Virtual events have enjoyed phenomenal growth in demand and visibility. Notable brands and associations have hopped aboard the virtual bandwagon, delivering innovative experiences and impactful results. The first phase of the virtual event industry is what I call the “early dating period”. As the industry evolves and matures, we are moving from early dating to an era of “meet the parents”.
That is, a phase in which we receive increased visibility and a challenge to prove and justify ourselves. The parents, in our case, are the company executives who fund our virtual event campaigns (e.g. our bosses, our CFO, CMO, CEO, etc.). To date, virtual events used for lead generation have been the most effective at demonstrating ROI.
Why? Because lead generation has existing methodologies and metrics on ROI (e.g. “cost per lead”, “cost per inquiry”, “cost per sales engagement”, etc.). So a virtual trade show investment could simply “plug into” a corporation’s existing ROI methodology. For other event types, however, ROI, impact and effectiveness have not been explicitly measured to date.
To evolve our industry, it’s crucial that event planners, platform vendors and ROI experts work together to define and implement methodologies to generate quantitative results for our virtual and hybrid event investments.
Michael Doyle of the Virtual Edge Institute (@virtualedge) is a firm believer in event ROI measurement. The Virtual Edge Institute is “an international organization dedicated to advancing the development and adoption of virtual event and meeting technology and best practices for collaboration and marketing”. Doyle hosts the Virtual Edge Summit, an annual hybrid event that brings together virtual event practitioners, experts and solutions providers.
For the 2010 Virtual Edge Summit in Santa Clara, CA, Doyle partnered with ROI of Engagement to measure the impact and effectiveness of the event. The summit was a hybrid event, with on-site and virtual components running simultaneously. As such, Doyle sought to study and measure feedback from each attendee group.
The study was based on ROI Methodology™, which ROI of Engagement describes as “a step-by-step approach to collecting data, summarizing and processing data, isolating the effects of programs, converting data to monetary value and calculating ROI”. The methodology studies results along the following five levels:
- Level One: Reaction and Satisfaction
- Level Two: Learning and Understanding
- Level Three: Application
- Level Four: Impact
- Level Five: ROI
Virtual Edge Summit 2010 measured the first two levels. The results of the study have been published here:
On this page, you can download the White Paper, “Measuring and Maximizing the Impact of a Hybrid Event“.
Virtual Edge Summit 2011 is scheduled for January 2011 in Las Vegas and will be co-located with PCMA. Doyle plans to apply valuable feedback from the 2010 ROI study to improve the experience for the 2011 event.
Doyle is focusing on consolidating the virtual component on a single platform (in 2010, there were several virtual platforms to choose from) and increasing networking opportunities for both on-site and virtual attendees.
In addition, the 2011 event will embark upon another ROI study – this time, the study will take advantage of all five levels in the ROI Methodology™.
It’s a great time to be in the events industry. Never before has there been so many technology tools at your disposal (e.g. virtual event platforms and much more). For continued growth in virtual and hybrid events, the industry will need thorough and proven ROI methodologies to demonstrate and quantify ROI, impact and effectiveness. Event planners: look to the initiative from Virtual Edge Institute and ROI of Engagement and consider how similar methodologies apply to your next event.