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  • Jennifer Kerhin, MBA, CEM

What Defines “Success” for Virtual Events?

How do you define and measure success? Who should measure success? Evaluate your virtual event’s success from both profitability and goal retention perspectives in order to see how it can impact your bottom line in a positive way. Three key areas to focus on are: return on investment (ROI), return on engagement (ROE), and return on objectives (ROO). Remember, when you talk about ROI, ROE, and ROO include all of your stakeholders in the decision-making process.

What is success?

Success can be defined as achieving your organizational goals. Successes are measured differently for individual stakeholders within your organization. Event success varies per stakeholder, but each needs to be considered when evaluating the virtual platform. How will the platform best meet the goals of each stakeholder within the organization?

Who measures success?

Individual stakeholders within an organization measure success. Most commonly the Event Owner (CEO/Executive Director), Procurement/Finance, Marketing, IT, Event Managers, Education Managers, and Sales Departments will want to provide input. Each of these groups may have different goals to best meet their needs, which lead to different ways of measuring success.

How is success measured?

As stated, common ways to measure success include ROI, ROE, and ROO.

To calculate ROI, divide event revenue by event expenses; however, this simple calculation does not illustrate the profitability of the event. To show profitability to your organization, your calculation should reflect the gross margin calculation: event revenue divided by cost of goods sold (COGS).

While COGS can look similar to your event expenses, COGS takes into account ancillary expenses that contribute to the overall sale of the event. For example, direct labor costs, storage costs for event materials, and paper costs to produce handouts would be reflected into this calculation.

Similar to live events, there are several expense areas that will factor into the budgeting process. Some examples of direct cross-over from a live event to a virtual conference include:

● Number of event days ● Number of attendees ● Number of sessions offered ● Speaker fees ● Staff time ● Copyediting ● Production fees ● Marketing fees



Virtual meetings generate an additional, different set of expenses:

● Number of sessions offered

● Number of pre-recorded (asynchronous) sessions vs. live-streamed

● Number of breakout rooms, if applicable?

● Platform price fluctuation between number of days/number of sessions?

● Amenities/options that the “base model” platforms offer? Can you achieve your goals with the base model, or do you need to upgrade the platform to accomplish your goals?


It’s also important to think about how you will determine your attendee, exhibitor, and sponsorship rates because they will affect your ROI. Does your virtual event allow the same opportunities to your members as the live event? How will you set your registration rates to accommodate the change while still meeting your revenue needs?

Creating attendee, exhibitor, and sponsorship fees for a virtual conference presents a new set of challenges because one of the biggest ROI’s we hear in the event industry is the networking/connections and the return that attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors see as a residual effect of a live event.

The challenge now is to identify the value and show it to our exhibitors and sponsors. How do you do this during a time when we are all exhausted with video conferencing, telephone calls, and email? The simplest answer is by identifying a platform and creating an experience that incorporates education, networking, and analytics that can be provided to exhibitors and sponsors.

While ROI is the most common measurement for success, ROO, and ROE also contribute to measuring success of the virtual event.

Return on Engagement can be measured by:

● Attendee Reach

● Leads Gathered

● Retention

● New Business

● Brand Awareness


Return on Objective can be measured by:

● Educational Session Evaluations and Surveys

● Educational Session Comprehension

● Brand Awareness – Both for the organization and for sponsors

Both ROE and ROO have tangible and intangible mechanisms to capture success.

Keep in mind your attendees, exhibitors, and sponsors will have their own ways of evaluating return on

investment of your event. They may recognize ROI by:

● Industry connections

● Educational content

● Advertising opportunities

● Sales of a specific product

Each event is unique, with different goals that define the needs of the virtual platform. Success can be measured in multiple ways: revenue, profitability, leads gathered, number of attendees engaged, retention, and new business. Achievement should be measured against the organizational goals to determine the event’s success.

Using these measurements to support your organization’s evaluation process of a virtual event and identify how you measure return on investment, you can create a virtual event that impacts your bottom line in a meaningful way.

To learn more about Measuring Success and find more tools and calculations, download our free Virtual BLUEPRINT

ebook. You can also read more posts on virtual events, including:

Strategizing Your Virtual of Hybrid Event

Selecting Technology for Your Virtual Event

11 Ways to Facilitate Networking during Virtual Events

In addition, you can contact us for help transitioning your meetings and events model to include virtual events. Email info@conferencemanagers.com and info@sponsorshipboost.com.


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