According to the latest corporate event marketplace survey from Special Events, just under half of event professionals say they attempt to measure the ROI—or return on investment—of their special events. But which tool they use—and why—varies from pro to pro.

In the survey, respondents listed 10 tools they use to measure ROI. No. 1 was "response from attendees," followed by (in order) new client leads, client retention, total attendance, revenue, survey results, quality of attendees, response from management, sales growth, and press/media coverage.

SHOW HER THE MONEY

For a senior-level event producer for a major financial services company, the only ROI metric that matters is the one that points to revenue.

"Especially these days, we consider events to be valuable if they generate revenue," she explains. (Note: Her company policy demands that she remain anonymous.) "All the other measurement categories are 'nice to have,' but don’t have much meaning if we’re not making more money from the clients that attend."

But she rates her events on other metrics as well. "For me personally," she adds, "I consider an event a success if my internal client feels we have gotten the right people there, and if clients and internal attendees feel they have gotten something valuable from the time spent, which I measure both by anecdotal feedback and event surveys."

WOWED GUESTS, WOW SALES

Special events are critical to the fortunes of Los Angeles-based Herbalife, notes vice president of worldwide events, distributor communications and video production Margaret Launzel-Pennes, as happy event guests wind up recruiting more salespeople for the company. As a result, attendee response is not just about winning compliments, but boosting revenue.

"It’s primarily about what the attendees say post-event as that is what is going to drive people to want to qualify to attend the next special event," Launzel-Pennes explains. "For us, this qualification translates directly to increased sales."

Andrea Michaels, head of Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Extraordinary Events, relies on in-depth post-event evaluations. And these surveys ask for individual guest comments; they aren't just check-the-box, multiple-choice questionnaires.

"We like hearing the negative and the positive as it gives us ideas to share with the client on making every program better and helps us prioritize what the attendees really want," Michaels explains. "It’s not so much ROI as ROE--return on experience or return on education. So it’s not dollars and cents about the investment; it’s more about motivation and experience. It's what the guest gets out of it, not as much what the client gets out of it."

WHICH METRIC? AND FOR WHAT?

Jim Cavanaugh, founder of new live events and meetings agency Proscenium in New York, recommends that event planners take at a look at all 10 ROI measurement tools.

"All of the criteria have their place in determining the ROI/ROO of an event," Cavanaugh says. "However, the best programs utilize a combination of these methods, as each one has its own merits."

For a special sidebar where Cavanaugh reviews the pros and cons of each ROI measurement tool, click here.

Photo by iStockphoto.com / © Pearleye

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