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Madison ShepherdMar 14, 2024 9:14:26 AM19 min read

How to Effectively Demonstrate the Value of Your Events to Leadership

Demonstrating the true value of your events internally can be really difficult.

In this episode, Katie highlights the importance of having a clear strategy and purpose behind events when presenting their value to leadership teams, the value of a program audit, and more!

Tune in as Katie also gives some tips and tricks for examples of what you should showcase to leadership to prove your event is amazing and worthwhile.

About the Expert: Katie Moser

Katie Moser is the Director of Marketing and Business Development at GoGather. She has an extensive background in creating content and branding for events, working with speakers, and managing agendas for conferences. When she's not updating blog posts and sending out social media posts, she helps clients identify areas of opportunity for their events from branding to communications. 


Katie Moser: Hi everybody. Welcome to the Gather Gurus podcast. Today we're going to be chatting a little bit about how to show the value of your events to leadership. This is a really tough one, and we have this conversation all the time with our clients. It's really difficult sometimes to prove how your events are valuable internally. So we're going to chat through it, give you some tips and tricks on some of the things that you might want to showcase to your leadership and how you might be able to really show that your event is amazing and worthwhile. So let's get on into it. 

Madison Shepherd: To start us off, what is the value of events in today's world? 

Katie Moser: Oh my gosh. What isn't the value of events? I mean, events are so important right now. We're seeing this huge surge of companies wanting to do events go bigger and better than ever before, and I think for companies it's really powerful to have these events so that they can bring people together. It's one of the only platforms right now where you can really have people's full attention. As a marketer, I think we struggle a lot with how do we get in front of people consistently.

How do we beat out the noise? I mean, it's talked about so much and events are a really great way to do that. And for companies doing internal events, bringing their sales team together, bringing their whole company together, bringing their franchisees together. It's a really valuable place to be able to have conversations, have people meet each other, learn from your employees, your top performers, and make sure that your executives are interacting with the people who work at the company. It's hard to really put numbers to how valuable events can be for companies. 

Madison Shepherd: I think some people struggle, those people managing events, with showing the value of their work to their leadership team. Do you have some recommendations on how people can do that? 

Katie Moser: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think building out a business case for your event can really help you showcase to leadership what the value is, and there are multiple steps to that. Being able to record numbers around, let's say your incentive trip if you have numbers around how much your sales team sold to be able to attend the incentive trip and how that's compared to past years. I mean, that can be a very valuable story that you can tell around that event. But I also think with your conferences, it can be more straightforward, how much revenue were you bringing in for your conference? But it can also be how many connections did your company make? How many new attendees did you have at this event? If you're hosting a conference, how many franchisees were able to interact with each other? I mean, there's a lot of different stories you can tell. 

And so I think being able to understand what are your overall business goals? So if your company's looking to grow XYZ this year, or if they're looking to engage more of your customers or they're looking to improve company culture, understanding what those kind of top-line business goals are and then being able to show how your event supports that will really help and go a long way in showing the value of your event. So it can be more than just pure numbers. It can be we're hosting this internal kickoff because we want to be able to bring everybody together and train them on the company and improve morale and show our company culture.

And if you can find ways to record that, whether it's doing attendee interviews on-site and hearing from them what they gained from the conference and really capturing a lot of that data, you'll be able to pull that into your storytelling for your leadership team. And I think the last thing is really understanding what they care about. At the end of the day, a lot of leadership teams care about how the business is moving forward. And that could be in a lot of different ways. Again, you kind of have to understand what the specific people you're talking to care about, but how can you succinctly tell that story to them? So yeah, I'm rambling, but that's in a nutshell. 

Madison Shepherd: Yeah, totally. So how do you show the value of in-person events when some people are still leaning towards those digital methods? 

Katie Moser: Yeah, that's a tough one. I mean, a lot of companies I think are considering, what is the dollar amount that's attached to this event? And events are expensive. I mean, you can have five, ten, twenty million dollar events. I mean, you could spend as much money as you want on an event, and it's tough to take a look at that and think, okay, well, we have so many digital channels that we could use that we can still connect with people and get what we want out of it for way cheaper. And yes, to a degree, but when you're thinking about building company culture, I mean, just in my opinion, you can't replace that in-person interaction. I mean, being able to actually sit next to somebody and have a conversation with them is going to make such a difference than just sitting behind your computer because you do that every day. 

A lot of us do that every day. Whether we're in the office or we're working virtually, we're very used to having phone calls, having video calls every day, and being able to actually take a step back from that and interact with people face-to-face makes such a big difference. So for you, trying to tell that story to your leadership team, especially if they're going, we need to put this money towards digital, or why would we spend the money on an event when we've done virtual events for the past four years? You have to kind of tell that story.

And maybe it's pulling data from different research organizations, talking about the value of in-person interactions, talking about how events are working or not working for businesses, and showing some best cases. So take examples from some other companies that may be in your space or maybe leaders in general and show them what they are doing. They may be hosting webinars and virtual events, but they're also doing in-person events. And so being able to again, show examples, show data, is really important when you're having those conversations. 

Madison Shepherd: Yeah, great point. So next, can you talk a little bit about the importance of having a clear strategy and purpose behind events? So when presenting their value to the leadership team you have some evidence to back you up. 

Katie Moser: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, strategy, again, kind of goes back to that story that you're telling and understanding how to appeal to the teams that you're trying to get approval from, and being able to come up with a concrete example of how you're going to implement an event or re-implement an event. So if you haven't had your event for five years, then you're trying to argue to have it back again. Having a clear strategy for doing so will be really helpful.

We especially see this around incentive events because a lot of companies will want to just be like, oh, we'll just give them a card or voucher to go take a vacation. And it's difficult to argue for a wider event, a lot of money goes into those types of events. And so being able to show a strategy around it, this is how we're going to implement it, this is why we're going to implement it this way, and this, the expected outcomes are important things to build into that business case that you're working on. 

Madison Shepherd: So how can event managers kind of tell a story after the event is over highlighting any wins or areas for improvement to kind of reflect back on? 

Katie Moser: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, even taking a step back from that, so making sure that you're collecting data on-site, that's the best place that you're going to get immediate feedback from people, making sure you're asking the right questions too, right? Don't just ask people, what was your experience? They may just harp on the buffet and be like, oh, I didn't like the options, and that's not valuable information, and that's not going to go towards you building a case for your event for next year. I think being able to talk with people on-site is sometimes helpful. So if you have a videographer on-site, you can have them capture real-time feedback from people asking them, why did you come to this event? What did you gain from this event? What did you learn? Would you come back next year? 

Would you recommend this to your friends? Getting that kind of stuff on camera can be really powerful, and you can also use that as promotions next year as well. But again, trying to survey people on site, I mean, it's tough because some people don't want to answer surveys, but try to collect as much feedback as you can on site. Even having people, we've done this before where we have people go sit in on sessions and just chat with people and just get their thoughts. And they may not know that you're staff, they may not know that you're somebody who's not just an attendee. And so you can have good conversations with them and just kind of learn. So capturing all of that on-site and then afterward, making sure that you're capturing data from how much did we spend on this event? Do you know what your budget was? 

Do you know what you actually spent? And that's really important, working with your event management agency, making sure that you have that data as close to the end of the event as possible so that you can build that story again to show this was how much was invested, this is how much that came out of it, or this is how we met our goals based on this budget. All that kind of data will be really helpful for you to be able to come to your leadership for the following year and say, this is what last year was and have all that data ready to go. 

Madison Shepherd: Going off that, how can you economically report the value of your events to leadership? 

Katie Moser: Yeah, I mean, it can be difficult, right? Events sometimes don't have a direct ROI on them, and it's tough. I think it's always a challenge that marketing teams have to face too, is how do you prove that every marketing dollar you've spent has gone to improving the business? Well, sometimes you can't, right? It's very difficult to track a lot of that stuff. And so with events too, I mean, it can be very challenging when you're doing internal events, for example, it's not as cut and dry as if you're doing a marketing event and you're trying to bring in new clients through that event that's a little more cut and dry. Or even if you're bringing in sponsorship dollars. So if you're going, Hey, we're hosting this event and we want to bring in this much money in ticket sales and this much money in sponsorships, that's very cut and dry. 

And so that's an easy one for you to be able to report on. But if you're doing an event for an internal team or even a client, it can be a little bit more difficult to track that. And so being able to understand how much you've spent is really important. I think we talked a little bit about sales metrics. Sometimes if it's an incentive trip, if you can track those metrics, that's really helpful. Even things like performance after the event.

So if you're hosting a franchise event, for example, and your franchisees go back and sell way better, you can kind of say, this went into that success. So think through it in a lot of different ways. What is your event? What are the goals? Again, going back to that and how can you tie value or numbers to what you're doing? And if you can't, then you may need to think about other ways to show value. 

Madison Shepherd: So next, let's talk about program audits. I think you wanted to touch a little bit on that. So how can a program audit contribute to demonstrating the value of events? 

Katie Moser: So a program audit would be having a third party come to your event and take a look at it. So we've done this for some of our clients, where we actually show up and just attend the event as an attendee. We don't do any work there. We're just coming here to see what the event's like. Talk to attendees. I talked a little bit a few minutes ago about having somebody sit in on sessions and talk to attendees and just kind of get their input. So what we'll do is we'll go and see what the attendee experience is like. What is the check-in experience at the hotel? Does the person at the front of the counter know about your event? Can they tell you about it? What does the branding look like? What are the sessions? What's the food? Are people engaging with each other? 

Are they mostly on their phones during the session? Are they mostly talking with each other in the back and not listening, or are they fully engaged in the content you're producing? Are they fully engaged with each other during breaks? Are they smiling? I mean, there are little things that I think sometimes companies don't realize when they're running an event because you're doing so many things that it's hard to step back and look at it from an attendee experience perspective. So we really think these are valuable for companies to have that third party come in and give them a second opinion and also have an understanding of what other events look like. So we run many, many events a year, and so we know what works, and we know what some clients are doing that could be applicable to other clients' events, and we can kind of take that perspective and apply it to different aspects of people's events. 

So I really love the program audit. I think that it can be very valuable, especially if you're looking to grow or looking to improve your conference. We talked a little bit about getting attendees to come to the event, sometimes a challenge. So what are the things that you're doing beforehand to promote that can even go into a program audit? What do your sponsorship packages look like? What opportunities do people have during the conference to interact with sponsors? All those different things can go into a program audit to really analyze the entire conference and the entire experience and give suggestions around how that can be improved. 

Madison Shepherd: So can you give more examples of how to schedule your events with more creativity and how you can move away from more of those rigid annual programs and embrace a multi-program approach? 

Katie Moser: Yeah. We're seeing companies move toward this more and more. Some of our clients have been asking about how we change up our annual conference and do something that's a little bit more dynamic. So we've talked through this a little bit. There are a lot of different ways that you can structure your events program. You really have to analyze how much would you actually be spending between events. What efficiencies can you find? It's definitely something you have to analyze because it may seem preferable to do a lot of small events, but it may not be as effective. Now, on the counter to that, very large events may not be as effective as some smaller ones. People might be able to engage more. It might be more local to where they're at, so they don't have to fly as far. There's just a lot of factors that go into it. 

And so we are seeing companies moving towards some of these smaller, more dynamic events, which is kind of interesting because I think right after the pandemic that was kind of popular, it was having these kinds of small regional events so that people felt more comfortable. There were obviously still some limitations with how many people you could have in the room.

And then we saw companies go back to these really, really giant events, and they're going, is this as effective as some of those smaller events where people can really feel engaged, feel like they're participating? So we're seeing a little bit of both, and I think it goes back to the conversation we had about attendee engagement.

It's really understanding who your attendees are, what they need, what they are interested in, and formatting your agendas and your events around that. So the other part of that too is looking at your events and trying to understand, okay, we have four events in a year. Do they all work together? Are they, and again, this kind of an audit in a way, and you could always have a third party do this, but taking a look at what portfolio of events do you have in a year? Are any of them redundant? Are there events you could combine? Are there events that maybe aren't as effective? Do you need to break them down into smaller events? Do you need to reformat them? 

Are there events that are just kind of a one-and-done thing? Do you need to build out a program around them that's more than just the event? So how can you have more touch points throughout the year with whoever your attendees are? So we've also talked about this with incentive trips too. So for example, you might have your pinnacle event, right? That one trip every year, but why just make that a one-time thing? Why can't you turn that into a President's club where you have multiple touchpoints throughout the year?

So you have your top performers being able to talk with executives throughout the year, and share challenges. They're having shared wins that they're having almost like an advisory group in a way. This is a very common idea for companies with their clients, but not necessarily with internal teams. And so we've talked through this with a few clients around like, okay, your president's Club can be your trip, but it can also be a full-year thing. 

You could bring sponsors into that, right? Or if you have partners or suppliers that are important to your business, you could have them be a part of smaller incentive trips throughout the year, so you have a more dynamic program that is more inclusive than just a one-time-a-year event. And we've seen this be really successful, especially bringing in partners and suppliers and sponsors into this type of event or into this type of a program where you have multiple events a year and they can participate and they find more value because they're getting in front of the people that they want to get in front of, but in a smaller, more intimate setting. So yeah, I mean, there are so many different ways you can structure your events. It's really dependent on what your business goals are, what your business structure is, who your attendees are, who your partners and suppliers and sponsors are. 

There are so many different factors that can go into it, and I think having that third party who can come in and give you kind of an outside view and evaluation of your events program can be really powerful. And going back to that, providing value to your leadership, being able to have that third party opinion about what is working, what's not working, and how you can be more effective, that's super valuable to a leadership team so that they can say, okay, these experts are telling us this is what works, what doesn't?

Let's make sure we're being the best in class, moving forward, doing the best we can, and then thanking the internal teams who brought in that third-party voice and going, you guys are awesome. Let's make these events even more important next year because we're seeing that they're working so well. 

Katie Moser: Thank you, Madison, for your time. Thank you everybody for listening. We love chatting about how you can make your events more effective. It's really important to evaluate your programs once a year, every once in a while.

Just make sure that what you're doing is effective and driving your business forward. Because at the end of the day, that's really why we host events, and you want to make sure that they're supporting your business goals. So thank you.


Madison Shepherd

Madison Shepherd is a Marketing Specialist at GoGather. When she's not writing blogs or sending out social media posts, she enjoys hiking, traveling, or reading at one of the many beautiful beaches in San Diego.