How to evaluate an event is one of the most common, but misunderstood areas, of event planning so I’ve prepared some essential advice on how to successfully evaluate your corporate events.

So, it’s all over…the day was a great success…everything ran to time, the speakers all turned up and delivered their presentations, there was a good turn out from the participants, there were plentiful refreshments and the event team can now breathe a sigh of relief and move onto the next project.

But is that really it?

Why you need to learn how to evaluate an event

Measuring and evaluating the success of an event is essential if you want to determine whether all the effort was worth it. The hosting organisation, sponsors and contributors, and delegates all need to justify their time and financial investment, especially if it’s important to build a longer-term relationship with your participants for future engagement.

More importantly, it provides an opportunity to review what didn’t work, as well as what did work – critical if you want to avoid becoming complacent about events that are repeated regularly in their format and style.

If you can measure it, you can improve it.

Event evaluation is one of the most challenging, yet important tasks, an event organiser needs to undertake.

What exactly am I measuring?

There’s one overarching, highly important decision all event organisers need to consider at the early planning stages…when we say “let’s evaluate this event” are we looking to capture data from the point of view of the event planning and delivery, and measuring the organisational success? Or are we wanting to measure participant satisfaction?

A truly comprehensive evaluation would measure ALL aspects of the event from the early planning stages right through to understanding what determines high audience satisfaction. It’s rare that any occasion is a stand-alone, one-off affair. So plan ahead, and use all the data you can to invest into future event successes.

Event evaluation – aims and objectives

The evaluation process starts in early planning stages and the key is to set clear, transparent, and very specific aims and objectives (A&Os) for all areas of “why are we doing this? And how are we going to do it?” Once these are set, you’ll find that all of them can be assessed and monitored in some concrete way and used to subsequently determine whether each is a measureable indicator of success.

Having clear A&Os also helps keep the event team focused through the planning and delivery process on what you’re all trying to achieve. Printing out a sheet of paper the day before an event asking participants to rate the venue, food and speakers, won’t give you any particularly meaningful or high-level insights!

Some of your A&Os will be quantitative…

Example 1 – measuring audience attendance
If your event is an open event for paying delegates, you should define at the beginning how many final bums on seats you want on the day. From there, you’ll be able to set out an appropriate marketing and communications campaign to achieve your final booked numbers.

Example 2 – evaluating the budget
If you want to ensure your event makes a profit or, at least breaks even, you know that you will need to set a clearly detailed projected expenditure and income plan at the beginning and review and monitor it ongoingly to ensure the final bottom line meets your expectations.

…and some of them will be qualitative…

Example 3 – understanding participants objectives for the day
Delegates book to attend an event for all sorts of reasons…there may be a specific session they want to be part of, a particular speaker they’re interested in, to network with other colleagues in the sector or to understand more about the aims of the host company. You will need to devise a method for capturing those reasons and then being able to evaluate them to understand your audience in a meaningful way.

Example 4 – measuring the most popular sessions
If you want to see which presentations had the most impact on your audience you will need to ask them in a user-friendly way about their preferences and understand how to interpret the responses into something meaningful.

What else can I measure?

Surprisingly, you can break your event down into hundreds of measurable parts! Everything from “did the lunch get served on time?” to “were delegates registered immediately on arrival?” The depth of detail you want to measure will be determined by how important all these measurements are to the planning of future events.

How long should an event evaluation take?

It’s important not to rush the final evaluation process. Scheduling a meeting a week or so after the event will allow for participant and contributor feedback to be collated and analysed. Make sure you allow a substantial amount of time for the meeting…anything from 2-4 hours depending on the scale of the event. You may even need a full day if the event was a complex multi-day project, with exhibitions, seminars, workshops, tours, or other elements beyond the realm of a simple linear, one-day affair.

Remember, evaluating events may seem unnecessary especially if a project has gone really well, but the evaluation process is essential to ensuring all future events are needed and wanted, planned appropriately and delivered successfully.


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