Finding the Hidden Values of Live Events


“A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.” – Oscar Wilde

When it comes to the investments made in your trade show, exhibition, or live activation, it is sometimes easy to become cynical. These budgets, after all, can seem a little daunting. Then, you are often asked to justify the budget by proving ROI (return on investment).

ROI is the golden ring, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, a four-leaf clover, and a unicorn. It is the goal of every event planner and trade show marketer. Yet, sometimes ROI is also an illusion, or, more accurately, a reflection – like reaching for a gold coin only to realize it was a reflection on the water.   

ROI deals in dollars and cents. Your budget is X, and as long as you earn X+, you have achieved ROI.

The problem with only looking at ROI is that it lacks nuance. There are so many beneficial aspects to a live event that boost brand awareness, generate social chatter, and improve your business’ overall image. These are all features that eventually add to a brand’s bottom line – because they earn consumer loyalty over the long term. However, their monetary value may not be immediately apparent at the event’s close. In other words, X may not instantaneously equal X+, but that does not indicate a lack of success.

Measuring these types of objectives is a concept is known as ROO (return on objectives). ROO is a measurement of goals that are not directly tied to sales. There is no mathematical formula for ROO. So, the objectives that you intend to measure with ROO need to be determined well before the event begins and have clearly defined benchmarks for success.

Once those are in place, it will be easier to illustrate how successful ROO develops into ROI.

Social Media

Social media is how people interact with your event long before it begins and even once it’s over. A strong social media presence can make the difference between a mediocre event and a successful one. You should see a significant uptick in social media traffic in the days leading to your event. If not, that’s an immediate sign that your efforts need to be redirected.


Determining the value of your social media efforts is all about identifying the correct objectives for your specific event.

Social Shares

Social media is one of the easiest ways to engage potential and confirmed attendees in a conversation. To ensure the dialogue around your brand continues, provide your audience with content that will be valuable to them. This can come in the form of articles, podcasts, videos, infographics, and more.

The volume of conversations that you create – and, especially, those that are created about your event – are a perfect indicator of the level of engagement. You will need to monitor the use of your event-specific hashtag in addition to how many of your posts are shared. This traffic can be observed using a social listening platform. You may also set your platform to track your event’s speakers or industry-specific keywords to discover conversations that would otherwise have flown under the radar. 

Social Referrals

This metric indicates the number of page views on your event website or app that came from social networks. The reason to track referrals is to understand where your audience spends their time and which social media channels have the biggest impact on your event.

To track social referrals, create a unique link to your event website for each social media platform (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Monitoring social referrals will let you know what channels are most effective for your specific audience so you can appropriately direct your social media spend.

Social Proof

This is one of the six principles Robert Cialdini lists in his book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” that are used to persuade people to make decisions. The theory is that people are swayed by the positive and negative opinions of a large group of people.

Specific to your event, social proof is any online reviews and chatter about your event. You’ll want to monitor online reviews because they can greatly influence attendance. A few negative reviews are seen as outliers. However, if they start to add up, it will make a difference.

One way to encourage positive social proof is to motivate attendees to refer your event to friends and colleagues. You can do this by creating what’s known as a referral campaign. Reach out to attendees through email or social media with a special offer (for example, a discount for the friend and some VIP swag for the current attendee) and a link to a specific landing page. While you may not be able to track the exact discussions that relate to the code (much of which will likely occur in person or over text messages), you will know exactly how many people visit the page and register.


Generating traffic to your event-specific site is incredibly important – especially since that’s the location of your registration page. However, your company’s home site should also see an increase in visitors during the run-up to your event and while it occurs.

You can take advantage of this increased traffic and nurture relationships with your visitors by learning about them as they visit your site. To accurately monitor this traffic, you will need to employ an analytics program. Many hosting platforms include analytics as part of their package. If not, there are a variety of third-party solutions.

Take a look at the pages that generate the most interest from visitors. By understanding the content that appeals to them, you can utilize similar content to encourage return visits.

Website metrics you can measure to help determine ROO are:

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A survey can quickly help you gauge the immediate impact of an event and discover areas for improvement. Old-school surveys remain an effective method for testing an attendee’s engagement. Of course, they are now delivered using very new-school technology.

Some survey question topics you should consider include:

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Additionally, a survey offers insights beyond the given answers. Most attendees understand the value of surveys, even if they are not thrilled about taking one. So, you can learn a lot about your guests by measuring how they interact with your survey. In addition to the number of completed surveys you receive, you can also measure open rate, time on page, and bounce rate. Not only will this help you determine general attendee engagement, but you can also discover when people are most likely to engage with your surveys.

Don’t let cynicism overtake how your company evaluates your live event efforts. By discovering the best metrics for your specific exposition, the true value of your program is reveled.