Your event just wrapped up, and you’re exhausted but delighted. The attendees and speakers are on their way home, the invoices are paid, and you even have a few leftover glow sticks and a t-shirt to enjoy. It’s time to relax…right?

Not quite. Your event may have concluded, but some of your most important event-planning work is just starting: the process of measuring your return on investment, or ROI.

The process of event planning can involve a lot of fun and creativity; but at the end of the day, what really matters to Red Velvet Events and our clients is being able to calculate a program’s ROI. Identifying marketing and sales success is essential for any company. Brands need to determine if their events were successful, what needs to change, or if they should discontinue that event altogether.

Chris Tyre and Jessica Fitting are Red Velvet Events’ expert ROI wrestlers. When asked to share their secret sauce for measuring event success, they were immeasurably happy to talk. Below is our conversation about how to tell if an event was successful, what companies should do with their post-event data, and how to measure an event’s success on social media.

Can you give me a big-picture overview of why measuring an event’s success is important to a brand’s success?
Chris and Jessica: The success of an event is absolutely tied to the success of a brand, most simply because an event is such a direct interaction with that brand! For many companies, events are the only time when they have one-on-one focused interaction with their customers, so the stakes are high. A negative event can greatly impact a brand’s success – do we remember Fyre Festival? – while a positive event can be a huge win for a brand that a customer will remember forever. If a customer is blown away by a session at a conference or an interaction at an activation at SXSW, they will certainly remember the brand responsible, and they’ll probably be a customer for life.

Basically, the positive return on a great event can be huge, so it’s important to know how you are quantifying that success for your brand. In a more tangible sense, measuring an event’s success is crucial to knowing if the event was “worth it” financially and logistically. Knowing how you’re going to measure that value is key to guiding the direction of the event.

What are the elements you look at in order to measure event success?
Chris and Jessica: The first step is to identify what’s important for this event to achieve. Is delivering great content and education most important? Or is networking and forging new connections a bigger goal? What do you want attendees to feel or know when they leave? There are so many different ways to measure success at an event, which is why it’s important to know what YOUR goal is.

There are a lot of technology-driven elements that are often used to measure success: registration numbers or trends captured within your registration system, number of room nights blocked through your hotel, number of sessions attended as captured by your QR scanned badges, or even new technologies like hot spots around most-visited booths in the trade show as shown by geotracking on badges. (Social media is another way you can capture this; we’ll discuss that in a moment.)

One big way that we are measuring success now is by seeing how many new contracts resulted from the conference or event. We can help clients identify this information easily by accessing their CRM database or working with their internal staff to track the before-and-after conference results, giving us a solid point of comparison.

In addition, sometimes the smaller details are a great way to tell the story of an event, depending on the brand. How many drinks were served at the after-party? Your food and beverage bill probably has that information. What about how many donuts were eaten from the donut wall? Or how many people took part in the slo-mo capture photo booth? What about how many buttons were picked up from your swag? We love elements like this that tell the story of what your event felt like beyond traditional numbers, as long as they’re relevant to your brand’s goal.

Can you talk about how social media plays a role in measuring an event’s success?
Chris and Jessica: Social media can absolutely play a role, but you do have to go back to your original event goals to ensure it’s in line with those. Does social media play a large role in your business or your client’s business already? Are social media mentions something you measure throughout the year and not just for this specific event? If so, then having some social media metrics as part of your ROI measurement is a good idea.

However, we do like to talk about how much to weigh social media success with our clients. Social media can be like a movie trailer of the event itself: a great snapshot and a good memory, but not always a concrete measurement of success. And if your business or clients are not heavily invested in social media, it may not be as important. Pushing a hashtag and requesting posts from your guests at the event should be organic. If your attendees are not the type to be posting much, don’t push it!

After the event, how should brands utilize the data they receive in order to move forward?
Chris and Jessica: There are so many ways to use the data you gather at events to guide forward action, even when the data is not positive. Measurements of success can help you determine whether to continue, stop, or adjust your event.

When you receive positive measures of success, the first thing to do is see how that information can help you plan your next event! You can use those metrics as leverage to ensure that your bosses and company as a whole understand the event’s value. You can also use those metrics to ask for more resources for next time. We also love utilizing positive metrics as a way to draw in attendees for the next event. Employing either solid statistics or feedback from the post-event survey is a great way to do this. If you have a quote from one of last year’s attendees noting how valuable they found the conference, you could highlight it when promoting your next conference.

On the flip side, data can also be tremendously helpful if it showcases less-than-desirable results. You can understand how to fine-tune certain elements or even whole events to be more useful for your audience if your data shows which of those elements were not successful. For example, maybe you found out that a large annual conference was not very well received overall, but your attendees really valued the specific time when they had one-on-one appointments. You can use that data to pivot and plan a number of smaller, intimate events that hit those same goals and fit better with the audience.

Gathering all of the data that indicates event success sounds challenging. How does Red Velvet Events help clients manage this huge process?
Chris and Jessica: We love helping with this! We’re here to take that burden off the client, not only by helping them determine which helpful metrics to be tracking but also by working into our event plan how we’ll accurately capture that data and how we plan to analyze it post-event.

The goals of an event should always be a part of the conversation from the beginning of any planning process. What you want to measure will inform logistical execution, so it’s best to have those conversations as early as possible. Some measurements may be tangible or numerical, and some may be soft data. Most ways to capture data take only a little pre-planning and aren’t burdensome to implement. As long as you are intentional about your event’s purpose from the start and we’re able to have conversations with you about it, we’ll be in great shape to have some solid data after the event. We’ll be ready to measure success at your next activation in a way that makes sense for your brand as well as you!