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The Power of Benchmarks: Strategies for Successful Events

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Skip Cox
Skip Cox

SVP, Research and Measurement


Apply this measurement tool to ensure great experiences deliver great results

As event professionals and marketers, we can’t rest on our laurels and settle for the status quo. To stay ahead and consistently deliver the best experiences possible, we must assess and ask questions before, during, and after events. The trick is understanding and setting benchmarks that move us toward valuable answers. 

Beacons of Performance

What exactly are benchmarks? Unlike metrics, which are comparative numbers, benchmarks are reference points and best practice standards gained by comparing your performance to others — or to your own organization, over time. They serve as guideposts that evaluate events from various angles, measure performance, and identify strengths and weaknesses to achieve competitive advantage.

To fully capture the performance picture, it’s important for event professionals to set benchmarks comparing individual events externally against industry norms and the competition as well as internally against their own program. This 360-degree approach uncovers performance gaps and provides valuable insight into what drives performance versus just reviewing tactics. Put into practice, this powerful knowledge leads to enhanced experiences.

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Insights Move Events Forward

We know we need three types of comparisons to take the pulse of our event performance, but what areas should be measured and what will the results tell us?

Every brand has objectives unique to them, but overall there are three main stages of the event lifecycle to benchmark: strategy and planning (tailored to the target audience), the event experience itself, and the results.

Benchmarks at each stage help refine strategies, logistics, and event planning tactics for one event or across several, internally and externally, so you can clearly see what is and isn’t working. The results spotlight what levers need to be pushed more or less in certain areas and help you make informed decisions to drive better results. You’ll learn how well you promoted the event, how you attracted your intended audiences, the effectiveness of messaging and branding, the visitor experience, as well as the level and value of engagement. 

Valuable Questions Provide Valuable Answers

When it comes to ROI, benchmarks also provide bankable answers when wondering:

  • How and where do we lower costs?
  • Are we spending more than we should?
  • Where is our spending compared to the industry average?

Benchmarks evaluate financials to identify whether the objectives set are realistic and achievable relative to the investment made. By tracking results, you’ll see how valuable your buying audience is at each event to inform future investment decisions. 

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go

Getting to those informed decisions means putting a benchmarking plan into action. A solid first step is looking at the industry norms to see what’s been evaluated and what paradigms and patterns already exist. Comparing historical event industry benchmarks (this sampling defines target market) against your own event helps illustrate where you stand in the marketplace and can also guide assessments moving forward.

Next, go inside your brand to set specific benchmarks unique to your company and needs. Identify five or six key benchmarks to fit your event and business objectives that are absolute. Then measure those absolutes for each event as well as the program as a whole to learn what value each one delivers to your audience and to your organization. Be sure to measure consistently so you have the data from one event to the next. Collecting a history of your key metrics and comparing them to benchmarks will improve your program over time.

Finally, stake out the competition. This intelligence helps elevate your place in the field, informs and shapes your own event practices, uncovers potential challenges and opportunities, and ultimately helps establish and refine your own benchmarks.

Using benchmarks as consistent barometers will ultimately inform the best event strategy to enhance your program and leads to delivering the best experiences at the best value — for you and your audiences. 

For more questions about benchmarks or to request other experience assessment results currently available, contact us.

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