Getting to the Bottom Line: Tools to Measure ROI of Face to Face Meetings and Trade Shows

Think about the last time you managed or attended an event. You had a budget, yes? You had lead generation targets, yes? You wanted to get real value (financial, personal, etc.) from the event, yes?

So, how did you make sure you were getting a return on your investment (ROI)?

Particularly since the global economy has become more and more fiscally conservative, event and marketing managers are looking in great detail at the ROI of events. Key performance indicators (KPI) such as cost per lead for an event are going under organizations’ microscopes before decisions are made to invest (or reinvest) in an event.

Marketing Sherpa chart of week 06-18-13Trade shows have long been considered highly effective lead generators. In fact, as a Marketing Sherpa survey shows, only web-related lead generation tactics like pay-per-click (PPC) and search engine optimization (SEO) are deemed more effective. However, the degree of difficulty for trade shows is considered much higher than for PPC, webinars, e-mail marketing, or any other approach.

So, should you just stop managing or attending trade shows and meetings and invest the money online? Can all parties involved (organizers, attendees and exhibitors) ensure they will get a good ROI from face-to-face events?

You can’t make sure you’re getting what you don’t measure

It may seem overly obvious, but to really answer these questions, you need data. High quality, reliable data. And perhaps it is an overwhelming undertaking because it seems that a lot of people are lost when it comes to how and what to measure.

As an organizer, do you have a trade show management system in place to capture data? If not, how are you tracking and validating your investment? Having the right data capture process is critical.

From an event participant perspective, several industry associations are providing great tools for checking ROI. For instance, the Association of German trade fair industry (AUMA) offers a tool for “planning, calculating and evaluating trade fair participation.

AUMA’s free ROI calculating software walks you through steps, gathering your event information, setting qualitative and quantitative event targets as well as budgets. In the end, you will see if the cost-benefit is balanced and the event paid off for you.

Or, the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) offers an ROI Handbook and ROI Workbook that allows attendees to “identify and maximise the benefits they gain from attending.” The ICCA ROI Handbook breaks down an event checklist that essentially serves to help one prepare for and validate their event experience. According to the document, it shall not only improve “the effectiveness of their planning and evaluation processes” but also encourage attendees to “think about personal development opportunities as well as how they can contribute towards corporate priorities and targets.”

Event ROI measurement: Handy or mandatory?

Providing up-front statistics to attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors is great, but with more and more competition for marketing spend, consider what more you can do in the way of procuring or providing value measurement data. As time goes on, it is becoming increasingly important for event organizers to help their audiences not only justify attendance up front, but to prove value after the fact.

How are you measuring ROI? Are you helping your event stakeholders capture and measure their ROI? I’d love to hear about it. Contact me via email or connect on LinkedIn or Twitter. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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