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Most event planners understand they’re only as good as their most recent event. But what they often struggle with is that their definition of a great event may vary vastly from that of the client or business behind it. While event planners may bask in attendee compliments of an enjoyable time, if that doesn’t translate to revenue and ROI, a client may not be satisfied.
Misaligned expectations are a sure way to spoil any planner-client relationship.
Personal opinions are irrelevant unless they directly translate to the clients’ goals. At the same time, many clients or managers often struggle to communicate exactly what their desired outcome for an event is. That’s why successful event planners closely align their performance goals with event revenue and measurable analytics. Clarifying event goals, so you can assign key performance indicators, is one of the first things event planners should undertake.
But, how is that done exactly?
The short answer is deliberately. This is not magic, dear event planner. It’s all about the numbers.
More specifically though… which numbers?
What Are KPIs and Why Are They Essential to Success?
Lewis Carroll wrote, “If you don’t know where you’re going any road will get you there.” While this sounds like a wonderful recipe for meandering discovery, it won’t work in events.
Or at least, not in a satisfactory way for your client.
“Key Performance Indicator” (or KPI) might be a new term for you. It simply refers to the goals (or specific points) a business or individual sets to measure success. If this KPI is met, we were successful.
While high-level KPIs are calibrated to the overall mission of a company; low-level KPIs measure the success of specific actions—such as events—as they relate to that mission.
Let’s start with you. As an event planner, you are a service provider and your KPIs measure how well you provide that service. Well, what is the mantra of all service providers? “The customer is always right.”
Like it or not, that is your first Key Performance Indicator—to deliver on those things that are valuable and important to the client.
Ensuring that goals are aligned between planners and clients (and by “clients” that includes your own company if you’re an internal corporate planner) helps ensure that everyone knows what’s important and where to focus resources. It’s so easy to get lost in the event details, like swag bags and tech, and lose sight of the more important outcomes—that which your client is focused on.
Avoiding the Dreaded Vanity Metrics
Event planners and CEOs have different segments of a business they’re charged with; thus they’ll often have their eyes on different success indicators. A CEO of a publicly-traded company will likely be more concerned with share prices than event theme, while an event planner may be over the moon about getting a compliment from an industry influencer.
Each role is measured differently. It’s incumbent on the event planner to bridge that gap and begin speaking in a language that the client will understand. What may seem important to a planner may be a vanity metric to leadership—something that makes you feel good, but doesn’t translate into a business objective.
The exception to this is KPIs that are tied to your business goal. For instance, a compliment on social media may not seem important to the client but it can be valuable if the event’s goal is improving brand reputation. If you share this type of data (such as positive social media mentions), look for ways to tie it into what your client cares about (in this case, brand reputation). That way, you’re translating the positive sentiment into something your client or senior leadership understands and cares deeply about.
The Four Critical Steps to Deriving KPIs
You go to great efforts to tailor event experiences. You select the ideal theme, decor, “wow” moments, and much more. You know each event is unique and want to personalize it with your touch.
You also likely know that when business or organization spends money on an event, they have a specific outcome in mind. Their reasons and goals dictate the KPIs you’ll use for each individual event. There is no one KPI that works for every event. You’ll have to map them out every time.