How Do I Prove ROI From My In-Person Event?


Ashley Levesque


At Banzai, we help organize thousands of events every month, and most of the marketers we talk to recognize the potential of in-person events. 

However, a common trend we've seen among marketers lately is how difficult it is to prove the ROI of in-person events. The most common problems we hear are:

  • It’s hard to measure in-person events’ engagement metrics.
  • It’s hard to get impulse purchases during in-person events, and almost every sale happens post-event, making the sales cycle particularly longer.
  • In-person events’ success lies in external factors that we as marketers and organizers don’t control as much: networking.
  • And many other reasons.

If you are struggling with any of the above, don’t look further. In this guide, we'll share our tips and tricks. We'll show you easy ways to prove that in-person events are worth the investment. You'll learn how to:

  • Measure the success of your events
  • Show the benefits of in-person meetings
  • Explain why these events are important for your bosses

Note: Struggling to get the most out of your in-person events? Download our Event Planning Workbook and learn how to boost your in-person event’s ROI.

Start with the single most important ROI driver for in-person events: the target audience

Hosting an in-person event requires a lot of investment in terms of venue, logistics, travel, and other associated costs. Filling seats is important, but the true value lies in attracting and engaging with highly qualified prospects who will convert into customers.

From our experience, the most common mistake marketers make when it comes to sourcing their in-person events’ attendees is just relying on demographics (i.e., millennials living in the Los Angeles radius, working at a tech company with 60 employees or more, are managers, and have a $80,000 salary.).

While this approach works, it just doesn't offer the level of detail and customization you need to get the best return on your investment of time and effort. 

However, when you go one step further in your targeting by including technographic data and signals, you have the leverage to offer very unique and personalized content to your audience while also getting the leverage to personalize the post-event email sequences to boost conversions.

Technographic data provides insights into the specific technologies, tools, and processes your potential customers use. It allows you to target individuals who are genuinely interested in your offerings and have a higher propensity to engage. 

For example, if you're a marketing automation platform, technographic data would reveal which companies are using competing solutions like Pardot, HubSpot, or Marketo. 

This information can then be combined with intent signals like job postings for marketing roles, funding rounds, or website activity, to identify companies seeking new solutions and likely to be receptive to your message.

By targeting attendees based on their technology stack and buying signals, you can create a highly personalized event experience that resonates with their specific needs and challenges. 

This level of personalization not only increases the likelihood of attracting the right attendees but also sets the stage for more meaningful interactions and higher conversion rates.

ThoughtSpot has successfully leveraged this approach. The company helps businesses uncover insights from data, so they recognized the importance of targeted audience acquisition for their in-person events.

So, instead of relying solely on their existing database, they partnered with Reach, our event registration solution, to conduct targeted phone and email outreach to brand-new contacts that matched their desired event audience profiles.

By focusing on their primary buyers, such as Chief Data Officers, Chief Analytics Officers, and executives responsible for data and analytics within their organizations, ThoughtSpot was able to identify and attract the right decision-makers.

This strategic approach paid off, as they generated over 400 registrations and boosted registration rates by up to 75%, ultimately leading to $1 million in pipeline generation.

The ThoughtSpot example highlights the significance of leveraging technographic data and targeted outreach to attract the most relevant attendees to in-person events.

By investing time and resources into understanding their ideal customer profile (ICP) and aligning their event strategy accordingly, ThoughtSpot was able to maximize the ROI potential of their in-person events.

Pro Tip: Start by clearly articulating your ICP, considering factors such as industry, company size, pain points, current technology stack, and buying behaviors.

Use this profile to segment your existing database and identify potential new prospects that fit the criteria.

Once you've established your target audience, develop a multi-channel outreach strategy that combines personalized email campaigns, social media advertising, and direct outreach efforts.

Leverage technographic data and intent signals to craft compelling messaging that resonates with your prospect's specific needs and challenges.

Six ways to prove your in-person event ROI

Here are the top six ways to justify the value of in-person events to your leadership.

Cross-check how many of the overall attendees are part of your ICP and determine the “Qualified Attendees Rate”

One way to prove to your stakeholders the value of in-person events is to cross-check the registered attendees against your predefined ideal customer profile (ICP).

This process allows you to quantify the effectiveness of your audience targeting efforts and demonstrate the event’s potential for meaningful engagement and conversions.

The process involves:

  1. Defining your ICP thoroughly, considering factors such as industry, company size, job roles, technology stack, and specific pain points or challenges.

    For example, if your goal is to attract data-driven professionals in the healthcare industry for a data analytics event, your ICP might include Chief Data Officers, Data Scientists, and IT Managers at mid-to-large hospitals and healthcare organizations using electronic health record (EHR) systems.

  2. Systematically reviewing each attendee's profile, including their job title, company information, industry, and any additional technographic data available.

    This allows you to determine how closely aligned they are with the characteristics and criteria outlined in your ICP.

Once you've reviewed all attendee profiles, calculate the percentage of qualified attendees relative to the total number of registered attendees.

This metric is known as the Qualified Attendees Rate (QAR), and it provides a quantitative measure of how successfully you attracted your ideal audience.

The formula for calculating QAR is:

QAR = (Number of Qualified Attendees / Total Number of Attendees) x 100

For example, if your data analytics event attracted 5,000 attendees and after cross-checking against your ICP, you identified 897 attendees as qualified (meeting the criteria for data-driven healthcare professionals), your QAR would be:

QAR = (897 / 5,000) x 100 = 17.94%

A high QAR indicates that your targeting strategies were effective, and it increases the likelihood of meaningful engagement and potential conversions. 

Conversely, a low QAR means you need to refine your audience definition, data sources, or outreach strategies for future events.

It's essential to track and analyze the QAR across multiple events, comparing it with other metrics such as lead generation, pipeline contribution, and closed revenue. 

A high QAR combined with a strong performance in these areas reinforces the value of attracting the right attendees and the potential for increased ROI from your in-person event strategy.

                                                                            Pro Tips

When defining your ICP, adopt a tiered approach rather than sticking to a single profile. Tier 1 can represent the most qualified prospects, Tier 2 can be decent quality leads, and Tier 3 can be those who qualify but need more nurturing. 

This tiered ICP approach helps set realistic expectations for each tier's potential and aligns them with the appropriate stages of the sales journey. 

For example, Tier 1 attendees can be mapped to late-stage opportunities, while Tier 3 attendees may require more top-of-funnel nurturing. 

By tracking the QAR for each tier, you can thoroughly prove ROI by demonstrating the event's impact across various stages of the sales cycle.

Measure eyeball to demo rate

While attracting the right attendees is important, the true value of an in-person event lies in its ability to drive tangible business outcomes.

One key metric to track is the Eyeball to Demo Rate. It measures how effectively you converted event attendees into product demo requests or sales opportunities.

To calculate this rate, you'll need to closely monitor and record the number of attendees who express interest in scheduling a demo or receiving a personalized consultation following the event. 

This could involve capturing leads through event app integrations, booth interactions, or post-event follow-up campaigns.

Once you have the total number of demo requests, divide it by the number of qualified attendees (based on your ICP cross-check) to determine the Eyeball to Demo Rate.

Eyeball to Demo Rate = (Number of Demo Requests / Number of Qualified Attendees) x 100

For example, if you had 500 total attendees, of which 200 were classified as qualified attendees based on your ICP, and 50 of those qualified attendees requested a demo, your Eyeball to Demo Rate for the qualified audience would be 25% (50 / 200 x 100). 

Also, you could calculate the overall Eyeball to Demo Rate for all attendees, which would be 10% (50 / 500 x 100) in this case. 

The higher rate for qualified attendees underscores the importance of leaning on a targeted audience to drive conversions and pipeline generation.

It’s important to calculate EDR not just for your overall attendance but also segmented by your tiered ICP groups. This allows you to pinpoint which audience segments are most engaged and likely to convert.

For example, let's say you hosted a cybersecurity event and had the following ICP tiers: Tier 1 - CISOs and IT security leaders at enterprises Tier 2 - IT managers and network admins at mid-market companies Tier 3 - Small business owners looking to improve security

By tracking the EDR for each tier, you may find that Tier 1 had an EDR of 40%, indicating high interest, while Tier 3 had only 10%. This data shows that your highest-value prospects were very engaged, but you may need to revisit your messaging and value prop for smaller companies.

Of course, not every lead will request a demo right after the event. Some may convert on the spot through conversations with sales reps, but many will require nurturing through targeted email campaigns, educational content, and promotions. The EDR simply captures those with the highest initial intent.

To maximize conversions, you'll need to closely monitor the status of each lead and opportunity generated. 

Having an integrated CRM and marketing automation system is essential for tracking every touchpoint and understanding the full conversion path from the event.

Pro Tips 

Depending on which ICP tier a lead falls into, the typical sales cycle can vary significantly. Your Tier 1 prospects may have a 6-9 month buying process, while Tier 3 could be 1-3 months. 

By measuring EDR, demo requests, opportunities created, and closed/won rates for each tier, you can benchmark the typical number of touchpoints and timelines required for conversion.

If this is your first event, these benchmarks will become invaluable for future planning. If you know your Tier 2 prospects typically take 4 months and 12 touchpoints to convert, you can set realistic follow-up strategies and sales forecasts. 

Each subsequent event allows you to further refine these benchmarks for accurate pipeline and ROI projections.

Having granular conversion data integrated with your CRM also enables you to attribute revenue back to the specific event that originated each opportunity. 

This closed-loop ROI reporting provides undeniable justification for your event strategy and investments.

Compare the pipeline between highly targeted and broad events

Another way to measure the ROI of your in-person event is to compare the pipeline generated from a highly targeted event against events with broader, less targeted audiences. 

This comparative analysis can provide valuable insights into the direct impact of precise audience targeting on your bottom line.

For the highly targeted event, analyze the total pipeline value attributed to the leads and opportunities created. 

This includes the initial demo requests and the potential deal values as these leads progress through the sales cycle. Tracking this pipeline value over time will provide you with a comprehensive view of the event's revenue potential.

For example, let's say you hosted a cybersecurity event specifically targeting CISOs and IT security leaders at enterprises (your Tier 1 ICP). 

After six months of nurturing and follow-up, this event generated a total pipeline value of $5 million through 20 qualified opportunities.

In contrast, examine the pipeline generated from events where the audience targeting was less refined or lacked a clear focus on your ideal customer profile (ICP). 

While these events may have attracted a larger overall attendance, the pipeline value is likely to be smaller due to the lower concentration of qualified prospects.

As a comparison, consider a broader cybersecurity event you hosted open to all company sizes and roles. Despite having 1,000 attendees (compared to 500 at the targeted event), the total pipeline value after six months was only $2 million across 40 opportunities. Many of these were smaller deals from companies outside your core ICP.

Furthermore, compare the number of qualified accounts added to your customer relationship management (CRM) system for each event type. 

Qualified accounts represent companies that closely align with your ICP and have a higher likelihood of converting into customers. 

From the targeted event, you may have added 50 new qualified accounts to your CRM, while the broader event only yielded 20 despite the larger attendance.

A targeted event should consistently yield a higher proportion of these valuable accounts compared to a broader event with unfocused audiences. 

This difference in pipeline value and quality further explains the importance of investing resources in identifying and attracting your ideal audience.

Pro tips 

You should also compare how having a cocktail or engagement marketing activities during the event impacts the pipeline versus just keeping the event generic.

Leverage event data and integration

Capturing and integrating event data is essential for measuring the true impact of your in-person events and optimizing your follow-up strategies.

During the event, make it a priority to collect comprehensive attendee data, including job titles, company information, session attendance records, and booth visit details.

This attendee data serves as a valuable resource for segmenting and prioritizing your follow-up efforts.

For example, attendees who visited specific product booths or attended certain sessions may have a higher propensity to convert, and you can use that information to tailor your messaging and nurturing campaigns accordingly.

To maximize the value of this data, integrate it seamlessly with your marketing automation and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. This integration enables you to:

  1. Automatically update existing contact records with the latest event data, providing a comprehensive view of each attendee's engagement.
  2. Create new contact records for attendees who were previously unknown to your systems, expanding your lead database.
  3. Trigger personalized follow-up sequences based on attendee behavior and interests, enhancing the overall nurturing experience.
  4. Attribute pipeline and revenue to specific event sources, allowing for accurate ROI calculations and campaign optimization.

By leveraging event data integration, you'll gain a holistic view of your attendees' journeys, enabling more targeted and effective lead nurturing strategies. 

This, in turn, increases the likelihood of converting attendees into qualified opportunities and, ultimately, closed deals. 

Furthermore, the insights derived from integrated event data can inform future event planning and audience targeting efforts, creating a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement and maximized ROI.

Pro tips

Closely monitor how long it takes for each ICP tier to reach the bottom of the sales funnel and compare it across multiple events.

Track post-event lead nurturing conversion

While the in-person event itself is a crucial touchpoint, the real work begins after the event concludes. 

Immediately following the event, implement a strategic follow-up plan tailored to each attendee's level of engagement and interest.

For those who requested demos or expressed strong buying signals, prioritize personalized outreach from your sales team.

This could include scheduling product demonstrations, sharing relevant case studies, or addressing specific pain points discussed during the event.

For attendees who showed less immediate interest, nurture them through targeted email campaigns, educational content, and compelling offers.

Segment your audience based on their event interactions, session attendance, and other behavioral data to deliver highly relevant messaging.

Leverage marketing automation tools to streamline and scale your nurturing efforts, automating processes such as email sequences, lead scoring, and lead assignment to your sales team based on predefined criteria.

As leads progress through the sales cycle, track their journey and attribute any closed deals or revenue back to the specific event that initiated the process.

This attribution allows you to accurately measure the event's ROI and provides valuable insights into which events and audience segments are driving the most business impact.

Pro tips

Measure how many touchpoints (how much nurturing) each audience tier requires to reach the bottom of the sales cycle and use that to improve your nurturing sequence for future events.

Measure brand mentions, word of mouth, and brand visibility (dark funnel)

While lead generation and pipeline contribution are often the primary focus when measuring event ROI, you need to consider the broader impact on brand awareness, reputation, and word-of-mouth promotion.

In-person events provide a unique opportunity to leave a lasting impression on attendees, influencing their perception of your brand and driving valuable organic promotion.

However, capturing this impact can be challenging due to the dark funnel—the shares and conversations about your brand that happen through private channels like messengers, email, and text messages.

When attendees share event experiences, content, or insights through these channels, it becomes nearly impossible for marketers to trace the source of the traffic or engagement accurately.

While some estimates suggest that over 84% of shares occur through dark social channels, the exact impact will vary for each brand and industry.

To shed light on this hidden aspect of your event’s success, track metrics like social media mentions, press coverage, and online discussions related to your event.

Monitor relevant hashtags, industry forums, and review platforms for attendee feedback and comments about their experiences. 

Pro tips 

Consider implementing tools like link shorteners (e.g., Bitly, Owly), enhanced sharing buttons (e.g., ShareThis), or dedicated dark social tracking solutions (e.g., GetSocial, to gain better insights into how your content and event information is being shared through private channels.

The bottom line

Proving the ROI of your in-person events is important for showing your leadership and sponsors that they are worth the time, effort, and money. Here is a quick recap of the main things you need to keep in mind. 

First, choose the right people to invite by using detailed buyer personas and data about the technology they use. 

Next, measure important numbers like the percentage of qualified attendees and show them the rate of turning event meetings into product demos and the sales pipeline from targeted events.

Connect your event data to your CRM and marketing tools. This will help you follow up with leads in a personalized way. Also, watch how many interactions each type of attendee needs before they buy, and use this to make your marketing strategy better.

If you focus on these things, you can clearly show how valuable in-person events are and make a strong argument to keep investing in them.

With the right approach to targeting, measurement, and follow-up, in-person events can deliver significant ROI and play a key role in driving business growth. So start putting these strategies into action and show your stakeholders the true potential of your events.

Note: Struggling to get the most out of your in-person events? Download our Event Planning Workbook and learn how to boost your in-person event’s ROI.

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