(Please note: This piece originally appeared as a free article in the early August 2016 edition of The Measurement Advisor newsletter.)

The two August issues of The Measurement Advisor provide all the tools and techniques you need to measure any event.

The Paine of Measurement

Summer is definitely event season here in New Hampshire. It’s the one time of year that you don’t have to worry about having your guests get stuck in the snow or the mud. Plus an overflow crowd can always be accommodated on the deck or out on the lawn. I have a big house that I purposely designed to host events, and I do host a lot of them, including political fundraisers, weddings, exclusive dinners for good causes, house concerts, and of course, the annual Summit on the Future of Measurement.

My events have a wide variety of purposes, so the success of each has to be judged against its own goals. Generally my definitions of success are pretty loose, things like:

  • We didn’t run out of beer or food;
  • Neither the bride nor groom was left standing at the altar;
  • No one had to go to the hospital nor did neighbors call the police;
  • There are almost no plates and forks left, hence a lot of people must have enjoyed the food; and
  • Of course if it’s a benefit: Did we raise any money?

For The Measurement Advisor’s special coverage of event measurement this month I really had to think carefully about events and their success. And the more I considered it, the more I realized that the events I host aren’t that much different from those of so many of my clients who are charged with producing an event. We both often have no clear goals, objectives, or measures of success. Well, other than “It happened.” Which is one thing if your venue is free and food is pot luck. But if you’re devoting significant portions of your marketing budget to events, serious measurement is required.  Which is why we decided to devote two issues to the topic of event measurement.

Was it worth it?

Like everything else in the world of accountability and data, at some point someone is going to ask the loaded question: “Was it worth it?”

That happened to a client of mine at a major tech trade show. They were next to the very busy Apple booth and so it seemed like their own booth was always packed. But then they got home and the CFO looked over the report and asked the question “Was it worth it?” We counted the actual number of qualified leads and divided that number into the all-in costs of exhibiting. As it turned out, each lead cost more than $1,000. So they could actually have just given their new laptop away to every person who qualified as a lead, and they would have saved money on the show — and had a much longer impact on the customer relationship.

In the past, one of the most common ways of measuring events was to take the cost of the event or the sponsorship and divide it by the total number of “impressions” for a “Cost Per Thousand” or CPM number that could then be compared to other marketing expenditures. But that calculation doesn’t work anymore:

  • First of all, most impressions and reach numbers are seriously flawed. Even if they weren’t, in order to accurately compare sponsorship return with ad return, you need to make sure you’re using the same impressions calculations for both of them. Which may not be easy, if advertising is measured by Nielsen, media impressions are calculated by Alexa, and your events are measured using an intern with a clicker. Each method has its own way of calculating an impression and they can’t be accurately compared.
  • Secondly, calculating CPM and comparing results to advertising assumes that the purpose of the event was to “reach” eyeballs. But what if the event is designed to increase trust in or familiarity with your organization? You’d need to calculate the cost change in trust and the cost to affect that change.
  • And if the goal is to strengthen relationships with key influencers, then you’d need to measure the health of relationships before and after the event (and no amount of “impression counting” will calculate that).

It’s not just one big party

The point of my rant is that organizations conduct events for numerous different reasons and objectives. Just as with every other aspect of communications, there isn’t a single magic number that will measure it all. Which is why we’re devoting the two August issues of The Measurement Advisor to event measurement – including measuring sponsorships, conferences, trade shows, and company meetings. Our event measurement coverage will give you the straightforward basics — the 6 critical steps to event measurement,  a checklist, a pocket guide — as well as the more in-depth examination of speaker programs, and sponsorships. And, of course, the Measurement Maven and Menace of the Month Awards. We hope you enjoy it.

Oh, and here’s something new: Please annotate our articles as you see fit. From now on our articles will be Genius annotation-enabled, so just get the bookmarklet for your browser, and comment on the text wherever you see fit.

Measure On!


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