During this time, when virtual events have taken center stage, event professionals are starting to assess the impact of this change on their business and marketing opportunities. From the feedback I've received so far, virtual events have attracted larger audiences, but these audiences have been reluctant to engage with the content and each other. Also, while some virtual events require a lower investment than physical events, their impact on the pipeline, and ROI, appears limited – at least in the short term.
One of the many challenges that brands have faced with the implementation of virtual events has been the difficulty of assessing the event's purpose and role for their customers. It has also been challenging to understand virtual event performance, which makes it challenging to optimize future virtual events. To help my fellow event and digital marketers navigate this challenge, I offer the following thoughts:
1. Create an Experience Based on Objectives: Just like physical events, there has to be a purpose and goal for each virtual event. Is the goal to increase awareness? Generate demand? Educate your customers? Engage with your partners? Motivate your salesforce?
You'd be surprised how many companies host virtual events with an objective, and then design an experience that goes directly against this objective. Make sure you don't make this mistake. If you want to generate community and collaboration with your virtual event, create sessions that encourage content sharing/two-way conversation, and select a platform that enables peer-to-peer chat and Q&A.
2. Measure Against Your Objectives: Once you've established your event objective, measure specifically against that objective. You may have to utilize different metrics than you use for live events, but the good news is that virtual events have plenty of easily trackable data areas (see #3 below).
For example, if increasing awareness is your goal, there are two approaches.
A. You can count the number of registrants and participants and use this as a proxy for impressions.
B. You can survey your audience and ask them what they've learned as a result of the experiences. The survey questions about specific content will create a more accurate view of increased awareness.
3. Determine Success: Once you understand your level of success with measuring against objectives, look toward what worked and what didn't. This information is what will help you optimize your programs moving forward. There are various quantitative web metrics and qualitative survey metrics you can review to understand your virtual event's performance. Look at things like social sharing and sentiment around content, session attendance and time spent, and collaborations like questions asked and engagement between specific audiences. Surveys that ask pointed questions about content relevance and the value of community can also be beneficial.
4. Focus on Outcomes over Outputs: Sure, you can analyze just about any data, but I suggest you focus on what matters. Ultimately, did the audience do what you wanted them to do during and after the event? Did you sell more? Did attendees sign up for the next step in the conversation? You may need to look at measuring tactics outside of the virtual event to understand the event's real impact. Remember, the virtual event is a point in time; a customer relationship is a point over time.
5. Use Measurement for Change: If you are not going to use the results of your measurement program to change anything about your virtual events moving forward, then why measure?Ensure you're going beyond vanity metrics to ensure your work is making a demonstrable impact on your business.
Hundreds of sites can help you understand the different digital metrics and what they mean or explore best practices in survey design. What's important is to start with the basics. Otherwise, you may find yourself with analysis paralysis at the end of the engagement. If you need help with understanding best practices or what you should be measuring, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by clicking the "Email Me" button below.