In the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, countless events, trade shows, conferences, job fairs, training sessions, certification courses, workshops, classes, and employee gatherings have had to be rescheduled and/or move their locations to virtual or hybrid (combined virtual and in-person) venues in order to accommodate attendees.
Hybrid and virtual events have multiplied as organizations have struggled to comply with government restrictions and advisories on gatherings and meetings. While virtual and hybrid events are much more common now than before the pandemic began, what’s less acknowledged is that there are ways to not just host these events, but to measure their reception. Are people really happy with an often-improvised hybrid event solution, or with virtual venues?
Because the virtual component of these events is both online and readily accessed, there are fairly straightforward ways to quantify the success of these solutions. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are convenient, go-to data event metrics that can be used to measure this success.
There are at least a dozen KPIs for measuring event satisfaction that we’ll examine here; many of these are easily accessible, depending on which company an organization works with to set up their virtual trade show, virtual conference or other type of virtual or hybrid event. Getting a hold of these event success KPIs is a must for anyone wishing to gauge how well a virtual environment has been received.
The number of registrants for an event will usually give an organizer or planner a good idea of how many people were interested in it in the first place. Even if the event doesn’t end up taking place, this number can be used to measure interest, get an idea of market trends, and take the pulse of a field or community of people. Registration data can be used to assess characteristics like popularity, broken down by age, occupation and industry.
With virtual or hybrid events, registration numbers may be comparable to those of real-world/physical events, as the process of registering is typically quick and painless; cost may still be a factor, with free registration almost always leading to higher numbers than ticketing for events that require payment, monetary exchange or a purchase redemption.
The number of people who register for an event nearly always differs from the number of people who attend. Attendees can be fewer or greater, depending on how popular the event is, how restrictive or cumbersome the registration process may be and how stringent the entry policy and controls are (i.e., if entry is strictly limited to those who have registered, or if non-registrants are allowed to enter, etc.).
With virtual and hybrid events, these are excellent numbers to look at (and if possible, break down by demographic, psychographic or behavioral groups), as they may signal how many people are eager or willing to engage with virtual event software.
If there’s a big difference between the number of registrants and the number of attendees of a virtual or hybrid event, this may indicate a lack of motivation on the part of registrants to participate virtually — or it may indicate that the virtual medium itself may present an obstacle.
If this number is large, you should take additional action to find out why. Survey responses (see below) may help you to ascertain reasons; sometimes an unexpected factor can be at fault, such as unrelated developments or ill-timed scheduling (i.e., which days the event is held on and/or what time of day it takes place).
Measuring how many attendees there were is one of the key metrics for events, but getting beyond how many people attended, more in-depth questions to ask are how long did attendees stay, explore and interact for? These numbers — more than just simple attendance numbers — can tell planners and organizers how much interest there was in the content, speakers, sessions, booths, etc. being presented.
A virtual event platform can not only measure how long an attendee was present at a hybrid or virtual event; it can also track how far that attendee explored the venue (or venues) on offer. Did they move from area to area, interacting with exhibitors and other visitors, or did they just watch one session or speaker, and then leave? The further an attendee explores, the more likely that person was satisfied by the virtual experience and interested in what was being presented.
When people attended your virtual or hybrid event, did they network with other attendees? If so, how many people did they interact or share data with? Were these interactions scheduled or planned, or were they organic? For some people, networking is a primary reason to attend an event; how many attendees network can, in many respects, be a good indicator of how successful a hybrid or virtual event is.
If a hybrid or virtual event (such as a conference or trade show) had breakout sessions, what were the attendance numbers like? How many people watched speakers give their presentations? Were some more popular than others? If so, try to think about why; did it have to do with the fame or following of certain speakers, or was the length of presentations and/or scheduling also a factor?
Did people leave comments or feedback for virtual speakers or for particular presentations? How many comments were left? How many were positive, and how many were negative? Who was the most popular speaker, or what was the most popular presentation?
If your event was a virtual or hybrid trade show, how many booths did attendees visit? How long did attendees stay at each booth? Which booths were the most popular? Can you ascertain the reasons why?
With a virtual or hybrid trade show, how many attendees interacted with the exhibitors who had booths? What were the interaction numbers like? Did people simply ask for more information, or did real, valuable conversations take place?
For hybrid events, what was the percentage of those attending the virtual elements who also attended the physical portions? Were there significant numbers of people who attended virtually but not physically (or vice-versa)? If so, is it possible to determine the reasons for this?
When a virtual or hybrid event is over, attendees are often asked to complete a survey to gauge event satisfaction/interests. You can look at the number of surveys completed, but some of the survey questions may also be open-ended, so detailed responses can vary widely. Take a look at how many survey responses there were. Were there overall reactions or feedback that were similar among attendees?
The above KPIs can give you real insights into the popularity and attendee satisfaction of hybrid and virtual events. You should be able to use this data to improve your next virtual or hybrid event and make it even more successful, building on what worked well previously. Don’t be too discouraged if certain numbers are low; people are still getting used to the concept of hybrid and virtual events; the industry is still in its early stages, and the future will continue to get brighter as time goes on!