June 11, 2024
By Mike Fletcher

Events are a significant investment. According to the IPA's quarterly Bellwether report, which tracks where marketing budgets are going, spending on events has been going up since 2022.  In the first quarter of 2024, spending on events rose by 23.1%, and there’s no sign of it slowing down anytime soon.

But with higher spend comes more pressure to show results. The big question: How do you measure an event’s impact and prove its worth?

The answer: by demonstrating event ROI.

In this article, we’ll look in detail at event ROI, the different ways to calculate it and the technology you can use to get a more accurate picture of your event’s success. 

What is event ROI?

Event ROI (return on investment) is about figuring out what you get back from the money, time and resources you put into your event. 

It is most commonly measured as net income divided by the cost of the investment:

ROI = Net income / Cost of investment

This works well for events that generate revenue through ticket sales or paid sponsorships. But let’s not forget that events can bring many other potential benefits which aren’t directly related to driving revenue. Calculating event ROI can be tricky due to the different variables involved. 

Consider these alternative benefits and how you would measure their impact:

  • Lead generation: New potential customers or clients identified during your event
  • Pipeline value: Potential business deals that arise as a result of your event
  • Partnerships: Collaborations that can offset event costs or result in future benefits for your business or wider portfolio of events
  • Attendee growth: Increased registrations and how many convert into actual visitors
  • Brand awareness: Greater reach and enhanced influence driven by positive audience sentiment
  • Media exposure: PR coverage and word-of-mouth generated by social media and press mentions
  • Content generation: Year-round marketing assets generated by event content and edited into bite-sized promo videos, brand testimonials, or image galleries

💡 Top Tip: Determine the main benefit of your event and choose specific and measurable objectives to help you achieve your purpose. Choose KPIs that align with your goals, such as leads generated, sales revenue, attendee satisfaction, or increased website traffic. 

Don’t forget to weigh all the benefits against the costs of staging your events. These include:

  • Flights and travel: Transport costs for organisers, speakers, staff and VIPs
  • Accommodation: Hotel bookings for organisers, speakers, staff and VIPs
  • Food & Beverage: Catering expenses
  • Venue hire: Room hire, day-delegate rates
  • Suppliers: AV and production, event technology, security, staffing, speaker agencies etc
  • Attendee experiences: After-parties, networking receptions, destination tours, ice-breaker meet-ups etc.
  • Indirect expenses: Salary and overhead expenses associated with programme development, planning and support. 
  • Opportunity costs: A theoretical expense, based on what in-house resources you require and their contribution to the organisation if they weren’t working on your event. 

Event ROI should be calculated with all these variables in mind. Read on to discover how.

💡 Top Tip: Use budget management software to track your spending and generate reports instead of wrestling with spreadsheets.

Why should I measure event ROI?

Measuring event ROI drives growth, investment, transparency and continual optimisation. 

It helps to answer key questions such as:

  • Should you continue to run this event?
  • Should you increase or decrease investment?
  • How does this event compare with the other events you run?
  • How do events compare to other marketing channels?
  • How can you set goals that will improve your ROI?

Event ROI also helps to:

  1. Quantify value and impact: Hard metrics justify the investment and resources needed to stage events.
  2. Drive strategy: Analysing ROI shows what’s working well and where there’s room for improvement. This data-driven insight fuels decision-making.
  3. Strengthen stakeholder buy-in: Helps in stakeholder reporting and provides concrete ROI metrics to ensure leadership support for future events.
  4. Focus budget: Tracking ROI helps allocate budgets wisely to optimise results, aligning spend to high-ROI activities.
  5. Benchmark: Comparing ROI event-over-event spotlights trends and progress. Benchmarks help set goals and manage growth.
  6. Maximise future success: Evaluating ROI creates opportunities to iterate and improve. Your learnings pave the way for better ROI on future events.
  7. Build transparency: ROI analysis communicates an event’s financial health and benefits to stakeholders. This demonstrates accountability.

Event goals, ROI metrics, and data tracking tools

Successfully evaluating event ROI requires connecting benefits (event goals) to data. 

The key is choosing the best metrics to measure your goals and using the right event technology to track them. 

Below are examples of measurable event goals, relevant ROI metrics (event performance indicators), and suggested tracking methods.

💡 Top Tip: Remember, metrics are numbers you use to track how well you're doing with specific goals. Each KPI (event performance indicator) is a metric that helps you see how you're doing with your event.

How do I measure event ROI?

In its most basic form, profit can be determined using this formula:

Profit = Net income - Net cost

However, the ROI for an event is determined by:

ROI = Net value / Net cost (and then times by 100 to get a percentage)

Remember, ‘Net value’ considers all the benefits of your event, not just direct revenue. ’Net cost’ refers to all expenses associated with your event, not just direct capital cost. 

A new formula could look like this:


There are several models for calculating event ROI, each with varying complexity. The right approach depends on your goals, resources, and data availability.

6 models to help you measure event ROI

1. Return/Investment Model

  • Formula: ROI = Event revenue / Event expenses
  • Pros: Straightforward and easy to understand
  • Cons: It might oversimplify by emphasising revenue without reflecting actual profit
  • Best for: Quick event insights and basic evaluations

2. Incremental Revenue Model

  • Formula: ROI = Event revenue – Event expenses / Event expenses
  • Pros: Offers a better perspective by focusing on profit over costs
  • Cons: Doesn't factor in the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)
  • Best for: Businesses looking for a balance between depth and simplicity

3. Incremental Margin Model

  • Formula: ROI = Gross margin – Event expenses / Event expenses
  • Pros: Provides a comprehensive view by considering gross margins
  • Cons: Determining COGS can be challenging
  • Best for: Detailed financial analysis

4. Multi-Touch Attribution

  • Application: Assigns value to multiple event touchpoints a participant engages with
  • Pros: Precise attribution of revenue to specific event activities
  • Cons: Complexity in tracking every touchpoint
  • Best for: Lead nurturing or sales-oriented events

5. Lifetime Value (CLTV) Integration

  • Application: Measures projected revenue from attendees over the long term
  • Pros: Provides a long-term view of an event's impact
  • Cons: Assumes long-term engagement post-event
  • Best for: Events targeting long-term customer engagement

6. Intangible ROI Metrics

  • Application: Focus on non-monetary benefits like brand sentiment, reach, or market positioning
  • Pros: Recognises broader impacts beyond direct revenue
  • Cons: It is harder to quantify and translate into actionable insights
  • Best for: Events prioritising brand, loyalty, or knowledge goals

💡 Top Tip: ROI is expressed as a percentage, so after you’ve divided your assigned values, remember to times by 100 to get your percentage figure. 

How to use event technology to measure event ROI

Event ROI Session Data Tracking Cvent CONNECT 2023

You can’t begin to measure ROI without having the right data at your fingertips. And you can’t capture data without having the right technology. 

The right technology will help you prove event performance indicators by capturing data, such as audience engagement, registration conversions, and attendee satisfaction scores. 

The tech you need to measure event ROI

Event registration

Capturing data to prove your event ROI starts at registration. Knowing key information about your audience such as their job titles, the organisations they work at, and the sessions and social events that interest them will help you show stakeholders that you’re attracting the right people and your agenda has strong appeal. 

Mobile event app

Mobile event apps provide valuable data you can use to show engagement metrics, such as how your audience interacts with your content. 

You can analyse how engaged audiences were in different sessions by looking at the range and quality of questions asked via the app or how many people completed polls. You can also see session survey feedback and other data points, such as the number of meetings arranged through the app. 

Appointment scheduling tools

The number of meetings organised via appointment scheduling tools can help to show whether you have the right mix of buyers and sellers and how valued your event is as a marketplace or meet-up. You can also use scheduling technology to gauge the popularity of available workshops or group sessions. 

Onsite check-in technology

Knowing which registrants came to your event and printed off their badges via onsite check-in technologywill give you a conversion rate. This success metric will also help you understand if enough is being done to communicate with registrants during the lead-up to your event. 

Check-in or session tracking technology can also be used at the entrance to individual sessions. This will show stakeholders how popular certain parts of your programme are compared with other parts. 

Lead retrieval tools

If the success of your event is measured by how many leads were captured, followed up and converted, lead retrieval technology is a must-have. It lets you capture new leads by scanning a name badge or business card. You can then import leads directly into your CRM system, providing the information required for sales to follow up post-event.

Likewise, if you're attending a trade show or other external event where the number of leads is an important metric, you'll also want the right tool in place. 

An app like Cvent | iCapture lets you standardise the lead capture process, qualify leads, and sync contacts to your CRM or marketing automation system in real-time. This allows you to track the impact of your attendance more easily.

Feedback survey solutions

Post-event surveys are essential for providing feedback, testimonials and attendee satisfaction levels. They help you capture your Net Promoter Score, the likes and dislikes regarding your sessions and content, and help complete the attendee profile.

The role of integrations and event ROI

More accessible audience insights result in better targeting, increased leads and ROI. 

But with so many available tools providing the data required to calculate event ROI, keeping track can be overwhelming. So, it’s essential to able to share data between systems so that you have one unified view. 

This is where integrations come in.

With the right integrations in place, data moves from disjointed silos to a single source of truth that fuels more personalised and revenue-driving event marketing campaigns. 

By connecting event attendee and engagement data to existing pipeline and revenue metrics, you can achieve greater visibility into how your events contribute to customer acquisition, retention, growth and other event performance indicators over the long term. 

Read More: MarTech + Event Tech: How to Get More from Your Events

Understanding the true value of events

With events commanding an increasing share of overall marketing budgets, measuring ROI is critical to quantifying impact and maximising value. 

By setting clear goals, employing the right metrics, and leveraging cutting-edge event technology, you’ll ensure every event resonates with its audience and delivers quantifiable value to your stakeholders.

To delve deeper into understanding event ROI and how to measure it, download our Essential Guide to Event ROI.

Mike Fletcher

Mike Fletcher

Mike has been writing about the meetings and events industry for almost 20 years as a former editor at Haymarket Media Group, and then as a freelance writer and editor. He currently runs his own content agency, Slippy Media, catering for a wide-range of client requirements, including social strategy, long-form, event photography, event videography, reports, blogs and ghost-written material.

cvent essential guide
cvent essential guide
Essential Guide to Event ROI
Learn how to measure and prove the ROI of your events

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