The Complete Guide to Measuring Event ROI

Friday, March 9, 2018

By SummitSync

Trade show ROI

Do you know less than 50% of marketers have a standardized process to measure the value of event sponsorship?

In fact, over 70% of marketers say the most common metric to measure return on event (ROE) is the amount of media exposure generated.

With conferences and trade shows being one of the largest line items of B2B marketing budgets, measuring event success based on media exposure and brand awareness is no longer adequate. Marketers are no longer just brand builders, they’re expected to focus on revenue generating activities and that starts with having a solid plan.

This guide is designed to help layout a foundational process for your team to start defining and measuring event success. Determining event ROI starts with a strong plan of action before the event, so we’ve decided to break down this guide in steps to take before, during, and after every event to ensure you can measure your event marketing.

Let’s start with what to do before the next event you attend, sponsor, or host.

Before the Event

1. Define Roles

After talking to dozens of sales and marketing over the last few months, we’ve realized that every team does things a little different. Sometimes marketing handles scheduling meetings before the big event, sometimes it is sales. Sometimes sales follows up, sometimes it is marketing. Sometimes it doesn’t matter who does things, just as long as they get done.

All of that is a little chaotic and sometimes tiny details get overlooked or the teams don’t communicate and stay siloed right up until the big day.

That’s why it’s crucial to define exact roles between your sales and marketing teams and ensure consistent communication.

Some examples of questions to answer when defining event roles are:

  • Who is in charge of creating landing pages to drive more meetings?
  • Who is in charge of cold email reach out to event attendees?
  • Who is in charge of actually attending these meetings at the event?

Of course there are many more and each event has unique needs, but answering these questions helps clarify exactly what the sales and marketing teams are responsible for before, during, and after the event takes place, and sets them up for cohesive success.

2. Define Goals

Now that you know what each team and individual is responsible for, it’s time to define unique goals for the event.

All of these goals should be SMART goals — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

That means “increasing brand awareness” is not a goal, it is simply a byproduct of crushing all of your other goals.

Some basic event goals are:

  • Generate leads
  • Increase website traffic
  • Increase downloads of specific pieces of content
  • Give new product demos
  • Increase social following and engagement

Every event is different and the goals will depends heavily on whether the company is attending, sponsoring, or hosting the event.

Now, let’s transform these basic goals into SMART goals:

  • Generate 43 leads at the event through sign-up forms on the table
  • Increase web traffic by 10% before the event by creating event-specific landing pages that are promoted on social media and in email newsletters
  • Get 25 downloads of our white paper by offering an exclusive free download of content during the event which users can receive via email that they can input on our iPad at the table
  • Give five demos of our new product to existing clients during the event
  • Increase social media following by 5% before the event by using the event hashtag and posting in relevant groups
  • Increase engagement by 10% during the event by using not only the event hashtag, but creating our own and promoting it during the event on our signage and t-shirts

The more details you can provide in defining SMART goals, the more accurate and actionable your results will be.

We suggest that every individual team member come up with their own SMART goals. Then, share these goals across team managers for approval and accuracy. After approval, share them across both sales and marketing teams so everyone knows where the goal posts are.

3. Define WHAT to Measure

You’ve got your roles and goals defined — now you have to figure out what you’re actually going to measure.

Defining what to measure, means defining what data points your team will need in order to accurately measure their success.

If you’re SMART goals are really well-defined, this step is super easy because it’s already written out!

In the examples above, what needs to be measured is:

  • Leads
  • Web analytics
  • Downloads of content
  • Demos
  • Social media following
  • Social media engagement

Now you know what to measure but how do you actually measure it?

4. Define HOW to Measure

This is probably the most important, yet overlooked piece of measuring event ROI.

You can have all of your goals defined and know what you’re going to measure, but if you don’t actually have the tech and tools to measure them, you’re probably going to fall flat in execution.

Depending on your goals, this may be as simple as utilizing existing resources like website and social analytics tools, other times it may require investing in specific tools in your event marketing technology stack.

Understanding how your team plans to measure results should be a conversation a few months before the event itself. That way, you’ll have the time to implement new tools or update existing tools to measure everything accurately.

5. Measure Everything Before the Event

Whatever your goals are, you need a baseline to measure against after the event. You may already be tracking some of these so no extra work may be needed.

Once again, make sure that this information is shared across the sales and marketing teams. Even if it doesn’t relate directly to them, it could have an impact. Plus, if you want everyone contributing to measuring return on events, it’s best to keep everyone in the know.

During the Event

The team, the swag, and the booth have all successfully made it to the conference in one piece. That’s a feat in itself — congrats!

6. Slay Your Plan

Game faces on, it’s officially time to execute.

The great thing about having a detailed plan before the event is it leaves little room for confusion or miscommunication during the event itself. Everyone should have well-defined roles during the event, know where to be and when, and understand the company’s goals over the next few days.

If your goal is to get 43 leads from booth traffic on the expo floor, you better turn on the charm and get you and your brand out there.

If you’re taking new prospect meetings, ensure you are prepared with a backup plan in case the internet is spotty and ensure you can answer all of their questions right then and there.

Most importantly, remember to have fun, learn a ton, and crush your goals! As a team, check in with each other throughout the day and every night to ensure everyone is on the same page and any hiccups (we all know they happen) are handled quickly and efficiently.

After the Event

The team has the post-event blues being back in the office after an amazing few days of hustling, learning, and partying.

Give them all a five-hour energy and tell them it’s not over yet.

7. Add Up All the Costs

From the client dinners to the flights and swag, event costs can lurch in every corner. Make sure you, or the accounting team, takes the time to add up all the costs associated with the event.

Please note, calculating the total cost of an event can sometimes be elusive thanks to products like stickers, banners, and tablecloths which are generally used across events. Don’t get too lost in the weeds when starting out measuring event success — remember the old adage of keeping it simple.

8. Measure After the Event

You’ve done this once already so it’s just a rinse and repeat at this point.

Please note, directly “after the event” is not the exact time period you should be measuring for results. Maybe your goal involved increasing engagement on social media during the event, in which case your time period should be the actual event dates, not afterwards.

9. Start Calculating ROE

To calculate return on event, you’ll need:

  • Pre-event baseline data
  • Post-event data
  • The total cost of attending the event

We’ll use the SMART goal of “Generate 43 leads at the event through sign-up forms on the table” to demonstrate:

  • Pre-event: Zero sign-ups
  • Post-Event data: The team collected 57 leads during the event through the sign-up forms

Total cost of attending: $8,760

Divide your cost by the number of leads generated to get your cost per lead: $153.68

Compare this cost per lead to the cost per lead on your other channels, and you’ll begin to understand where and how events fit in as a marketing channel and the possible event ROI.

But it doesn’t end there…

10. Host a Post-Mortem

Having real, honest, and data-driven conversations with the sales and marketing teams involved with the event is the second most important thing in the beginner’s guide to calculating ROE.


Because it allows teams to talk about what worked, what didn’t, and how they can improve for the next event. It also allows for more qualitative conversations about the event itself and whether the team should attend again.

The Months Ahead

Whatever your goals were, they eventually should point to revenue. Understanding exactly how the meetings and conversations at events convert to revenue down the line has been notoriously difficult and tedious to calculate.

By integrating with Salesforce, SummitSync’s meeting automation platform shows the exact dollars revenue generated from every conference and trade you attend or sponsor so you can truly measure event success.

Free Ebook: Drive More Revenue at Conferences and Trade Shows

Learn how to book more and better meetings with the right prospects, so you can close more sales at the show and maximize your event ROI.