The event industry is booming, and not just because we’re thrilled to return to in-person meetings, but also due to event organizers relentlessly improving their craft. Thanks to event evaluation, organizers continuously sharpen their skills, optimize event experiences, and redefine what it means to host a successful event.

In this blog, we’ll walk you through the basics of event evaluation, and explain key steps to measure event success from top to bottom.

What is event evaluation?

Elevated View Of A Businesswoman Doing Survey On Laptop

Event evaluation is about determining whether you organized a successful event. The evaluation process spans the entire event planning lifecycle—including before, during, and post-event. It involves looking beneath the surface and understanding both wins and losses, thereby identifying what you can repeat and what you can improve at a future event.

An organizer might use several methods for gathering feedback, such as an event survey, exit survey, or impact assessment. These evaluation techniques—among many more—allow event professionals to collect two types of information:

  1. Qualitative event feedback: This includes information that isn’t necessarily hard data, but you can still evaluate the opinions and personal experiences of attendees and stakeholders. For example, a customer satisfaction survey might include an open-ended question where respondents reflect on the event in their own words, both good and bad. Qualitative feedback provides additional context around event success or failure.
  2. Quantitative event feedback: Here’s where you’ll find concrete numbers and analytics. Data-driven results are important because they clearly show if a session or activation resonates with attendees or falls flat. For example, quantitative metrics might include the number of ticket sales, social media mentions, sponsor booth visits, and poll results.

Why is the evaluation process important?

Event evaluation and event management go together like peanut butter and jelly. Why? Because when you evaluate event data, you can make tangible decisions to improve event management in the future.

In turn, all stakeholders benefit from the evaluation process. Whether you’re an event planner, event sponsor, or an attendee, here’s how you benefit:

  • Organizer: Proactively measuring event success allows an event manager to see how results stack up against their predetermined goal. This enables them to not only continuously improve future meetings and events, but also strengthen sponsor relationships by demonstrating a positive return on their investment. That’s especially significant given that sponsors are the primary revenue source for at least 23% of event planners.
  • Sponsor: It’s equally important for an event sponsor to obtain tangible data showing if the event was worth their time and money. Whether they aim to increase brand awareness or engage their target audience, hard event data helps them justify future sponsorships.
  • Guest: The point of event evaluation is to create a better, more captivating guest experience. Attendees naturally benefit from this arrangement, as the event planner tailors content to meet their specific interests and needs.

How to evaluate an event

A group of people sit at a table covered in data charts and survey results

Not sure where to begin? We’re here to help. Let’s look at the evaluation process from start to finish.

1. Establish SMART goals and KPIs

Setting a goal (usually several goals) is essential because it defines how you’ll measure event success. When planning your event goals, it’s best to follow the SMART methodology:

  • S — Specific: The goal has to be specific to be effective. Ask yourself what you aim to accomplish and the specific steps needed to meet your objectives.
  • M — Measurable: Objectives should also be quantifiable. This makes it easier to track progress and know when you hit the mark.
  • A — Achievable: Is the goal actually attainable? Think of this as putting your vision into perspective to ensure it’s actually realistic.
  • R — Relevant: Does the goal align with your organizational goals? Does it push your business forward?
  • T — Time-bound: All event goals need a deadline so you can effectively measure success.

Goals may vary depending on event type, format, and target audience. For example, 94% of B2B event organizers use “pipeline generated” as their key success metric. On the other hand, 85% of marketers consider attendee satisfaction their most important goal. Ultimately, all that matters is your SMART goals fit you and your specific business needs.

2. Measure event success

Now that you know what you’re aiming for, it’s time to track your progress. Remember, event evaluation happens at all stages of the event management lifecycle, so the following steps can occur before, during, or after the event (depending on the activity).

  1. Solicit attendee feedback: Conduct an event survey of your target audience, asking specific questions about event content, networking opportunities, and more. For instance, a pre-event survey is great for gauging expectations, whereas post-event surveys assess whether the event lived up to their expectations.
  2. Complete event staff exit surveys: An exit survey is an evaluation form your staff members fill out after the show wraps. This is an effective way to identify team pain points, frustrations, or anything that might’ve complicated event production.
  3. Monitor social media: Keep an ear to the ground and look for social media activity that mentions your event. If your event is a hit, chances are your attendees will rave about it online. Unfortunately, the same might be true if they feel the opposite. Either way, knowing the full story and understanding the conversation proves key.
  4. Quantify revenue: With event costs 25% higher than in 2019, it’s important to get an accurate read on profit/loss. Whether it be ticket sales or other revenue streams, review your financial statements and quantify their impact on the bottom line—both for you and your sponsor.
  5. Compare registrations to check-ins: That said, ticket sales aren’t the end-all, be-all. You may have sold tickets to registrants who never actually showed up to the event, which could signal a weakness in your promotional strategy.

Looking for more information about event surveys? Check out our event survey playbook for all the questions you need to ask before, during, and after your next event.

3. Review event feedback and report your results

Event management platform data

Take time to review your quantitative and qualitative data, making sure to complete a fair and objective evaluation of the results. Once complete, compile your insights into a report and share it with your stakeholders and sponsors.

Ideally, the report should be concise, with just the important data that illustrates the value of the event. Generally, there are eight sections to include:

  1. Executive summary: Was the event successful or not?
  2. Goals and objectives: What was the purpose of the event?
  3. Return on investment: Was the event a financial success?
  4. Return on objectives: Did the event meet other expectations, like media exposure or brand awareness?
  5. Event effectiveness: How did attendees feel about the event?
  6. Budget: How do expenses compare to the original budget?
  7. Areas of improvement: What could you do differently at a future event?
  8. Conclusion: Was this event more or less successful than previous investments?

4. Make improvements

All that’s left is to act on your insights. Funnel feedback into your event program and put on a better event next time around.

Simplify evaluation with Webex Events

Poll within Webex Events event management platform

The evaluation process only works if you have the right tools for the job. Unfortunately, event planners often struggle to collect data, gather feedback, and prove ROI to their partners.

Good news: There’s a solution for that. With an event management platform like Webex Events, you can seamlessly obtain insights at every stage of the event planning process. From attendee satisfaction to speaker engagement and sponsor revenue, you’ll have no trouble acting on your feedback and improving future event experiences.