How to Redefine Event ROI

16 strategies for adapting your business model and planning crowd-pleasing events that increase your bottom line.

Redefine ROI
How to redefine event ROI

After more than a year of having virtual and hybrid events replace traditional in-person meetings, it’s likely this trend will not be phased out anytime soon. Even as the world continues to steadily move toward a post-Covid climate, 75 percent of event marketers said they still plan to organize virtual events well beyond the next 12 months, according to a recent LinkedIn survey. In addition, 64 percent of event marketers will focus predominantly on either virtual or hybrid events, while just 36 percent will focus on in-person events. 

However, the fact is, you might not see as much of a financial return on virtual or hybrid offerings as you used to with in-person gatherings before the pandemic. 

If a significant part of your business model centers on event planning, you need to be realistic about the potential shifts in event ROI. It’s time to think of new, resourceful ways to create value when planning events in our new normal. Below are a few strategies to help you get started.      

Minimize Unnecessary Costs

Since it’s been established that you might not earn the amount of revenue from events now that you could in the past, you’ll need to be creative with keeping overhead costs to a minimum. While around 80 percent of event organizers have seen a boost in reach with virtual events, only 20 percent have grown their bottom line. Just five percent have increased ticket sales, according to research from Bizzabo

So, it’s important to save money wherever possible. Although hybrid or virtual events may allow you to limit onsite expenses such as the staff, venue rental or AV equipment, you’ll have to think strategically about other line items in the budget. Which are essential? Where can you get thrifty? What can you do without altogether? 

Here are a few ideas to trim the fat, so you won’t risk spending more than you earn on a virtual or hybrid event:

  • Focus on vendor negotiation: Work with your speakers, entertainers, technology renters, producers or other vendors to discuss terms. The experts at 4PSA advise finding a compromise that’s financially viable for your business as well as a fair reflection of the vendor’s time, expertise and deliverables. As they explain, “Avoid thinking of negotiation as confrontation. Aim for win-win deals."
  • Get creative: Find low-cost ways aside from the traditional event swag to incentivize your potential attendees to register. For instance, if you can’t afford to mail them a free coffee mug or T-shirt, offer them exclusive digital content, entry into a mastermind session or access to an exclusive livestream Q&A.
  • Reduce production without sacrificing quality: Curb the production costs by learning to be an expert on affordable platforms such as Zoom. Instead of outsourcing, practice hosting your own real-time events or pre-recording webinars. Rehearsals with participants will help you avoid any day-of glitches. 
  • Explore new partners and sponsors: Reach out to other organizations and ask if they are interested in partnering with your business on an event to share both the costs and revenue. Another option is to approach local companies to see if they are willing to sponsor the event. 
  • Condense your marketing spend: Be intentional about branding costs and only create the marketing collateral you need. For example, if most of your audience is digital, don’t spend money on print materials — focus the promotional budget where it counts.  

Establish New KPIs

Financial return is not always the most accurate metric to use for determining overall success of a virtual or hybrid event. Of course, the number of attendees is an obvious starting point to measure ROI, but you’ll also want to think outside the box in terms of other key performance indicators that show the value generated by the gathering.     

Another report from Bizzabo, the 2021 Virtual Events Benchmark, indicates that 50 percent of those who register for a virtual event do, in fact, attend. However, it’s worth finding out why the other 50 percent are lost between registration and check-in. 

KPI analytics can help track this variance, as well as measure other predictors of success like audience interaction, repeat attendees versus new acquisitions and follow-up response rates. Bizzabo recommends using these KPIs to assess an event’s outcome, both during and post-pandemic:       

  • Post-event: Send post-event surveys to collect feedback from your attendees, speakers and even the sponsors to evaluate their satisfaction.
  • NPS: Obtain a Net Promoter Score from each attendee by asking these three basic questions: How likely are you to recommend this event to a friend or colleague? How likely are you to attend another event organized by our company? What would you like to see improved at our next event?
  • Demographics: Track which consumer demographics most often attend your meetings, as well as which demographics most actively participate.
  • Event stats: Monitor the session analytics. These metrics show the number of viewers, how long each viewer tuned in, what channel they participated on and if they joined any breakout communications or interactive portions (i.e., live polls, chats and Q&A tabs).
  • Social metrics: Use social media to evaluate how many attendees posted about the event on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other platforms. You can track this by searching mentions, shares and hashtags related to your event or company.
  • Attendee status: Determine the number of first-time customers you acquired at the gathering, compared to the number of returning attendees. This will help indicate where to focus most of your marketing efforts for future events: acquisition or retention.
  • Audience reception: Consider how audience members responded to the speakers. Ask them to submit anonymous ratings, as these results will provide valuable insight into the type of presenters that your target audience most resonates with. 
  • Website analytics: Measure the amount of traffic generated to your website, social media channels and other online content in the days or weeks following your event. 

Find Different Ways to Create Value

Just because you’re in the business of event planning doesn’t mean this is the only available outlet you can use to create value and boost ROI. 

Try the following ideas to boost your digital brand presence in addition to events. These strategies will enable you to connect with your business’s target audience in real-time, help increase traffic to your website and, ultimately, boost lead conversions in a way that ticket sales might not: 

  • Expand your social network: 50 percent of people increased their social media consumption just in the last several months, according to the recent Sprout Social Index. Moreover, once users follow a brand on social media, 91 percent of them will also visit the website, 89 percent will make a purchase and 85 percent will recommend the business to friends or family members. Focusing on building your social community can open several doors down the road and create an audience of loyal brand advocates.
  • Collect reviews and testimonials: The average person will read 10 online reviews before deciding to purchase. Leverage happy event participants to create user-generated content via reviews and testimonials that can help drive ticket sales for your next meeting. Authentic, unique and personal feedback can be used as social proof and repurposed in many areas of marketing, i.e., social media, website, landing pages, evites, etc.
  • Drive leads through promotion: Be clear about your promotional goals and make sure to use the right channels to boost awareness for your business or event. Identify which platforms your target audience is most likely to gravitate toward, then point your resources and marketing efforts in that direction — and be creative. Outside of social media, there are also podcast advertisements, guest posts or articles, behind-the-scenes video content, email newsletters and online promo codes that can help broaden your reach.

All of the above strategies will work to increase brand awareness and build your community. While that might not equate to dollars and cents immediately, like a rising tide lifting all boats, it will put more targeted leads into your pipeline and sales funnel.