When you consider the time and effort that goes into organising an event, you’ll want to know that yours has been totally worthwhile, not only for yourself, but from your stakeholders’ perspective too.
While event evaluation can help get you the answers, this important aspect of event planning is often overlooked.
Why is event evaluation important?
From what worked and what didn’t and whether you met the expectations of your sponsors and attendees, to examining if your location and timings were right and what you should be looking to include the next time around. There can be lots of areas you might want to evaluate, that you’ll only start getting answers to once you begin examining and analysing your data.
However, if you really want to know whether your event has been a success or not, you need to set yourself some overall objectives with metrics attached to them. Once your event has finished you can then use these metrics to evaluate it and see how successful you’ve been in meeting your objectives.
For example, if your event was relatively new and your primary objective was to increase brand awareness, you might assign several different metrics to help you evaluate this. These could range from the counting the number of people who attended your event, and the amount of press and social media coverage you achieved to examining any post-event changes in your net promoter score (NPS), which you could then investigate through an event survey.
When to evaluate events
While we’ve only concentrated on post-event evaluation so far, it’s important to be aware that your evaluation needs to be ongoing and be able to explore the pre, during and post event stages, as each contributes significantly to the overall success of your event.
You can uncover a lot of useful information during event planning, making it one of your most important evaluation stages.
From assessing general levels of interest and things that attendees most want to see and hear about, to more practical areas such as the most popular location and timings for your event.
Once your event has started, it’s important to be able to monitor what’s working, what might need more support to perform better and be able to keep abreast of any unforeseen circumstances that might arise and affect the progress of your event. So, it’s prudent to have a method that will allow you to observe and collect feedback during your event, measure stakeholder satisfaction and help keep everything on track and performing well.
Once your event has finished, besides examining what your stakeholders thought about your event, evaluation methods will enable you to examine areas such as whether your budgets and timelines were realistic, how well your marketing efforts performed and what you need to improve on before your next event.
Types of event evaluation
Having explored why and how ongoing evaluation can contribute to the overall success of your event, it’s helpful to be familiar with the types of event evaluation that can be used.
In essence event evaluation methods can be broken down into two main types, qualitative and quantitative.
By its very nature, qualitative research is focused on trying to better understand why people feel and act in a certain way.
Subsequently, you can use different types of survey at every stage to collect feedback on different areas of your event from gaining hospitality feedback, to views about your speakers, seminar content and how likely attendees would be to recommend your event to others. However, whatever type of event survey you’re creating it’s vital to think about your event evaluation questions, as this will determine the value of responses you get back. Then once collected this data can be analysed to help enable you to make any necessary changes to improve your event moving forward.
It is also useful to be aware of the different methods available to you for collecting this qualitative feedback during your event.
Online event surveys:
From email and SMS, to a survey link embedded into a website or via a QR code, given the wide array of ways in which online surveys can be distributed they offer a very effective way of collecting feedback, before, during and after your event has ended.
For example, you may decide to set up desktop PC terminals or kiosks in highly visible booths located at strategic points around your venue to collect feedback during your event. While before and after your event you may find you get a more decent response by employing a mix of distribution methods including email, web and SMS surveys.
Offline event surveys:
Since events can be hosted from anywhere, it’s not unusual for events in more remote locations to suffer from an unreliable or completely absent internet connection. However, this doesn’t mean you have to resort to paper-based surveys when you work with an online provider such as SmartSurvey. With our offline service you can store all your responses on your mobile devices, then once you’re connected to the internet again, you can simply download this information.
There are many ways in which you can still use your survey software, despite working offline. For example, during your event you might decide to arm your event staff with an iPad or Tablet PC to collect feedback from attendees as they move around the exhibition floor. Then, once they are connected to the internet again, they can start analysing the data.
Alternatively, you may decide that you’ll get more success by embedding your survey via a QR code onto the many pieces of marketing literature you’ve produced, which people can still scan without an internet connection, then download and complete from anywhere once they are connected again.
In contrast, quantitative methods provide an alternative and more statistical way of evaluating your event, which you can employ with different tactics pre, mid and post-event.
When you consider how much data you collect during the planning stage, there is quite a lot you can use to evaluate your progress even before your event starts. For example, by examining ticket sales, registrations, and RSVP completion rates, you could compare these against similar events that you may have hosted before, to see how well you were doing.
Similarly, by examining completed registrations as your event progresses, you can review this data against that which you collected during the pre-event stage, to see if your visitor numbers are falling short, meeting or exceeding your expectations.
When it comes to quantitative ways of evaluating your success post event, you might like to revisit your NPS score, to see if you now have more people willing to recommend your event to others.
Alternatively, you might decide to measure your event’s return on investment (ROI). For example, if the goal of your event were simply to make a profit (either through ticket sales, sponsorship or sales made on the day), calculating your ROI should be relatively simple to do. Simply subtract the total cost of your event from your total sales revenue and then divide by the total cost of the event. You then multiply this remaining figure by 100, to get the ROI of your event expressed as a percentage.
So, if your event cost £1,000 to stage and generated £2,500 in revenue the sum would look like:
£2,500 – £1,000 = £1,500
£1,500 ÷ £1,000 = 1.5
1.5 x 100 = 150% event ROI
Whatever approach you choose to adopt, whether that’s the qualitative or quantitative method, each offers its own distant advantages. While the qualitative approach can help deepen your understanding of what your stakeholders are really feeling and most want, the quantitative approach can provide you with more tangible data, such as statistics on the visitor numbers of those who actually decided to show up. However, given how well these approaches complement one another, the greatest gains can be found when both methods are used together.
See also: get started quickly with our conference survey template.