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What is the Return on Investment (ROI) of a virtual event?

Sep 27, 2021 | Virtual events

When you organise a virtual event, it is essential to know which key elements to measure. This is all the more important because, as you will see, digital technology has a considerable advantage: it makes it easier to measure KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) than live events. The trick is to get started early enough… and to follow this step-by-step!

Put in place SMART objectives

A series of objectives within the same overall strategy

The first thing to do, of course, is to define the overall strategy and final objective of your virtual event. To do this, follow the guide and define the route.

Defining a pathway means first of all dividing it into different stages. For your overall strategy, this means identifying several objectives. These objectives can follow on from each other (this is called following a linear and concatenative pattern) or be simultaneous (concomitant pattern). This decision depends on many factors, such as the internal organisation of your company or the nature of the objectives themselves.

To ensure that your objectives are relevant, feasible and stable, and thus increase your chances of a successful event in line with your overall strategy, we advise you to identify them using the SMART method.

The SMART method consists of evaluating each objective beforehand according to several criteria and by asking a number of questions about your own abilities and tools. In the long run, the aim is to verify and validate the content of the objectives.
A SMART objective is therefore an identified, coherent and achievable objective.
More specifically? We’ll give you the details right away!

How to define SMART objectives?

SMART est l’acronyme de cinq critères constituant les maîtres mots de toute identification d’un objective:

  • Specificity
  • Measurability
  • Acceptability
  • Realism
  • Temporally defined

Identification requires introspection about your project, your company and even your own capabilities. The development of each criterion naturally leads you to ask yourself some decisive questions about your objectives.

  • Criterion 1: Specificity. This means that your objectives should each impact on a particular element. They should not be general in scope, but clear and concise. For example, a well-defined SMART objective on this criterion might be to increase the number of registrations at your trade fair by 6% over last year during the same period.
  • Criterion 2: Measurability. As you are aware, each of your objectives must be measurable. To do this, you need to use quantitative data. This is where KPIs and metrics come into play! KPIs, which stand for “Key Performance Indicators“, are targeted data that can be used to diagnose or evaluate efficiency. Metrics, on the other hand, are measurement indicators specific to the field of digital marketing. The number of clicks on an advertisement (called the CTR metric) or the number of visitors to a site who complete a purchase or registration (called the conversion rate) are among the most commonly used metrics.
    Make sure you don’t neglect your historical data! This is data that you have accumulated during previous events. With this data, you can immediately identify the points you need to monitor in your follow-up of the different objectives. This historical data can be distinguished using the pipe, a business tool that manages goal statistics.
  • Criterion 3: Acceptability. Your objectives must be acceptable, i.e. achievable according to your current skills and performance. However, the objectives must remain ambitious and have a real impact, while taking into account internal factors, such as the strengths of your organisation, as well as external factors, such as the possible contributions of your service providers and partners.
  • Criterion 4: Realism. “The sky is the limit”, but your objectives must also be realistic. There is no point in formulating objectives that do not serve your needs or that would not allow real progress. The limits of your human and technical resources must also be taken into account if your objectives are to be achievable.
  • Criterion 5: Time-bound. Finally, your objectives should have a scheduled start and an estimated finish line! It is important to set several deadlines for the different stages of the objectives by following a detailed schedule. In order to establish and maintain this schedule, the use of milestones is crucial. Milestones are indispensable in any event project management and are staging points between the major tasks to be accomplished. These are staging points at which the project team takes stock of whether the objectives are being met. If they are satisfied, they move on to validate the milestone and can then move on to the next stage of the schedule.
    You can now properly identify your SMART objectives, which are essential for the identification of the necessary KPIs and metrics!

How to measure their cost of implementation and their impact on turnover?

When establishing your detailed planning, your internal organisation and after identifying all your SMART objectives, an important step must also be included: that of evaluating the costs of your objectives, as well as all the tasks to be carried out to achieve them.

Each investment must be estimated, listed and studied in comparison with the estimate made of the possible CA. This data is very important because it will be used to calculate your ROI after the event. To do this, you can use several strategies:

  • Internally, by using your historical data: if you have already used the same objectives, use their costs on investment. You can also compare similar objectives to the current ones to estimate and readjust the cost of the investments to be made. This method is very productive to see the margin between the investments made and the CA achieved at the time…and therefore readjust your operations for the current event accordingly.
  • Externally, by evaluating the current cost of this type of objective on the market: it is up to you to carry out your own investigation by finding out the different prices on the market for the different tasks to be carried out. To do this, you can ask other companies for information, analysing their CA figures and the investments envisaged at the outset.
  • Externally, by delegating this task to a professional and specialised service provider. After analysis and study, the contractor will draw up a provisional estimate in line with what we can expect from the tasks to be completed.

Of course, the notion of time is also important. The longer you extend the timeframe of your planning process, the more it will cost you in human and technical resources.
This factor must therefore be taken into account. Plan a broader schedule from the start to avoid unpleasant surprises and last-minute rushes.
You must also constantly monitor the progress of your objectives, using several intermediate assessments based on milestones that will allow you to quickly rectify any negative findings!
The saying “Time is money” has never been more true than here!

How to calculate the ROI of your virtual event?

Feedback and analysis on KPIs, metrics and profitability of SMART objectives

The ROI (Return Of Investment) allows us to measure the efficiency of a project based on its results.

The ROI figure is calculated as a ratio of the results obtained and all the costs incurred for your event project. Hence the importance of a list of all the investments made, as mentioned above.

In order to calculate your ROI, it is necessary to first collect data before any formula, in order to quantify the results.

This seemingly time-consuming task is becoming much easier, more accurate and faster thanks to digital. Indeed, companies can now be equipped with software and virtual event analytics tools that can automatically generate statistics and/or graphs based on pre-defined data. This data can then be focused on the previously designated KPIs and metrics. By checking the correct completion of the SMART objectives, we have an indicator of the profitability of the event and therefore the ROI.

Comparison with the ratio of prospect investment in the pipe model

The pipe is a strategic business tool, essential to any company, which allows for the establishment of turnover estimates at the beginning of a project.
To obtain these estimates, it is based on general company statistics by analysing each stage necessary for the realisation of the project. The pipe can also provide estimates on the prospects or visitors to event projects.

In order to become aware of the margin between the initial estimates and the ROI results, it is relevant for the company to compare these two types of data with a view to taking new measures for readjustment.

Comparison of ROI with ROI of previous internal and external events

“Comparison is not reason”, as the saying goes… except when it comes to ROI! It is in fact useful to analyse these figures in the light of those obtained during previous events. The benefit of this kind of comparison is to highlight the patterns of good results – i.e. strategies that seem to work in the long term – but also specificities that can help to understand and interpret the ROI obtained. In short, to better understand what worked well, and why.

You can also compare these elements externally, by benchmarking the data you have collected on events similar to yours.
In this way, you can identify different strategic schemes with varying ROI, and therefore identify the strategies and objectives that work best.

Summary of the strengths and weaknesses of the event for readjustment

With the results of all these various analyses, you can then move on to the next stage: the retrospection of your event project.
You will need to ask yourself a number of fundamental questions that will enable you to establish a list of your strengths and weaknesses:

  • Which investments met your estimates?
  • Which investments exceeded your estimates?
  • Which objectives were completed during the event? Did they perform better than estimated?
  • Which objectives were not achieved during the event? Why or why not?

You can then draw up an action plan to readjust your overall strategy and SMART objectives. You will therefore have a head start for your future events, knowing the key points that you can try to improve and the points that need to be monitored and improved.

Important KPIs to follow in order to measure the ROI of your event

SMART KPIs and internal data monitoring

A virtual event requires specific KPIs to be monitored and analysed for ROI calculation. Certain types of KPIs, but also metrics, are essential to take into account for each new event:

  • Brand image data and statistics: number of visits to the event website, number of mentions of the event on social networks and CSRs, number of contacts and leads per partner, level of partner satisfaction, etc.
  • Prospects data and statistics: number of registrations corresponding to the target audience, number of simultaneous connections, time spent in each virtual space, number of exchanges completed, user feedback after the event, etc.
  • Data and statistics from the virtual spaces and fairs: number of views and likes on shared media, number of clicks on external links, etc.

Depending on the type of your event, other KPIs and other atypical metrics will be added to this list. Establishing or acquiring digital measurement tools for these will ensure a good follow-up of the SMART objectives, but also of the event in general.

SMART KPIs and external data monitoring

Thanks to the benchmark you will have developed, you can also list the figures for these same KPIs obtained by the competition. This business exercise will enable you to identify their strengths and weaknesses and to understand the reasons for them. Once these have been identified, you can either adapt to them or see the mistakes you should not make!

All these elements will help you to readjust your business strategies and SMART objectives for your upcoming events. Identifying and managing these objectives and increasing your turnover and ROI will no longer hold any secrets for you, thanks to your experience!