The Event Planner’s Guide to Virtual Event ROI


virtual event roi

Event planners understand the importance of event ROI. It is critical when talking to stakeholders about why they should invest in your event.  And critical for your attendees too.  And while you can use similar principles to measuring ROI as your in-person events, virtual events are a bit different.

Sponsor engagement for example works differently in a virtual setting with the majority of lead generation happening in the run up to the event (as opposed to at the event itself when on-site). Attendees at virtual events consume content differently than at in-person events.  And these expectations are changing all the time as people want more from their virtual experiences.

With all this in mind, we take a look at some of the ways stakeholders approach ROI around virtual events – from your attendees and sponsors to exhibitors, clients and management teams.  By understanding what their needs are and what they really want from your events, you can build the kind of experiences that make your virtual events a success.

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Understanding the Challenges

There are some issues when looking at virtual event ROI. However, many of these are no different to the considerations for in-person event ROI.

For example, you need to understand your key reasons for measuring key metrics, how you will do so and how you will ensure that your data is analysed objectively. All of that is relatively straightforward. What is more of an issue is dealing with the all-important factor of attribution.

Attribution applies as much to your virtual event as an in-person one. Quite simply it is how you deal with a sale generated from a virtual event. Will you put 100% of the value of the sale against the event? Or will you apply some other percentage (or criteria)? It could be the case that the virtual event was the tipping point for a sale that had been started many months earlier.

Each organization is different.  Each event is different.  But it’s worth thinking about how you’re going to deal with attribution and factor it in accordingly with your final ROI calculations.

Identifying Opportunities 

The good news is that virtual event ROI is something that can lead to some new opportunities. Truly understanding the data collected offers insights that can help shape your future events, products and services. But more than that it is essential to know what impact your virtual event had.

And there is no excuse for not being able to measure it. Most virtual event platforms like Eventsforce VCD offer some form of data analytics that can help you track engagement across your event. The data collected from virtual event platforms and other tools you may be using around your events can tell you all sorts of things – from how long people viewed online, to what appointments they made to even who connected at a networking event. You may not wish to collect such a deep level of data but whatever you are seeking is highly likely to be available.

Tech providers keep improving and expanding their services and data collection and measurement is a top priority for many of them. All you need to do is to figure out what it is you want to measure and make sure they can provide you the analytics you need.

What Does Virtual Event ROI Mean for Different Stakeholders?

Event planners understand that a seamless virtual attendee journey is critical to their success. And they are absolutely right. A lot of thinking goes into getting attendee journeys just right. That same level of detail needs to be applied when looking at virtual event ROI.

All stakeholders have a big part to play. Therefore, we look at their different perspectives which will help guide the data you will need to collect and analyse. Remember that event ROI is different for everyone and it’s really important that you look at it from a broad view.

Let’s take a look.

1) ROI for the Virtual Attendee

It’s important to understand how an attendee will decide whether your event provided them with a good return on their time and investment.  How does an attendee measure their ROI? It’s a challenging question because every attendee is different and also because the way people consume online content has changed so drastically and continues to change.

But, in broad terms, there is a basic calculation that many people run. How much time did they give you? Did they pay for a ticket and if so, how competitively was it priced? Attendees will also look at whether they can access the content again post event.  And these considerations are put against what they learned and whether they made new valuable connections. Or strengthened existing relationships.

Some attendees may turn up because they want to be ‘seen’ but with such pressures on peoples’ time, this is less likely as a key decision-making factor. Being ‘seen’ is usually more important at in-person events. Your attendees will determine their own ROI measures and understanding their perspective is super important.

2) ROI for the Virtual Sponsor  

Event planners know that there are savvy virtual event sponsors around. However, there are some sponsors that will need your help in getting them on board to what could be a new experience for them. Providing them with virtual event data is the easy part. In fact, virtual events have raised the bar for providing comprehensive data and it’s often delivered quicker than in-person event data.

A sponsor will be looking for ‘virtual stage time’ and that is perfectly achievable with virtual events.  They are bound to ask what numbers of people are likely to attend, but that shouldn’t be their only measure. This is where you may need to help them understand the other opportunities available.

For example, a custom-made sponsor video that appears in the live stream is a big bonus. No other brand is able to get the attention of attendees for a couple of minutes and this in itself is priceless. And of course, on-demand content means that viewers will see the sponsor’s name long after the event has finished. These are measures that you can highlight and include as part of the stats you provide to show their ROI.

On-Demand Webinar: How to Boost Virtual Sponsor ROI

3) ROI for the Virtual Exhibitor     

There is no question that virtual events offer massive value for exhibitors. However, as with your sponsors you also need savvy exhibitors. They need to encourage attendees to visit their virtual exhibition booth. With virtual events this is especially important where a programme may not have separate ‘visit expo’ time built in.  We have also seen how most attendees engage with online exhibitors in the few days before the virtual event – something to bear in mind.

However, the good news is that the virtual attendees that do come calling are super interested in what they have to offer. Unlike in-person events, attendees are not required to complete a long list of appointments, to be classed as a VIP or a hosted buyer. In the virtual space, attendees decide who they want to see and when.

Virtual exhibitors will use numbers of appointments, number of downloads and number of enquiries as key measures. But they should also look at enquiries that come in post-event.

4) ROI for the Virtual Speaker

If you don’t take into account the ROI for a speaker, a virtual host or a presenter, you could be missing out on valuable data that could help you improve your event further. It may not be usual to include speakers in your ROI evaluation, but things are changing.  There are numerous opportunities for people to speak at virtual events. It is after all, still pretty much the only game in town.

Speakers are interesting because they look for similar ROI measures that attendees, sponsors and exhibitors use. For example, they will calculate whether the time of putting their presentation together is worth the fee, or worth the brand building or worth the likely enquiries that will follow.

Speakers have their own criteria for accepting work. Some will only work for a fee. Others will work because of the opportunity of being in front of an audience that could be useful. It really is a mixed bag of rationale when it comes to how speakers decide on their ROI measures.

5) ROI for Your Organization/Client          

And finally, what is the ROI perspective for the organization running the event? What do they see as being the key elements involved to enable them to establish how well the event did?

They will look at how much time, effort and resource they put in from their side. Against that they will look at numbers of attendees, interaction throughout the event and feedback from their stakeholders.

Bearing in mind the different perspectives the client is the one that has to cut through the noise and decide what for them makes a strong ROI. This needs to be established right at the beginning of the event creation. And clients should also factor in, pre-engagement and post-engagement measures as well.  For example, what social media traction was there, was the event featured in trade publications, what was the general level of sentiment towards it?

Virtual event ROI is complex for clients, but you can be sure that they will have some basics that they will use to measure their success against. Your job is to ensure you understand what they are.

The Value of Your On-Demand Content    

In your ROI calculations, it is imperative that you consider the impact of on-demand content. People behave differently online. Attendees register for events sometimes just to access the on-demand recordings. Some have no intention of attending live or may not be able to. But the on-demand content is invaluable to them. They can consume it in their own time. And that is important for many people.

Long after the event, on-demand content continues to display sponsor, exhibitor, and speaker involvement. It also brings event planners numerous opportunities. They can send it to prospective new buyers. They can re-purpose it to create blogs, webinars or hold discussions on social media. The opportunities are unlimited.

On-demand content always needs to be factored into your virtual event ROI calculation.

Conclusion – Review and Refine

How seriously you approach virtual event ROI will have an impact on the value of the data you receive. It’s incredibly useful for you to be able to make improvements for future editions and to keep delivering value to your stakeholders.

There is no denying that ROI is for many planners a tricky subject and each stakeholder has their own perspective. You need to provide the analytics for each. And do not forget to highlight the value of on-demand content to each stakeholder.

Technology updates and improvements are being made all the time. The way people consume content is changing and will continue to do so especially when we are post-pandemic. It is therefore critical that you also review and refine your approach to the capture and use of virtual event ROI. This will help with your hybrid event planning too!

Considering hybrid events?  Eventsforce offers a fully integrated technology platform that allows you to run virtual, hybrid and in-person events – from registration and agenda management to audience engagement tools, live streaming, networking, contactless check-in and event apps. Get in touch to learn more!