Successful virtual events help organizations become thought leaders, build brand awareness and turn passive purchasers into loyal customers. But at the end of the day, only one thing matters to stakeholders—was the event profitable?

Virtual event ROI is challenging to measure. And broad goals like “build brand awareness” and “become a thought leader” don’t make it any easier. Fluffy metrics and educated guesses can’t prove ROI or justify success to leadership.

While it isn’t possible to quantify every aspect of your virtual event, you can track event ROI by setting up your goals and KPIs early on and securing the right technology to track them pre-, mid-, and post-event. This article will outline the process of calculating revenue ROI, tracking success for important event components, and overcoming some of the hurdles along the way.    

Measuring Virtual Event Performance Starts With Setting Goals

Event performance differs among organizations and depends on their event goals and objectives.

Accurately measuring virtual event ROI starts with setting specific and measurable goals that align with your business objectives. Your goals will dictate your metrics and ROI calculations.

If you are accustomed to setting goals for in-person events, the process isn’t any different for virtual events. However, you will need to leverage other tools to measure results correctly. We will discuss tools later in this article.

Below is a chart that demonstrates how your event goals inform your metrics and KPIs:

We generalized the event goals and objectives in the chart above. When creating event goals, remember to keep them specific and measurable. Example: Generate 75 marketing-qualified leads that produce 5% more business by year-end.

Setting goals is essential because they guide your planning and provide benchmarks for measuring event performance.

Suggested reading: How to Set Virtual Event Objectives (Plus 41 Event Metrics to Track)

Calculate Your Virtual Event ROI (Revenue Goals)

Determining revenue ROI for the entire event comes down to a simple calculation comparing event profits to event expenses.

Calculate Your Virtual Event ROI (Revenue Goals)

Calculating revenue ROI is one of the more straightforward ways to justify ROI. The same goes for leads and customers.

However, this simple equation doesn’t allow you to get granular enough to measure the success of each event component. How engaged were your attendees? How was your brand perceived? Did sponsors generate an ROI? How satisfied were your customers?

While ROI is not as easily quantifiable for these goals, determining event success must include tracking the right metrics for each virtual event component so you can easily align your event data with your goals.

Next, we will dive into the below event components and metrics and discuss how to measure your virtual event ROI:

  • Marketing and promotions
  • Attendee engagement
  • Content sessions and presenters
  • Sponsor ROI

How to Measure Virtual Event ROI (4 Components)

Calculating ROI involves comparing the benefit or value gained from the event compared to the cost or investment (monetary, time). Not every ROI calculation will result in a dollar value, however. For some event components, you will measure the event’s value or impact, and that might or might not be a monetary amount.

Break down your event into individual components and compare costs vs. value/return for each. Below we listed some event components that might coincide with your event goals.

Determine the Success of Pre-Event Promotional Marketing

Virtual events require robust marketing because your event is open to a large audience and will attract, retain and close leads long after the event completes. Determining the ROI of your event involves weighing the success of individual tactics and using your learnings to inform future events.

Below we listed typical marketing metrics for virtual events which align with marketing tactics:

  • Website visits
  • Registrants
  • Email signups
  • Email marketing (open rates, clickthrough rates)
  • PPC ads (ROAS)
  • Social media engagement (shares, comments, branded hashtag use)
  • Promotional media views and interaction
  • Media placements
  • Links to event content

PRO TIP: During your promotions, review Google Analytics to find out where your attendees interact with your content digitally. You might discover new places to promote, or data to analyze in your ROI calculations.

Track and Measure Virtual Attendee Engagement

In-person events make it easy to observe attendee reactions, body language, and feel the room’s vibes. But it’s not as easy to read body language behind a computer screen.  

To understand how well your virtual event is engaging attendees, provide an immersive experience with activities that draw attendees to communicate, network, and interact.

Below are some event activities to engage virtual attendees:

  • Live chat
  • Live polls
  • Q & A
  • Gamification
  • One-on-one and group networking
  • Video Rooms 

Evaluating how well your attendees engaged with your virtual event requires reviewing engagement data and observing your attendees’ reactions and interactions during the event. Observation will provide qualitative insight, and the quantitative data will prove or disprove your observations.

When observing attendees, look for real-time reactions to the content, sponsors, and presenters. Review social mentions before and after the event, and observe answers to live polls and surveys to capture real-time feedback.

Your quantitative data will provide insights into your event’s impact. Track the below metrics to get detailed data on attendees’ engagement with your event:

  • Number of registrants
  • Registrants vs. attendees: The people who registered vs. the people who registered and attended the event
  • Attendee duration: How long do attendees stay logged into your event platform during the event?
  • Proposed/accepted meetings (between sponsors and attendees)
  • Proposed/accepted meetings (between attendees)
  • Event content, social shares, and engagement
  • Number of questions during live Q&A
  • Live poll participation
  • Number of complaints

>> Access our free webinar, Raising the Bar on Virtual Events, to hear from event management experts on what they learned from powering thousands of virtual events in 2020. Discover how to keep your audience engaged, how to maximize signups, and more.

Measure the Impact of Sessions and Presenters

How popular were your speakers? Did your content resonate with attendees?

Synthesize data from your content sessions to measure the impact they had on your attendees. Rank the sessions by popularity to assess which content resonated the most. Review metrics such as:

  • Session views
  • Replay views
  • Session attendance – Which session had the highest attendance?
  • Session duration – How long did attendees stick around to watch the presentation?
  • Session/speaker ratings and favorites – Offer surveys, live polls (can be anonymous), and rating systems (within your event management platform) to gather attendee feedback

Your attendee engagement data can also inform your content ROI. For example, a lively in-session chat and Q&A session can validate the impact of a content session that also scored high marks on views and replays.  

On-Demand Content

Attendee engagement and content participation might not tell the whole story when it comes to virtual event ROI. Some attendees will register for your event just to access the on-demand replays instead of joining you live.

Factor in the impact of on-demand content when measuring the overall effect of your content sessions and presenters. If needed, send feedback surveys to attendees who did not join you live but interacted with your content after the event.

Virtual event planning guide

Get your complete guide to the ins and outs of planning successful virtual events that delight, engage, and keep attendees and sponsors coming back for more.

Download the guide

How to Track and Prove Sponsor ROI

Sponsors and exhibitors have similar goals as companies that host events. Exhibitors want to generate more leads and sales, nurture leads, or introduce their new products. Sponsors want to establish connections with their target market, show off their industry leadership, and introduce their brand to new markets.  

The key is to effectively communicate your value to potential sponsors, which requires tracking the right metrics.

Understand the data behind your event. From attendee engagement to sponsor insights — get to know what your event is doing well and how you can make your next one even better.

What you track will be unique to your organization, but we listed potential metrics to prove sponsor ROI and measure performance.

  • Pre-event promotions and scheduled meetings
    • Track clicks, open rates, leads, proposed and accepted meetings.
  • Sponsor branding – sponsor rooms, banners, media, swag, event website/pages, etc.
    • Track views, clicks, and conversions
  • Push notifications – dedicated to sponsor activities and networking opportunities
    • Track views, clicks, and conversions
  • Sponsored Video Rooms – for targeted discussions, demos, and presentation
    • Track participation and leads
  • Sponsor- hosted virtual receptions and sessions
    • Track participation and leads
  • Newsletter ads
    • Track clicks and conversions
  • Downloadable media – checklists, ebooks, reports, etc
    • Track downloads
  • Content promotions (created by sponsors)
    •  Track clicks, opens, and leads
  • Sponsored polls
    • Track participation
  • One-on-one and group networking with attendees
    • Track proposed/accepted meetings
  • Custom videos and training
    • Track content views, replay views, and leads

Learn how to power event revenue and maximize sponsor ROI in our Webex Events webinar: Event Revenue and Sponsorship ROI. Experts discuss how they doubled ticket prices for virtual conferences, boosted revenue from sponsors, and proved ROI with robust data.

Virtual Event ROI Made Easy With Webex Events

Proving virtual event ROI and justifying budgets requires detailed analytics management that tracks data before, during, and after your event. Choose a virtual event platform that enables you to track every event activity and easily view, calculate, and export data directly from the platform.

Webex Events is an end-to-end event management platform that equips organizations with the industry’s most comprehensive analytics and reporting. Our Data Dashboard offers a 360-degree view of your event’s performance, recording every user action, and giving you a granular picture of your event’s performance so you can easily calculate ROI.

Webex Events Live Data Dashboard

Webex Events is known for its robust real-time event tracking, which allows you to understand how attendees are engaging with sponsors and making meaningful connections.

Webex Events’ Data Dashboard also tracks social activity and networking metrics:

  • Profile views
  • Social engagement
  • Posts made on the social wall
  • Proposed and scheduled meetings
  • Total conversations
  • Attendee messages
  • New connections
  • Total platform users (sort by day, week, or month)
  • Attendee logins (by device and operating system)
  • And more

With Webex Events’ Features Comparison Dashboard, track how well your content is resonating, which sessions are popular, which sponsors enjoy the highest engagement, and other real-time data.

Webex Events also provides powerful sponsor engagement metrics that enable you to prove ROI and give sponsors valuable data on their event marketing and networking with attendees.

Take Webex Events for a Test Drive

Webex Events has powered high-value events for clients such as Microsoft, Google, Stanford University, and thousands more globally. Accommodating event audiences from hundreds to thousands, Webex Events’ customizable all-in-one platform provides memorable experiences for event hosts, sponsors, and attendees.

Prove ROI for your virtual event with Webex Events’ data-driven insights and robust analytics. Get a look under the hood of Webex Events’ industry-leading platform and request a demo today!