Virtual events have set a new standard for events data. They provide comprehensive insights on attendees’ behavior that are hard—or even impossible—to track in an in-person event.
Back in the day, the only metrics that event planners and marketers had were ticket sales and post-event surveys—if you asked the right questions and were lucky enough to get responses. With the growing integration of virtual events, and the explosion of virtual events as a solution during the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing has become clear: virtual events allow event planners and marketers to gather and measure a treasure trove of virtual events data before, during, and after the event that can be used to assess results, validate virtual events’ return on investment (ROI), and inform development of future virtual events and other strategic activities and programming.
According to our benchmark analysis of 2020 virtual event activity, 1.8 billion minutes of virtual events and webcasts were viewed on our platform, a 350% increase from the previous year. To put this number in context, that’s more than 39 million NBA games! Imagine the opportunity to measure data that will inform your leadership and drive corporate goals.
Why Measure Your Virtual Event?
Virtual event statistics provide valuable insights into whether the organization’s investment in the event you so meticulously orchestrated resulted in the desired outcomes. It paints the picture of your virtual event’s return on investment.
In the past, the perceived value of an event often hinged on registration revenue, the opinion of key stakeholders, testimonials from attendees (when you could get them), and sparsely gathered data gathered from surveys mailed/emailed to attendees, including speakers and sponsors.
With today’s virtual event statistics, so long as everyone agrees on the objectives that drive your event, you can provide measures of success that will be clear, composed, and contextualized to dispel any misperceptions based on opinion, and build strategy on virtual event statistics that illuminate and provide direction.
For a showstopper event, reporting event metrics is the opportunity to shine as you present your recap supported by detailed virtual event statistics. For an event that sat on the razor’s edge of keep/toss, it is the opportunity to plan improvements that will make it a showstopper next time around. And if a tried and true event has reached the end of its lifecycle, or a new program that you thought was worth trying out just didn’t make the cut, having the data to inform a decision to redesign it or remove it from future programming in favor of a better virtual event can also be a positive experience.
Having and using the data effectively helps you manage your business, making you a better, more knowledgeable programmer, a more valuable advisor to your boss, and a more effective leader of your team.
Virtual Events: Return on Investment (ROI)
At the top level, the data you gather can help you measure the return on your virtual event investment and assess whether the activity has a place in your virtual event programming. By measuring the number and types of attendees, their reactions and interactions during your virtual event activities, their reported levels of satisfaction, and virtual event statistics on lead and sales generation, virtual event planners can provide a thorough analysis of virtual event statistics.
Regardless of the type and history of the event, the questions that need to be answered are the same.
Were the expenditures against this event a solid investment overall? Was budget invested in the right places?
Was human capital utilized efficiently?
Did the virtual event platform support business objectives well enough?
Did the virtual experience support audience needs and wants in ways that will build, strengthen and lengthen relationships?
Did the investment in production quality (or a more expensive keynote speaker) return better results?
What programs, tactics or techniques worked so well in this program that we should try them in other virtual events?
What is the long-term impact of the virtual event on relationships with clients, members, thought leaders, sponsors, and prospects?
What did we learn about each segment that will drive future revenue and even provide insight on new revenue streams?
Where are the opportunities for new strategic partnerships?
What other information did we gather that can contribute to the bottom line?
In short, being able to point to reporting which measures and visually demonstrates the value your virtual event contributes to business need, and being able to deliver up the virtual event statistics and relevant analysis to back up your measures of success works for you in many ways to help you earn and retain the respect of senior management:
Underscoring the value that you and the programming bring to the business
Demonstrates that you have keen insights into the most detailed workings of each event activity
Puts you in a position of strength when you ask for more budget and more resources to create more value
Firmly grounds reporting in fact and data, not opinion and perception
Analysis can also provide data that informs continuous improvement of your event and the building blocks before during and after. It can also illuminate opportunities to “borrow” ideas and programming from one event to create new events or make existing programming even stronger.
Virtual Events: Evaluation Planning
Virtual event platforms offer an array of data that is available for you to capture and measure, from the planning stages all the way through to the recap of your event. Because there is some much you can capture, unless you plan well and have a very clear picture of what data is important and useful, it is possible to find yourself buried under a mountain of virtual event statistics.
To avoid a data avalanche, your metrics should align with the virtual event objectives which, ideally, roll up to corporate goals and objectives. Clearly defining what and how you will measure should be part of your strategic planning and your tactical deployment.
Virtual Event Return on Objectives
Perhaps the most important factor contributing to effective metrics is a clearly defined set of strategic objectives for the organization and attendees against which to measure return on objectives (ROO).
With each virtual event, there can be many stakeholders, each with their own agenda and desired outcomes.
While virtual event technology affords the opportunity to collect data in a way that you can garner valuable insights for everyone, the process of measuring success can devolve without a clear set of agreed upon, overarching objectives from which to begin your dive into data. Whether you are planning a new virtual event, or the next iteration of a flagship event, gathering stakeholders in an exercise to define and prioritize your strategic objectives will be key to how effectively you can measure outcomes, and to how you may decide to pivot and adapt during the virtual event to make sure event objectives are well met.
Be sure to measure at the organizational and individual level—incorporating the individual goals of your audience among your organizational objectives.
For example, if monetization is the most important objective of your virtual event, be sure to identify and align sales goals with your program. Then identify the data points you need to measure before, during and after the event that will enable you to evaluate which attendees and activities represent the most revenue, or the greatest revenue opportunity, as a result of their participation in your event.
Determine the level of detail and types of data you will need to capture to tie revenue back to its source, capture new leads, and drive them through your sales funnel.
Managing cost is always a priority. For example, maintaining your cost per acquisition contributes to a better bottom line, and is a data point that informs how efficient and effective your event promotion plan has been. Define your audience and acquisition strategy so that you can factor cost per acquisition into your analysis and reporting.
Achieving a high level of audience engagement and satisfaction is another high-priority objective. Use your virtual event technology to poll attendees to identify issues, needs and concerns that are top of mind and that can be addressed through program design for your virtual event. Then track session attendance; follow social posts and hashtags; monitor asset and search activity and content views; capture attendee evaluations to measure your success at creating a program that meets audience needs.
If gaining a better understanding of your audience, or an audience segment, is on the list of top priorities, build in opportunities to gather and measure data that will help you get to know them better. For example, if you have gaps in your CRM around job title, areas of responsibility or expertise, budget oversight, or even what keeps your members, readers, platform users, etc., up at night, taking advantage of their heightened engagement around your virtual event to gather data can help you fill the gap.
Polls, surveys, gamification can support your information-gathering mission in ways that will make participants happy to share more information about themselves in exchange for a memorable virtual experience.
More companies are adding managing their carbon footprint to their corporate objectives in these times of increased awareness and concern for climate change. By leveraging your participant’s location information, your platform may be able to calculate savings.
What better story to tell than how your virtual event enabled real-time savings?
As you develop your strategy and evaluation plan, consider measuring your virtual event’s impact from three angles: financial, psychological, and behavioral aspects of the experience. Consider not only the financial indicators of how your event has impacted (or will impact) your bottom line, but also how you have impacted the mindsets and behaviors of your audience. While you may not see the direct impact in event revenues, if you have created an authentic virtual experience, you stand a good chance of initiating or strengthening a relationship.
If you have changed a behavior (inspired a first-time social share, extracted a previously withheld bit of profile data, or driven a referral) then, then you have made a difference that you can capture and measure as part of your assessment.
Measures you can use to evaluate success can include:
Cost to revenue ratio
Social media mentions
Number of active members in the community
Number of messages sent during the event
Session targets: average session rating, average number of sessions attended, average view duration
Number of booth visits
Number of qualified leads
Accounts influenced (ABM)
What you can capture and how well you can analyze it depends on the virtual event technology at your disposal. Ideally, your virtual event platform will enable you to measure the factors you have chosen as relevant to your objectives, create participation scores, and build dashboards and reports to help you analyze results and compile them into visually engaging and expressive reports for senior executives, attendees, speakers and sponsors:
Registration and login: The registration and login function are touchpoints for gathering information that supports business objectives, like name, cell phone number, etc. After completing the registration and login function, it can add functionality that promotes the event and connectivity. Don’t think of your login as just an operational necessity; instead, consider how creating the login can both capture important information, and speed your prospect through the registration process.
Social mentions: If your platform enables social listening, you can monitor the social activity of your prospects and registrants. Create an event hashtag and watch it move across the ether.
Communication and engagement activity: In a forum where making connections is key, track video chats, participation in networking spaces and sessions, boot visits, and other measures.
Space activity: Virtual event technology and tools can provide insights on how attendees move through your virtual spaces—important insight for you as you orchestrate the event, and for your speakers and sponsors when you provide them with your recap report and ask them to commit to supporting your next event.
Content views, including date and time viewed: This is an exceptionally useful view of your virtual event. Knowing when invitees are accessing your content, and whether they are participating live or on demand, delivers information you can use during the event to get them even more engaged, as well as data that can help inform planning of other similar virtual events.
Asset and search activity: Similarly, knowing which assets have attracted the most views and downloads, and how successfully your offerings match the searches performed by your prospects and attendees, are key measures of whether you know your audience and are meeting their need for information.
Survey responses and metrics: Perhaps the most valuable insights you can garner are those you get directly from the mouths (or devices) of your audience. The survey (even if it’s only a survey of one question) is a tool you can begin deploying at the end of one event when you begin planning its next iteration, and continue using throughout its planning, promotion, deployment and right back around to the post-event request for feedback again.
CPE, testing, badges, and certification metrics: Continuing education credits are a bonus of any event attendance. If you are enabling CPE credits for your and others’ programs, employing badges can help you capture valuable virtual event statistics about your attendees’ approach to and perceived value of professional development. Understanding where your audience is submitting your event for CPE credit is a helpful insight. At minimum, it can offer a clue to finding your audience on LinkedIn, Society sites, etc. If you are a non-profit or certifying body, it can tell you who your competition may be for certifications, or where you can leverage a strategic partnership.
Recommendation activity: By tracking referrals and recommendations, you can gather information over time on what percentage of your audience population typically generates referral participation. You can personally thank your most enthusiastic referrers with a personal outreach, an appropriate gift (some swag or a discount on membership or the next event?), participation in an exclusive event before, during or after your main event—really, any gesture of appreciation goes a long way in recognizing their contribution to the success of your virtual event. If your platform permits, assign a Net Promoter Score (NPS).
Unique and total attendees within a specific timeframe: This is a basic measure that allows you to discern your overall event population, while also enabling reporting on instances of attendance across the program.
Live webcast consumption: This is a key measure of how your audience values and utilizes the live experience versus on-demand access to content. Our research indicates that participation in both live and on-demand events has grown in the last year, so creating an engaging virtual event experience during the live event, and even enhancing your on-demand experience have become even more important.
Program length comparison: This virtual event statistic lets you know where the sweet spot is in program length so that you can mark any trending changes and feed that insight into your planning processes.
Virtual Engagement: Getting Your Audience in Gear
Critical to gathering all this data is the successful connection with the audience often referred to as “engagement.”
The dictionary defines the word as “the condition of being in gear.” While not positioned in the context of a virtual event, the dictionary definition exemplifies the idea: Like the teeth on two gears, you want your audience to engage, get traction, create momentum, and stay in gear in a mutually beneficial relationship.
Engagement is measured by various key performance indicators (KPIs), depending on the channel you are using for communication:
Email: Opens and clicks
Event Website: page views, logons, forms completed, abandonment rate
Live attendees in sessions, breakout rooms, video chats: moderated interactive Q&As, chat, social share
On-demand: duration of online viewing, social share, clicks
Content: page landing, downloads, opens, forwards, shares, comments
Social Channels: likes, shares, posts
Polls, surveys: answers to questions, types of information provided
Gamification, push notification/response: actions in response to game instructions or notifications
Before the Virtual Event
As you promote your virtual event, taking a regular read on certain measures can help you better target the right audience, engage them, and convert them to registrations. If registrations are trending down, here are some things to look for:
Email: Are your open rates up or down? If down, consider modifying the subject line for greater urgency, adjusting the timing or frequency, moving the call to action up in the message, or even changing the sender to someone more recognizable. If requests to unsubscribe are up, consider dialing down your frequency.
Social: Create an event hashtag to make it easier to track social activity. If you are not getting the desired results in shares, likes, and comments, follow the conversation on social media and share ideas and comments outside of the virtual event platform.
Content engagement: If the pre-event content is not resulting in shares, reposts, comments, or registration, check your assets for length, format, and accessibility.
During the Virtual Event
While in the throes of your main virtual event, keeping your eye on certain metrics can provide you with real-time feedback and illuminate some areas where you might want to adjust in the moment to improve outcomes.
- If you notice attendees dropping from a session, signal the speaker to accelerate the pace, move to another point, or pose a question to the audience.
- If the energy across the event seems to drop, use push notifications, gamification and social posts to re-engage your audience and revitalize the virtual vibe.
- If you notice from your virtual event platform that attendees are aggregating in the lobby or networking spaces, use push notifications to remind them of what they will be missing in the exhibit hall or next session if they don’t move about.
- If your live polling responses are low, introduce an incentive—cool swag, digital gift cards, discounts on products and services—to motivate engagement
After the Virtual Event
Once the main event is over, many of the measures above can help you keep the conversation going.
Fracturing or repurposing the most highly valued content is an effective way to pull in registrants who didn’t show up or whose attendance was spotty or abbreviated.
Post-event small group video chats with the most successful speakers can be used as rewards for your most highly engaged attendees, or those with a higher-than-average Net Promoter Score.
Polling and survey results make for good new content to add to the extended program and mentioning the names of your gamification stars gives them a reason to return to your space.
You may also be able to use your virtual event statistics to measure the impact of your virtual event on the minds and behaviors of your audience. You probably hosted this virtual event to affect some kind of change in attendees: new knowledge, changes in perceptions about your brand, heightened familiarity with a certain product, a deeper bond with your community, or a willingness to become a resource as a champion for your mission.
When reporting back to home base on the success of your event, being able to point to a significant impact enhances the power of your story.
What to Do With It All?
Because you were strategic in aligning your metrics with your virtual event objectives, there will be a lot of data, and a lot you can do with your newly acquired data and insights.
Most importantly, you can share your learnings from your virtual event statistics with senior management (and investors where applicable) to demonstrate how your event measured up against the overarching objectives. Ideally, the data you collected will tell a story of a successful event, spotlighting wins, explaining unexpected outcomes, and identifying new opportunities or even events or tactics that are nearing the end of their lifecycle.
If your event is wildly successful, being able to prove it with virtual event statistics will help to establish your success as fact, not opinion, protecting your budget for next year, and maybe even positioning you for more budget, more resources, and more memorable events next year… and maybe even a promotion.
You can use the data you have gathered to measure the success of your virtual event sessions, sharing insights with speakers who will want to know how their sessions compared to targets and to other comparable sessions.
You can provide your sponsors with their statistics. They will want to know how their sessions and their booths succeeded in attracting attendees and generating leads. And you can turn your success stories into case studies or talking points when recruiting new sponsors down the road.
You can use this wealth of information simply to plan. If you have just pulled off an annual flagship event, you now have directional data for planning next year’s content, virtual space, promotion, revenue forecasts and success. You may even have learned a few things that you can apply to other events on your calendar or your plan for next year. Understanding what worked and what didn’t will help you fine tune: your program, your model, your marketing—just follow the data to find the opportunities for improvement.
There will undoubtedly be juicy bits of data that you will want to incorporate into your post-event marketing to keep the conversation going, and in your marketing of the next event to attract new participants and retain existing attendees.
The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 drove many organizations into the virtual event space as an alternative to canceling their event activity. What many are learning is that the virtual event can extend reach and provide reams of data that were only just accessible on one’s event app in a physical space.
Because the event already exists in the virtual space, it is conducive to keeping the conversation going on long after the main event is over, allowing for the continued fostering of engagement and collection of valuable data. As a result of the pandemic, we have all become more comfortable in that space, and barriers to entry that once existed seem to have been lowered or removed.
The key to successful data gathering and reporting is a clear articulation of the event objectives in priority order. Once stakeholders agree on what is important—what the virtual event is meant to accomplish—building the plan for data capture, analysis and reporting can begin. You can create a program designed to meet the objectives and leverage virtual event technology to deploy that program in ways that were not possible in the brick and mortar event spaces. And while you are doing that, you can select the metrics you need, and you can engineer engagement that will generate the data that will not only validate your ROI, but also your ROO—your return on objectives.
While being in the same space together may have its advantages, virtual events are likely here to stay in a post-COVID environment. The opportunities to extend reach, more extensively gather data and measure outcomes, and even reduce negative impact to our climate are compelling reasons to maintain virtual event solutions in your strategic plan.
Get a Demo of Our End-to-End Event Platform
Whether you’re hosting virtual or hybrid events to reach customers, employees, investors, or partners, Notified is here to help bring your vision to life.
We host over 70,000 webcasts and virtual events annually on behalf of thousands of customers around the world while providing dedicated support with a focus on data.
All virtual events include:
Dedicated project manager
Interactive environments with live & on-demand programming
Flexible branding and personalization options
Accessibility – anytime, anywhere, and from any device
Robust analytics and reporting
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