When it comes to academic conferences, measuring the success of your event is an essential part of ensuring it improves year-over-year. While revenue, number of tickets sold, and feedback from attendees are obvious ways to determine how well your event went, there are many other important data points that can provide a holistic overview of its reach and relevance. After working on over 350 academic conferences, I've gained firsthand insights into the key performance indicators that organizers should be tracking. Here’s what I’ve learned:
• Track the submission process. To get an understanding of the quality of abstract applications, it’s worth tracking the number of applications you receive as well as their acceptance rate. Another relevant statistic to consider is the number of reviewers who refuse the invitation or drop out during the review process. To help attract and retain reviewers in the future, get more details on why they did not wish to participate in your event.
• Evaluate your marketing funnels. Examine the customer-acquisition cost for paid campaigns and track the number of new attendees at your event. Analyze the data you gather from your campaigns while they’re still running—you can always shift your budget between channels and audiences to optimize the effectiveness of your activities.
• Gather interaction data. Content is key. By using content management software services, ePosters, and conference analytics tools throughout your conference, you can capture what attendees are looking at and focusing on and share these insights with your authors and presenters.
• Examine the intellectual return on investment. A useful way of evaluating the impact and quality of the content that is shared at your conference is by tracking the number of posters and presentations that go on to become published articles. You can do this by noting the names of the authors, along with keywords from the abstracts, and searching for published articles after your event. It often takes a while for articles to be published, so begin gathering data from the two-year mark post-conference.
• Citations, citations, citations. Another way to measure the importance and reach of the posters from your event is by assigning a DOI (digital object identifier) to each piece of content that is shared at your conference, including posters and abstracts. A DOI is a unique string of numbers, letters, and symbols assigned by a registration agency to identify content and provide a permanent link to its location on the Internet. More information can be found here. By assigning DOIs, you can keep track of where and how often content from your conference is being cited.
• Follow the media. If you’re inviting journalists to your conference or promoting certain presentations, posters, and findings, it’s important to gather all news articles post-conference. This can help you determine the gravity of the content being shared at your conference. Free and easy-to-use tools like Google Alerts or Google News can help you discover all media mentions.
• Reconsider your post-event survey. Are you asking: How would you rate the experience of applying for this conference? Did you make any connections at the event that you may work together with in the future? How likely are you to revisit the research you discovered at this conference? Don’t underestimate the information you can glean here.
With resources scarce and attendee expectations higher than ever, it is all the more important to provide delegates with the best conference experience possible. Remember, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve on it, so make use of as many data points as possible to ensure your conference goes from success to success.
Sami Benchekroun is the cofounder and CEO of early-stage research platform and conference management software company Morressier.