How to Measure the Success of an Association Event

Association events offer a unique opportunity to build momentum for your mission, connect with a wider audience, and facilitate networking and relationship-building that reinforce the value of membership. Measuring an event’s success, while important, can seem complicated since it likely includes both quantitative and qualitative aspects. Here are some considerations for your board or conference committee as you begin planning an event.

Define what ‘success’ means to your organization.

Association success varies based on the mission and vision of the group. A meaningful metric to one group might not carry the same weight for another. Determining what metrics tell your event’s success story may sound overwhelming, but you’ve likely already started! Your strategic plan is a great way to identify association priorities that can be used to evaluate your event. Often called Key Performance Indicators (or KPIs), these may include financial data, customer experience journeys or marketing efficacy. This Investopedia article includes some great examples of using data to tell your story.

Based on your event’s purpose, including stakeholder perspectives other than the board and staff, it is important to develop a multi-dimensional view of what success means. While it’s impossible to plan an event that pleases everyone, if your event is designed to introduce young professionals to the industry, their input matters. Likewise, if your event’s purpose is to connect your members to business solutions, feedback from previous participants can provide valuable insight on what they’re looking for from the experience and what would compel them to return.

Determine what will be measured – and how.

It is crucial to determine your event goals and the metrics you’ll use to measure them before the event communication cycle begins, especially if your metrics involve marketing engagement. Advance planning allows staff and volunteers to include the metrics every step of the way, whether they involve marketing, registration or the on-site experience. Looking for inspiration? Download our free event marketing plan here. Designing with the outcome in mind will improve the accuracy of your data, making it more actionable and increase your confidence in sharing it with stakeholders.

While it can be tempting to keep adding new metrics to your event dashboard, remember that more isn’t always better. Consistently measuring the same metrics for the duration of your strategic plan shows commitment to those values and highlights progress toward their achievement.

Distribute your results (even if you didn’t meet all your goals).

Your event checklist should include time post-event to summarize and share your results.  Reviewing the data, at minimum with the board and conference committee, provides an opportunity for open dialogue in areas that need improvement, share successes in areas you exceeded and to tell your event and association story through a post-event report or summary video. Even if you didn’t meet all your goals, sharing this data will demonstrate your integrity and can be a call to volunteers who have the drive and skills to make the next event a triumph!

Picture of Natalie Shryock, CMP

Natalie Shryock, CMP

Natalie joined the RGI team in 2016, quickly finding her place in association management with event coordination, member coordination and data management. She has earned a Credentialing Specialist Certificate from the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, achieved a Level 1 Certificate in Event Design from the Event Design Collective and received her Certified Meeting Professional designation in January of 2022.