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Was Your Conference Worth It? If You Don’t Measure, You Don’t Know

An introduction to five fundamentals of assessing the success of your event.

Condensing months of planning into a few days of activity is enough to overwhelm anyone. Conferences and events are essential touchpoints for your community to connect, so it’s important that you get it right—which means the event is valuable both to attendees and your organization.

How can you know if an event achieves that? Here are five basics to measuring success.

Know Your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
The first step to measuring success is knowing what your objectives are in the first place. One of the best ways to do this is to categorize the event’s goals by stakeholder:
• What does your organization need to achieve (such as a certain percentage of new members or a specific financial target)?
• What do your attendees need to achieve (for example, education on the latest developments in the field or growth of their professional networks)?
• What do your sponsors need to achieve (such as a certain number of leads generated or a specific volume of website traffic)?
Identifying these goals will help your organization decide what needs to be measured, or what those KPIs should be. 

Social Listening
Even at in-person meetings, a lot of the action happens online. Review your conference hashtag and analyze the feedback. While it’s important to know how many people were talking about your event online, quantifying their experience is especially meaningful. “Sentiment analysis” monitors your mentions on social media and quantifies them based on whether they are positive or negative. An easy way to do this is to build out a list of positive keywords (like “good,” “great,” “inspiring,” “helpful,” “amazing,” “love,” “best,” and others) and negative keywords (“disappointing,” “boring,” “not relevant,” “poor,” “bad,” “terrible,” “worst,” and others). There are several tools that can help with this process, both in relation to your conference and for longer-term community listening.

Conduct Post-Event Attendee Surveys
Surveys let your community know that you care about their experience and that their opinion matters. According to Markletic’s event research, 90 percent of event organizers use surveys to measure satisfaction. Combine that with the fact that 85 percent of event organizers consider satisfaction to be a KPI, and it’s clear a post-event survey is a must-have. Ask your attendees what they liked but also where there are opportunities for the event to adapt or grow. Open-ended questions might seem taxing on the audience, but giving people space to share suggestions can lead to creative ideas for your next event. And if you’re worried about low participation, incentivize respondents with a discount to your next event.

Conduct Post-Event Speaker Surveys
Make sure you’re also checking in on the experiences of your participants who presented, moderated, or chaired during your event. Did they receive the support they needed? Did their talk inspire valuable questions or help them find others to collaborate with? You can use this data to encourage more people to speak next year by telling them how many presenters found new opportunities as a result of their presentation.

Post-Event Engagement
Depending on the nature of your event, some of the materials might be posted online after the event concludes. Are your attendees returning to these materials to reference what they learned or to make new connections? It’s important to monitor web traffic and your audience’s engagement with on-demand conference materials. Understanding how your attendees are using these videos, posters, and other supplementary information will help you identify which topics or types of sessions and materials are most valuable for the future.

These five tips can help you reflect effectively on your events and ensure they are the valuable, memorable experiences you need them to be for your audience while being financially sustainable for your organization.

Sami Benchekroun is co-founder and CEO of Morressier, which provides conference management software, virtual conference solutions, and more.

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