Your event program is more than the list of events you host or attend throughout the year. It is a campaign, or group of campaigns, that should be designed with a clear end in mind, an overarching strategy, and a detailed plan for how results will be measured and achieved. Successfully managing an event program demands the ability to assess the effectiveness of each element of the program and adjust the strategy and plan accordingly.
An event program will include multiple events (often multiple types of events) in multiple locations all happening at various times. And different campaigns may have different objectives. For instance, if you’re designing an event program for a product launch you might deliver a series of webinars that lead up to a soft launch at an industry conference where you might have a booth and also have one of your founders delivering a presentation, followed by a full launch at an event you host specifically for the purpose of unveiling the product.
While that might seem quite different from a campaign for fundraising, or an author’s speaking tour, or a series of training presentations, each of these programs have the same components, and the same requirements to maximize their effectiveness.
Here are three key questions an Event Program Manager must be able to answer:
How Do You Define Success and How Will You Measure it?
Any event program or campaign must have an objective. At the highest level that might be defined as brand awareness, new business, increased funding, or improved comprehension of subject matter. But you don’t really know if you’re achieving those objectives without meaningful data.
Calculating, or even estimating, your return on investment for your entire program or any individual event is only possible when you know what specific data points indicate quantifiable success and you’re able to collect and compare that data across multiple events. We broke all that down in this article about how we calculate okapi ROI™.
What Variables Do You Control and How Will You Know When You’ve Got a Winning Combo?
Especially when your event program includes a large number of events that are organized and hosted by someone else such as conferences or trade shows, it’s tempting to despair over the long list of things you can’t control. But even in someone else’s environment there are a lot of variables you do control such as the presentation material, the collateral, samples, or demos given, the field reps or brand ambassadors working the event, the instructors teaching the material, and so on.
It would be easy to look at each event as an isolated case and only assess whether or not that event achieved the success goals set. That binary “do it again or abandon ship” approach can easily result in lost opportunities. In addition, you’re often making that assessment based on subjective or irrelevant information – how people “seemed” to be responding, how many “leads” were collected, how many people the event organizers report attended the event and the general demographics of the event attendees. So even that binary decision might well be skewed if you aren’t taking control of collecting your own data.
If you were able to be very specific and accurate in answering the first question you’ve already determined the data that is relevant to your success metrics. To achieve that winning combination of variables you need to be able to compare those data points across multiple events, allowing you to draw accurate conclusions about what audiences respond to what collateral or what field reps have the highest success with what demographics or what instructors or presenters are students most likely to engage with and learn from.
Once you have that comparative analysis you can begin to adjust your event programs accordingly. Which leads us to question number three.
How Quickly Can You Pivot and How Will You Make the Decision to do it?
Knowledge is power. In this case, data analysis should give you the power to adjust your event tactics, not at the end of the year or the quarter, but before your next event. If you’re using okapi, you can have those insights quickly enough to adjust your tactics before the next day of the event.
If your event program strategy has clearly defined success factors and you have already evaluated the different variables across multiple events, then you have the ability to adjust your tactics quickly and effectively according to audience response. Basing your decisions on real data takes the guesswork and subjectivity out of the equation and allows you to continually pivot as needed to optimize results.
While “Event Manager” is reported to be the fifth most stressful job in the world, when we built okapi we discovered that there was no category for Event Program Management Software because there was no software solution that was designed to help you answer those three questions. Crazy, right? So we decided it was high time someone created one.
These three questions were our guiding principles in our decision-making about everything from software architecture to survey design to our client dashboard. The organization of surveys and event recaps into master questions that allow you to roll up data from every event in your program, coupled with event or location specific surveys, make detailed comparative analysis possible. Staff scheduling and tracking allows you to factor in variables about who was working any event at any specific time. And user defined fields and descriptions allow you to design the way data is collected and collated to match the decisions you will need to make based on the data analysis. If a solution that makes all that possible is hard for you to imagine we’d love to give you a tour, or let you take it for a 30 day test run.
You can’t spell okapi without KPI…let us help you measure yours!