Boost your event ROI today by going virtual. With a clear cost-benefit analysis and our handy calculation guide, your ROI on virtual events can be better than you ever expected.
With 13% of gross annual revenue going straight to marketing departments, and 22% of that going towards events, it’s no surprise your C-suite expects something more concrete than ‘70% of attendees enjoyed our event’. And as a B2B event marketer, you’re already accustomed to sales and other internal teams questioning ‘what exactly it is you do’. We think it’s time to change that. How? By providing a data-driven virtual event return on investment (ROI) analysis that is so clear and detailed, the rest of the team can’t ignore it. In this deep-dive guide to the real cost benefits of virtual events, we'll show you how to calculate and improve your event ROI to get the buy-in you need to keep killing it.
Listen, when it comes to tracking event ROI in the age of the revenue marketer, we’ve got a lot to cover. If you’re just here for the CliffsNotes, here’s a quick checklist to make sure you get max ROI on your virtual events.
Alright, ready to dive into your virtual event ROI? Before you can roll up your sleeves and get to work improving that figure, you need to make sure that you, your sales team — and anyone else in the org who might have skin in the events game — is totally clear on which goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) define ROI for your virtual events. In case you haven’t already covered that step in your event strategy, here’s how to start developing a strong business case for virtual events, beginning with clear goals and KPIs.
With so much on your plate before an event, it can be tempting to go straight into planning. But if you want to avoid uncomfortable conversations with your sales team, do not skip this step. Once you’ve decided exactly which goals and KPIs you’re gunning for, you’re ready to start diving deeper into what your event ROI actually is, and how you can improve it.
With your event goals in place, it’s time to decide how best to calculate it — and now that the age of the revenue marketer is officially here, it’s best to start with a revenue-friendly ROI formula. In fact, two of the most popular ways to track event ROI are revenue-based:
In its simplest form, revenue-based ROI helps to calculate how much overall income your event brought in. To find this figure, simply take the amount of revenue your event generated, then divide it by the total cost of the entire event (note: you can also use the cost of one specific feature of the event to get the ROI on that single element), then multiply that number by 100 to get the percentage. Here’s a quick formula to help you work it out: Event Revenue / Event Expenses x 100 = Simple ROI
Incremental revenue helps calculate your event profit and link it to future profit over time. Here’s how to calculate Incremental Revenue: (Event Income – Event Expenses) / Event Expenses x 100 = Incremental ROI Keep in mind that tracking event ROI isn’t always as simple as running a couple of formulas the day after your event closes. The real ROI of a sophisticated event program tends to expand and compound over time based on important factors like your product niche, ideal customer profile (ICP), and average deal timeline.
Make sure you take the time to pinpoint and really understand your chosen attribution model so you can collect the right data at the right time. Because at the end of the day, virtual event ROI calculations can be as simple or complex as you like — what matters most is that you know exactly why you’re using the formula you’re using, and that you can easily drill down deeper to help move sales into action after the event. Of course, the more sophisticated your event ROI data, the clearer your value becomes (and the more internal kudos your team receives 😉). Let’s have a look at some of the other revenue-based metrics that can help deliver a massive boost to your virtual event ROI. 💡Tip: Ready to make ROI tracking easy? By using an event platform that feeds data directly into your CRM, you can automatically collect and measure your core ROI metrics throughout the pipeline.
If content is king, reporting is queen. Here's what to keep in mind when trying to develop your own event ROI report.
No matter which way you cut it, time is money. And while you can never eliminate the time it takes to create a content-rich event, you can reduce it. By taking the virtual plunge, cybersecurity firm Axonius shrunk their planning time to an impressive 32 days, down from their 90-day average for in-person events. Not only that, the team at Axonius smashed their first virtual summit, receiving over 400 registrations. How much could reducing time on event planning save you? Let’s work it out. Say your event income is $500,000 from closed-won business. You have 5 employees, working for $300 a day, for 90 days = $135,000. Here’s the formula you could use to pinpoint your virtual event ROI, based on a reduction in time and labor costs: (Income – Cost of Labor) / Cost of Labor x 100 = ROI% Your total sum would look like this: ($500,000 - $135,000) / $135,000 x 100 = 270% ROI ❌ In-person: With this example you would spend $135,000 or have an ROI of 270% on this key metric. ✅ Virtual: Axonius proved just how simple it is to cut event planning time down from 90 to 32 days (around 65%) by going virtual. In this example, your spend would be cut by nearly two thirds to around $47,000 — a whopping 964% ROI just by going virtual!
In a typical year, Axonius would have three months to prepare for an event. But in 2020, they had just 32 days to organize an entire virtual summit. See how they partnered with Goldcast to make it happen! See case study
Obviously, no ROI analysis is complete without taking a hard look at your costs. The good news is, compared to live events, virtual events can help you drastically reduce your total event budget. Here’s how.
One of the biggest hits to your event ROI is always the venue. This is just one key cost center where the switch to virtual is an ROI game-changer, with 78% of businesses saying a good virtual event platform contributes to a positive ROI.
Event food is expensive, averaging between $20-$40 per attendee just for lunch — and that’s before you add serving, cutlery and seating costs. With virtual events, people are in the comfort of their own homes and don’t need or expect you to cover this costly overhead. (Though pre-event swag packs are always appreciated. 😉)
Your virtual event can and should feel 100% like your event, but for less $$$. Instead of forking over half your budget for expensive roller banners, simply choose a smart hosting platform with built-in customization options to make sure your logos, promo videos and other special touches are seen in all the right places. Clearly, virtual events come with big savings compared to live events, but how much cash do you actually save? Let’s break it down. The following formula helps you calculate overall event ROI, based on total costs: (Income – Cost of Expenses) / Cost of Expenses x 100 = ROI% According to Social Tables, these are the most likely costs for a big-ticket conference:
Branding = $130 per banner (~$1,000 total). Venue = $1,150 per hour (~$9,000 for the day). Catering = $160 per person for 3 meals and 2 snacks (~$16,000 per 100 attendees).
= $26,0000 total Now, let’s say your event produces an income of $100,000. Here’s what your calculation would look like: ($100,000 - $26,000) / $26,000 x 100 = 285% ROI. ❌ In-person: In this example in-person events claimed a massive 25% of your overall $26,000 or 285% ROI. ✅ Virtual: And how much are these expenses for virtual? $0!
Now that you’ve got a solid grasp on time and costs saved, it’s time to turn the focus to the other side of your event ROI formula — revenue generated. Net New Pipeline helps quantify the revenue potential of all the leads that entered the sales pipeline for the first time through your event by totalling up the potential deal size and revenue from each. With location and capacity no longer an issue, you can invite as many attendees as you like and massively boost your Net New Pipeline via your virtual event. 👌🏼 To use a quick global example, if your in-person event is usually held in the US only, you’re missing out on over 190 countries of potential leads and revenue. But regardless of which markets you target, here’s why virtual events are more accessible, even to in-field attendees:
Let’s look now at exactly how much this increased capacity for Net New leads could add to the pipeline. Imagine you have 50 Net New Leads attending your event, each with a potential deal value of $10,000. Your goal is to generate Net New Pipeline with a potential deal value of $40,000. Here’s the formula to calculate the total potential deal value: (Number of leads x Deal potential of each lead) = Total potential Net New Pipeline value Here’s what that could look like on the ground: (50 x $10,000) = $500,000 ❌ In-person: Attendee numbers are limited due to capacity and overhead costs. Instead of having 50 Net New leads, you may only be able to host 25 at an in-person venue. ✅ Virtual: Unlimited capacity. (Need we say more?)
Influenced Pipeline is the total revenue value from attendees who were already in the sales cycle, but have been influenced to engage further with your brand via your virtual event. This is often more important than Net New Pipeline because of the increased likelihood of conversion. But if you want to capture this super-insightful account level data, attendee engagement is the name of the game.
If you want to capture this super insightful account level data, attendee engagement is the name of the game.
Unlike in-person events, hosting an engaging virtual event doesn’t have to cost the world. In fact, if you select the right virtual event platform you’ll get all the engagement features you need, baked straight into your digital “venue”. Here are a few core engagement features to look out for if you want to increase influenced pipeline from your virtual events: 📹 Videos: 61% of marketers use videos to keep audiences engaged. 📊 Polls: Used by 81.8% of virtual event organizers to improve interaction. ✋ Q&A: The most popular engagement tool, used by 62% of virtual event organizers. 🎮 Gamification: For example, you could create a points-based challenge based on booths visited. With the right virtual event platform, tracking attendee touchpoints can be seamless, allowing you to provide sales with crucial account-level insights that help personalize follow-up conversations and accelerate the pipeline. Let’s break down what that looks like in action. Remember, the first thing to do is set yourself an achievable but challenging goal. For instance, a goal to ‘Average 25 interactions per attendee’. Then, a prospect could, for example, click 20 times, answer 5 polls, interact in 3 breakout rooms, attend 6 sessions, visit 2 booths, watch 5 demos and download 2 ebooks, etc. The opportunities to measure engagement in a virtual setup are endless, so choose your engagement metrics wisely to make sure you’re measuring the right level of intent. Once you’ve got that pinned down, the formula to measure influenced pipeline is actually pretty simple: # of Touchpoints Combined = Total Number of Interactions EXAMPLE: 20 + 5 + 3 + 6 + 2 + 5 + 2 = 43 interactions If you want to track engagement data accurately and efficiently, virtual events are the obvious way to go (especially if you have an event management platform that calculates this for you). ❌ In-person: Difficult to measure and report on engagement data manually. ✅ Virtual: Every interaction is captured seamlessly, and account-level insights can be automatically integrated into your sales CRM and other marketing systems for follow up.
If your company has a long sales cycle, it’ll be a while before you can calculate your event ROI from a real revenue perspective. So, what’s the next best thing? Velocity through pipeline. Take a look at your pipeline. How many Net New leads became MQLs? MQLs to SQLs? Drilling down into this data allows you to see which stage of the funnel your event impacts most (and just how much impact it actually has). You can then use your findings, along with engagement insights, to assess which content and formats resonated most with your attendees. When it comes to your next event, you’ll know exactly what to keep or change — plus, when sales seals the deal, you’ll be able to calculate the closed-won revenue on the SQLs brought in. To track pipeline acceleration, you need a goal along the lines of ‘20 funnel progressions within 7 days’. If your event helped 15 MQLs become SQLs and 10 SQLs convert to closed-won, you know you’ve smashed your target. Velocity though pipeline is also easy to track through your CRM by capturing pre and post-event status data and using this calculation: MQL Lead Progression + SQL Progression = Total Number of Funnel Progressions. EXAMPLE: 15 + 10 = 25 Funnel Progressions When it comes to tracking lead progressions, both in-person and virtual events have this handled with the help of your CRM. But the really useful data comes from knowing why that acceleration occurred so you can emulate it in both the sales follow up and in future events. ❌ In-person: Tracking progressions is possible manually, but tracking what impacted that velocity isn’t so easy. ✅ Virtual: Using engagement data you can pinpoint what impacted progression (like a specific session or booth they attended) and replicate it next time.
By now, you’ve got a good handle on your event ROI — great! Now it’s time to make sure revenue is being correctly attributed to your event. Work with your sales and senior leadership teams to decide which of these common attribution models will make the most sense:
Knowing and showing the cost benefits of your virtual events is always going to be important. Whether you’re presenting a business case for future event investment, providing an ROI analysis to evidence your value, or getting sales on board with your next big event idea — you must be prepared to back it up with data. The good news is, virtual events are proven to not only increase your overall event ROI, but also have a lasting impact on creating longer customer relationships and shorter sales cycles, which could be just what your bottom line needs.