I hope that the holiday season brought you plenty of perks, like a sudden uptick in events on your calendar. However, as you worked your way through the fundraisers, galas and holiday parties of the season, you may have found yourself wondering: “Are any of these events serving their intended purposes?”
The answer depends on the goal each event is trying to achieve. For casual nights with close friends, chances are the host just wants attendees to enjoy some time together. Mission accomplished. But let’s consider larger, professionally produced events that require significantly more in the way of time and resources. How do the companies spending all that money and energy know when they can classify their events as successful?
Well, think about your various successes in your professional life. New customers, raises, acquisitions--there’s usually some sort of data or metric you can point to demonstrating the value of the win. It’s no different with events, but the event industry suffers when too many people don’t realize they already have access to data that can tell them if their events hit the mark, as long as they’re equipped with the proper technology
There are a few key areas throughout an event’s lifecycle where coordinators should be gathering information to help them determine whether or not events meet their goals. Considering the growing importance of proven return on investment (ROI) while the economy continues its slow rebuilding process, we predict these components will pick up significant steam as we head into 2015.
Registration: Never underestimate the value in the information people are handing over right from the start. Too many events consider the registration process a formality they need to go through to see how many chairs they should order and how many people will need vegetarian meals. Think outside the box. The registration forms are an opportunity to identify key information pertaining to your event’s goals. Are you trying to secure funding or large donations? This is the time to figure out what percentage of your attendees fall into the desired socioeconomic category. Or maybe your organization has traditionally garnered interest from an older crowd, and you’re looking to get the attention of the younger generation. You’ll never know if you met that challenge unless you ask people to check off an age bracket. A registration page is your first opportunity to obtain those key metrics that tell you if you got where you wanted to go – put it to good use.
Budget allocation: For events of any significant size, there is a lot of money flowing through the process. However, events are becoming an increasingly integral part of traditional marketing departments. Like any marketing project, there is an expectation that the allotted budget will create results. It’s all with the hope that the money will come back, and then some, thanks to the perfect night your organization put together. But once that money returns, how do you know where to redirect it for the best results?
Most organizations keep track of what they’re spending (we hope), but don’t always do such a great job of comparing spend category and percentages across the board. Dive further into the details of where your money is going so you know where to put it later--after you’ve found out what worked the first time.
Post-event surveys: Remember how your parents always made you send thank-you cards after your birthday? Chances are you sent the notes and then, in all likelihood, you got another present the following year. It may have just been because it was your aunt and she would send you a thoughtful gift no matter what, but it also might have had a little something to do with how much she appreciated your gesture the year before.
The same is true for your event attendees now. Sending a follow-up survey thanking them for their attendance and asking for further feedback is a great way to demonstrate to your audience how much you appreciate their support; however, it’s also a great way to find out where you went right and where you went … less than right. And this is where it all comes full circle.
Did 80 percent of your attendees note that the auction was their favorite part of the night? Maybe put a little more money toward outreach for those high-quality items next year. Then, tie this data back to your original goals: If 90 percent of the younger category of attendees said they plan to return, that’s a great indicator that you accomplished what you set out to do. You’ll just never know until you ask.
Too many businesses and event marketers get caught up in the idea that events are subjective, qualitative activities with abstract conceptions of success. This may have been true once, but is no longer the case. You simply need to incorporate the proper management software and technology to seamlessly execute your initiatives and analyze all the data that comes with them. Once you have the systems in place to gather all this information at your fingertips, the question of whether or not your event was a success will become a thing of the past.
Matt Engel is the president and CEO of Attend.com, a Boston-based provider of event management solution software. Engel has more than 11 years of experience growing technology companies through initial public offerings and mergers and acquisitions. Prior to Attend.com, he was a partner at Prism Venture Partners and continues to serve on the board of Sonian, a cloud-based archiving and search company. Engel’s prior operating experience includes executive roles at Dyn Inc., a growth-stage software-as-a-service (SaaS) infrastructure provider, and GeoTrust, a SaaS provider of secured socket layer (SSL) certificates, which was acquired by VeriSign for $125 million.Engel graduated from Villanova University with a bachelor of science in accountancy. Matt can be reached at [email protected].