Measuring the ROI of your virtual events

Any business venture needs to be measured for effectiveness, and virtual events are no exception.

October 14, 2021

- 3 min read

Virtual events became the standard practice in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they don’t seem to be fading to the sidelines any time soon. After all, virtual events offer added convenience for attendees, speakers, exhibitors, and other people involved in the event, while often costing less for the organization backing the event. What’s not to love? 

Still, any business venture needs to be measured for effectiveness, and virtual events are no exception. How do you calculate the ROI of your virtual event? 

Tips for tracking and calculating the ROI of your virtual event 

We all know the basic formula for ROI: total revenue growth divided by total costs. That holds true for a virtual event too, but there are several best practices to keep in mind as you’re tracking those details and making your calculations. 

Keep a detailed expense list

From the first step of planning your event, you need to be carefully tracking and detailing your expenses. We aren’t just talking about the obvious virtual event expenses like the streaming platform, speakers, and attendee giveaways. 

You also want to keep track of the less direct costs for the event, like the cost of the staff hours that you and your colleagues are spending planning and executing the event. Assuming you’re salaried staff members, your organization would be paying you that salary even without the event, but it’s time that isn’t spent on other revenue growth initiatives. 

Choose your measure of success

Expenses are one piece of the formula for ROI, and revenue is the other piece. But there are a few different ways to think about revenue from your event. 

You could choose to measure the ROI of purely the event itself, comparing the income from ticket sales and virtual exhibitor and sponsor fees to the event’s direct expenses. But in most cases, throwing an event is a gateway to other types of revenue growth too. 

For example, let’s say your organization is a professional association. On top of ticket sales, exhibitor fees, and sponsor fees, your event might spark revenue in the form of an increase in memberships. Or, you might have an online store where members can purchase shirts and other items from your organization, and the sales at your store could go up as a result of your event. 

Either way, choose what factors to include in measuring the success of your event and keep careful tabs on those numbers. 


Don’t be afraid to use multiple models 

Technically speaking, calculating a true ROI for your event should involve all the data you can pull together: direct and indirect costs, revenue from the event itself along with increased revenue through other purchases that are related to the event, and so on. Still, you can use different models to answer different questions, so don’t be afraid to use multiple ROI models for a more complete view of the event. 

For instance, you might have one ROI for the event itself that only compares the direct costs to the direct income from the event. You might have another “big picture” ROI that accounts for other revenue sources like membership increases and increased purchases.

Track metrics of success without immediate revenue gains too 

If you host a great event, not all of the revenue gains from that will immediately show up in the bank. Events are investments in your organization’s long-term growth as much as they are short-term revenue sources. 

For this reason, be sure that as you’re gathering data about the ROI from your event, you consider other metrics that don’t have a set dollar amount. Going back to the example of a professional organization, ask yourself these questions: 

  • Did your organization’s following increase on social media after the event because attendees and speakers were posting about the event? 

  • Did your member engagement increase because members who attended the event are now more invested in and involved with your organization than they previously were? 

  • Did your event result in high attendee satisfaction, indicating that many attendees are likely to return as paying attendees for future events? 

  • Did your organization’s website views increase around the time of the event, indicating that your public awareness has grown? 

You might not be able to attach a solid dollar value to any of these metrics, but they are important measures of your event’s success nonetheless. 


What to do with your virtual event ROI 

Now that you’ve measured the ROI for your virtual event, what’s next? How can you put it to good use? 

Chiefly, your ROI allows you to compare this virtual event to others you’ve held in the past and future events you’ll measure as they come up. These comparisons will help you see which types of events produce the best gains for your organization so you know what direction to steer for future events. 

If you’re looking for a way to land a better ROI for your next virtual event, the digital platform you choose could make a powerful difference. Learn more about Canapii’s virtual event platform and how it can optimize your profits. 

eleanor martin

Eleanor Martin

Co-Founder at Canapii

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