginning to end, as long as this is incorporated into the planning from the very beginning.
Areas to measure & evaluate
Although every event is unique, the following list is nearly universal in appeal and most ideas can be combined to paint a better picture.
1# Set SMART objectives
Before getting creative and developing weird and wacky concepts, read through the brief and write 3- 5 specific objectives that can be measured by the end of the event.
The objectives should go into the event proposal and will not only help identify whether your event has been successful in the key areas, but will also act as a reminder keeping everybody on track to what you’re trying to achieve.
2# Break the event down into hundreds of measurable parts
Identifying small, measurable functions of the event and assigning them to event staff to record throughout the day will give you an overview of the event’s success. This technique will show how efficient the event team were on the day, highlight whether all promises were delivered and if the event was well-planned.
Each element is a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, such as: did the doors open at 7:30pm, if 300 glasses of Champagne are poured between 7:30 – 8:00pm and whether all starters were served and on tables by 8:30pm.
Each recording is weighted equally, so if the event was awarded a 99% success rate that sounds pretty good, and is, if the only issue was that coffee was served a couple of minutes later than planned. However, if the event was a gig and the main act didn’t turn up, from the fans’ point-of-view, the event failed, which isn’t presented in the stats.
#3 Hire mystery shoppers
Hire a handful of people to attend the event and see the whole experience from an attendee’s point-of-view. Their task will be to note down strengths, weaknesses, ideas, improvements and problems that they come across that the event team won’t have time to see.
If you are planning to do this, I would recommend getting your mystery shoppers to start from scratch, even running through the booking process. Most importantly, have a way for them to report back to you before, during and after the event.
#4 Benchmark against competitor events
Find similar events to the one your organising and compare where possible, like-for-like, evaluating each other’s position and make action list where you can improve next time.
#5 Get feedback from clients & guests
There are loads of online feedback tools available to survey clients and attendees about your event – a favourite of mine is Survey Monkey. I’d also recommend selecting a handful of guests and speaking to them on the phone.
#6 Ask for feedback onsite
I’ve been on loads of events where organisers issue feedback forms in programmes or leave on seats, which I don’t imagine inspires a great response. I love the famous Innocent Drinks story, where the founders set up a stall at a local festival giving out their smoothies and had two bins labelled with the answers ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and a sign in front asking whether they should quit their jobs and make smoothies for a living?
This simple tactic is a fun way to get instant feedback from attendees all over the event, for example at the exits you could ask the question “will you be coming back next year?” and the bin with the most rubbish represents the answer, or why not ask more detailed questions using several bins as the answers.
#7 Calculate the amount of press & online coverage
Locate any coverage related to the event and give it a value based on the amount others would pay to advertise in the same spot. Setting up Google Alerts and running specific Google searches will help you find the content online.
#8 Measure online success
Positive indicators such as a spike in traffic or a surge in branded keyword searches to your company or event’s website will show that users are more interested in you (use Google Analytics to find this data). Other online indicators include an increase in Twitter followers, Facebook likes, LinkedIn connections, RSS feed & newsletter subscribers.
Most importantly, find out what people are saying on social media channels, review websites and on blogs – use tools like Spezify to locate this information.
#9 Calculate the economic impacts
Rather than solely focusing on how much money the event has made, try and estimate the impact the event has had on the local economy. You can work out the percentage of local attendees vs those travelling to get to the event and estimate average spend with local services whilst in the area – there are online tools like Event Impact’s economic calculator to assist with this.
#10 Make observations
When on the event, keep a small notepad on you and jot down any thoughts about the event on the day. I’d recommend booking a slot in your diary to reflect on the event and make an action list for the next one you’re organising.
#11 Monitor quality
Assign somebody to monitor several areas of the event to focus purely on the quality of those areas and the general happiness of guests.
#12 Debrief with the event team
Post event – speak to everybody in the event team and review what was successful and what was not.
#13 Count the money
Before the event, set targets based on the money spent and the amount you plan to make on the event for it to be a success. After the event, revisit these targets and evaluate how you performed. Not only will this help when analysing the success of the event – but will also be quite handy when setting future targets.
#14 Investigate savings
If you negotiated costs with suppliers before the event or made any cuts, with other metrics, revisit those areas and see if the savings had an impact on the success of the event and the guests’ experience.
*Most importantly, there needs to be a reason for investing time measuring an area of an event. Usually a part of an event is measured to identify whether the event has hit targets or results in actionable steps to make future events better. Be careful with measuring everything, otherwise, you can spend a lifetime swimming in useless data and if you don’t action feedback and the same mistakes the following year, returning guests are just going to be angry.