Wasif Kasim Consulting

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Event ROI Checklist: How to turn a $30k investment into $1.3M in revenue.

Event ROI

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Spend $30k on a conference or trade show, close $1.3M in revenue.

Crazy, right? But when done right, it’s possible.

I know because I’ve spent over a decade helping B2Bs craft the perfect framework to maximise their event ROI and drive real sales.

You might be thinking, “Okay but in-person events are dead in the water. It’s all about virtual events now”.

But while the COVID-19 pandemic may have pressed pause on in-person events, that hasn’t stopped the events industry from coming back in full force and delivering real value to businesses.

In fact, 60% of leadership believe that events are the most critical marketing channel for achieving business goals (Bizzabo). 

But if you fail to plan, events can also be a money pit. You can throw money at iPad giveaways, booth designs and speaking gigs without getting a single lead in return.

So how do you make sure your event delivers a real return on investment?

Plan ahead to make the most of every opportunity before, during and after the event to generate leads and woo prospects.

After attending and investing in hundreds of events, I’ve seen what works… and what doesn’t. Here’s my ultimate guide to maximising your event ROI:

Event ROI Checklist: How to turn a $30k investment into $1.3M in revenue.

1. Set the right goals to achieve events ROI

Everything starts with goals. What is your desired outcome from your event attendance?

Don’t settle for brand awareness. If you’re investing your valuable marketing budget in conferences and trade shows, you should aim to do much more than just get your name out there.

To really achieve event ROI, you should be aiming to generate revenue through quality leads and sales. Research by Bizzabo shows 95% of marketers believe live events enable real connections — something that’s increasingly difficult to achieve in a digital world.

There may also be secondary goals you want to aim for, such as:

  • Promote product/service knowledge
  • Launch new product/service
  • Press coverage
  • Increase website visits
  • Increase social media engagement
  • Build relationships with existing customers
  • Raise awareness of products/services

As with every other marketing campaign, you need to set metrics to track performance against your goals so you can accurately measure event ROI. There are no hard and fast numbers to track when measuring event ROI – the most important event data is leads generated.

2. Measuring your event’s success and ROI

Your event ROI tells you the net value you get from an event for the net cost that you’ve invested in attending it. 

Here’s where it gets fuzzy – “value” is a much broader concept than “revenue.” So, while your revenue is the actual sales you generated from the event, the value can be much more substantial as it could include brand awareness, building your reputation as a thought leader in a topic, and more. 

There are heaps of different ways you can measure event ROI, but the most important thing is to track the right metrics in the first place. 

2.1 Essential metrics you need to track

When you’re at the event, you need to split your leads into two groups:

    1. Leads – these are people who have engaged with your brand (e.g. downloaded a piece of content or grabbed some merch from your booth ) but have NOT asked for a proposal or asked to learn more about your service. These leads need to be nurtured, and you need to build more trust with them before they turn into “legitimate” leads, aka marketing qualified leads. 
    1. Marketing Qualified Leads – These are attendees who have expressed explicit interest in your offering or services, and would like to see a proposal from you. They will typically fall into two buckets when you follow up: qualified MQLs (they are the right fit), and unqualified MQLs (they are not the right fit for your business). 

Now, you need to measure the deals:

    1. Deals created from MQLs – Create a chart in your CRM to track this. Every MQL must be associated with a deal, so you can track the success of your efforts. If you don’t have a system in place to do this seamlessly, your event ROI efforts will fail. This is where investing in a quality CRM (amongst many other benefits) is critical. Sales and marketing should collaborate daily for at least six months after the event to ascertain if any deals have been created with MQLs post event. 
    1. Deals won from MQLs –Similar to above, track this ferociously every single week.This should be automated in your CRM, once you have initially uploaded all MQLs from the event (more on this later).

Now you know you are tracking the right metrics, you’re ready to calculate your event’s ROI. 

2.2 How to calculate event ROI

Always view the event ROI from two angles. 

First, calculate:

Deals CREATED vs marketing investment

(Total $$ value deals added to the funnel * average contract value)/Total marketing investment in the event.

Go even further here to drill down and look at:

    1. deals created vs sponsorship cost of event 
    2. deals created vs total cost of event (travel, accommodation, food, etc)

Next, calculate:

Deals WON vs marketing investment 

As above, but instead of all deals in the pipeline, you’re looking at just deals won over time.

Again, have a dashboard in your CRM to show this in an automated way, and work closely with your sales team to monitor this weekly at an absolute minimum.

3.Event selection checklist

Choosing the right event is essential to maximising event ROI. Before you start planning, you need to be sure to select the right conference, expo, or trade show for your goals.

Don’t be swayed by discount exhibitor fees — do your research before you commit. Any good event will provide information about what kind of people attend, the companies they come from, what they’re looking for, and how event marketers will promote the event to maximise attendance.

The most important thing you need to do is ensure their target audience matches your target audience.

Use this checklist to work out the right event for your business:

    1. Date & time of event
    2. Speaking slot — duration, time (avoid super early or end of day), Q&A slot
    3. Booth option — size of booth
    4. Pre & post event opportunity to share free content with all attendees
    5. 1:1 meetings with select prospects
    6. Attendees — number of actual attendees, attendee information & demographics (job titles, verticals, age, company size)
    7. Cost of the event entry for public – in general, the more people pay to attend the an event, the lower the attendee drop-off rate
    8. Event cost for your business
    9. Other event costs (furniture, signage, accommodation expenses)
    10. Flexibility to source own furniture & merchandise
    11. Total investment (including all the costs)

4. Pre event: How to prepare for pipeline value

The earlier you start preparing, the more you plan for event success.

4.1 Lock in the event 8-12 months ahead of time

Booking early will ensure you get the best rates, as well as best on-floor locations for your booth and best times for a speaking slot. It’ll also ensure you are in the programme and the organisers can include you in social media coverage and industry press, where possible. Mostly, it ensures you have time to get everything ready for success.

Floor location is incredibly important, and a massive reason you need to book well ahead of time.

You want to pick a location that maximises food traffic (ideally close to the largest presentation rooms). Better yet, ask the event organiser for their pick on where foot traffic is highest.

Ensure your sales team “signs off” on the event, so you don’t have to deal with any feedback of “oh, this was a bad event, why did you pick this” halfway into the preparation process.

Always get everything approved in writing to avoid any misunderstandings. Especially because a lot happens in 8-12 months, which means there’s room for people to forget. 

4.2 Start preparing for your event

This is everything from prepping your team, sourcing giveaways and getting your presentation ready.

3-6 months to go:

Create your event team. Preselect your team members 3-6 months ahead of time. Ensure at least one marketing person to be guardian of all merchandise and the overall go to person to organise logistics, plus multiple sales people.

For an event attracting 1000 attendees, aim for two marketing staff and five sales staff.

3 months to go:

Ask sales and marketing to organise travel and accommodation. If possible have an EA or office admin take this off marketing’s plate and to liaise directly with sales, but also keep marketing engaged and part of the decision-making process. Often this process takes a lot of time, and it’s important to offload as many “non revenue generating” items as possible away from sales and marketing when organising events.

2 months to go:

Get your event kit ready. Here are some key things to include:

    1. Paper lead capture forms. Agree with sales on the most important data to collect. At the very least, the form should ask for name, website url, mobile, email, estimated budget for the project, when are you looking to make a decision, and how can we help you. 
    2. Punchy flyer. Print a short one-page, two-sided flyer that covers your key offering, the problems it solves, as well as plenty of client logos and at least three short case studies.
    3. Showcase client logos on the event stand. Use your existing client logos on your event stands — ask for their permission first! Dedicate a large section of the stand to your client logos and ensure every visible section, from any angle at the event shows at least 4-5 logos that are recognised by the masses. This is a worthwhile cost, and you can most likely use this at the next event.
    4. Organise items to attract a lot of traffic for your booth, e.g. popcorn machine, barista, ice cream, charging station, fun games with prizes attached. If you choose games, make them interactive like Connect 4, where you can chat to the prospect while playing. Avoid gimmicks like a spinning wheel, which add cost without value.

6 weeks to go:

Your presentation should be ready with four weeks to go, so give yourself two weeks to prepare. 

It’s common practice for sales teams to do this last minute and ask marketing for help with just days to go – but this is the most frustrating thing you can do to marketing teams and is the fast track to bad relations. Your presentation needs to look like a million bucks and be completely on brand, so keep your marketing team on side.

Ensure the event organiser has had the chance to recommend topics and tips, and can review your presentation (this is typically a requirement of event management). 

Pro Tip: Maximise the event organisers’ knowledge. They have often experienced thousands of events so lean into their best practices on what works and what doesn’t!

2 weeks to go:

Never ship things to your event location. They will get lost! Save yourself the extra stress and always be ready to take your items there personally.

For your presentation and notes, make sure everything is stored in the cloud but also have a USB copy of everything. That way, if the internet fails, you’ll alway have a backup.

5. Speaking slot: How to capture dollar value from every minute

Let’s say you have a 20 minute presentation locked in as part of your event investment. How are you going to turn these 20 minutes into the most leads generated?

Follow this checklist:

5.1 Use paper forms to gather leads data

Put a paper form with a unique offer related to your service on every seat. For example, free one hour consultation plus 50% off month one (worth 5k). Don’t make this a material giveaway, like an iPad — use it as an opportunity to collect customer data and sell your service.

Position at least five sales people at the exits to collect filled forms as people exit, or to strike up a conversation with those who haven’t, to see if they can turn them into qualified leads. The more people attending the event, the more employees you need at the doors.

Pro Tip: Ask for a closed room wherever possible to create a captive audience.

Do NOT use the event scanner app. No matter what the event organisers promise, event technology typically means a delay in handover of this data to you. And in those precious days, warm prospects can go cold and your event ROI can plummet. 

Scanner data also makes it hard to differentiate high intent leads from tyre kickers, which is where the paper form comes up trumps. Tyre kickers will not take the effort to fill out a paper form.

5.2 Ensure your talk is educational, not sales-y

This presentation is one of the most important things you’ll do at the event. This is the star of the show – so you need to put your star quality people out there. Choose those who are natural on stage, engaging, and most comfortable speaking to do this session.

The main objective here is not to sell your product or service, but to let your knowledge shine and make people say “wow, I need to work with this person”. Talk through your areas of expertise, and the incredible results you’ve achieved. Always use real-life case studies to demonstrate what’s possible.

5.3 Announce a call to action 10 minutes into your talk

Here’s your chance to give away something for free, which entices people to fill out your paper form, or ask the audience to talk to your employees as they exit. Paper forms will deliver your most high intent leads. 

Again, don’t make this sales-y. Articulate the free value you’re willing to give, with no strings attached.

Also tie it back to the benefits similar clients have achieved from this offer, such as revenue growth, increase in leads, etc. 

5.4 End with a 5-10 minute Q&A

This is your chance to find out what prospects really want to know. Your target audience is right in front of you, so spend some time answering their questions. There’s a lot of value in these 10 minutes, as you can use their questions to guide your marketing content and conversations.

6. At the booth: How to turn every visitor into a new lead

An exhibition booth can be a big chunk of your event budget. But your goal is to ensure they are not a cost, but a revenue generator. Remember, the objective is to attract quality leads and take your prospects to the next stage with your company. Every element of your booth presence should help you with that goal.

6.1 Staff your booth with quality sales people

Always ensure your booth is manned by at least three employees. Your team can make or break your booth’s success. So, ensure these employees are “hunters” who aren’t shy to strike up a conversation with a random passerby.

But ensure your staff aren’t pushy. Focus on educating and having meaningful conversations. For example, ask “What are the key reasons you came to the event?”, “What challenges are you facing that you’d like to solve?”, and segue into how you can help with examples of how your company has helped similar businesses overcome those challenges.

Give away lots of knowledge for free. Encourage your team to offer useful advice and knowledge, and the prospects will come back to you (or tell others to work with you).

It’s not enough to have the right staff. You also need to…

6.2 Arm your team with tools to strike up conversations

For example, give them mints to hand out (everyone needs mints at conferences), employ a barista for your stand (everyone needs coffee too!), hire a popcorn machine, a mobile charging station — anything to attract foot traffic and make it easier for your staff to start conversations. Trust me, you’ll get a positive return on investment from this.

Create a killer offer your sales team can use — one that’s hard for prospects not to agree to. Always ensure this is related to your product or service for the best ROI — a free iPad or other material gift will only attract low quality and time waster leads.

6.3 Ask prospects to fill out a paper form

We love technology but it will often fail you at events due to poor wifi and other issues. Don’t risk it. Keep it simple with paper. Again, forget the event technology, like scanners. They might seem like a convenient way to gather data, but they’ll slow you down and you won’t get the type of specific data you need to evaluate and prioritise your leads (you’ll just get their top level contact details). Later, you’ll waste a lot of time trying to remember which lead wanted what.

Capture key information on the form. Non-negotiable fields include: name, email, website url, budget, when are they looking to make a decision, annual revenue (add buckets they can tick), and how can we help you. This helps the sales manager prioritise leads for assignment, and ensure the right lead lands with the right salesperson.

Pro Tip: On the paper form, write the name of the team member who spoke to the prospect, and get them to add any specific notes as needed (e.g. prospect is a close friend of the CEO, invite CEO to first call).

Assign one person to add all the data manually to an excel sheet, ready for quick upload into your CRM at the end of the day.

6.4 Follow up leads while you’re still at the event

Be the first to follow up.

This is the secret to maximising your event ROI. Remember, you have a lot of your competitors at the conference – the first to make contact in a meaningful way will win the business. Don’t slack on this front!

As soon as the potential customer has an owner in the CRM, create a simple email automation from the salesperson to prospect:

“Great meeting you today at (event name), really appreciate the chat! I’m really excited to chat further. We’ve worked with a lot of similar businesses, and we’re confident we can help you (insert key business driver they mentioned). Here’s a link to my calendar so you can find a slot that works best for us to catch up, otherwise I’ll pop you a note tomorrow with some recommended times too. Enjoy the rest of the event, and drop by to say hello in between sessions! Would love to chat more.”

Create a dashboard using your CRM to show leads that have and have not been contacted at the event. Ensure your team calls and manually emails the prospects first thing the next morning at the very latest.

Pro Tip:
Often sales people will say “prospects are really busy at events, they won’t check my emails anyway”. This is laziness and the number one reason you’ll lose a hot prospect that you’ve paid a lot of money for. 

The sales manager is responsible for monitoring this contact immediately and ensuring they hold their team accountable. They should build one dashboard for each team member to clearly show the leads that need to be followed up and work closely with the marketing team to enable this.

This is a joint sales and marketing responsibility. Sales and marketing should treat each other as peers and respect the mutual effort that goes into generating the best event ROI.

7. Everything in-between: How to maximise event ROI during downtime

Every minute counts at an event. You only have a limited amount of hours to get in front of attendees and potential customers, and maximise your event investment. This means you need to be proactive during any downtime and in the evenings.

7.1 Walk around during downtime

Ask your team members to walk around the event floor with merchandise and proactively share it with people they pass and strike up a conversation. Again, don’t be sales-y — genuinely try to understand why the person is at the event, what they’ve enjoyed so far, what their challenges are, and whether you feel your business might be able to help.

Remember, even if the prospect is not relevant for your business, your goal is to leave a good impression of your business so they will tell others about you. A big part of events is branding and word of mouth.

7.2 Divide and conquer in the evenings

Social events are great for networking, but evenings are also a prime time to follow up with leads and take them to the next stage. So here’s what you can do:

Assign one or two people to attend social events. The rest should stay back and follow up with the leads acquired that day. Remember, speed and meaningful contact is your main goal. Give the prospect confidence that you have helped similar businesses achieve the same goals and share some punchy examples. But keep it short and sweet.

7.3 Use the event agenda to your advantage

Study the event agenda and spot any ideal customers who are speaking, or sessions that might be a good hunting ground for prospects. Once you determine some, assign your salespeople to wait outside the session and strike up conversations when people are moving between sessions.

8. Post event: Follow up fast to secure event ROI

Now the event is over, the work doesn’t stop. This is the prime time to reel in those leads you’ve invested in and turn them into customers.

8.1 Track leads

Every day, track leads from the event and check all have been contacted within 24 hours.

Every three days, ensure all leads are followed up with high value insights. Avoid the opening phrase “I’m checking in” and instead make it meaningful. Research the prospect and tie it back into conversations you had at the expo. Ensure you track every contact on your sales and marketing dashboard, and each sales person’s dashboard.

Ensure your sales team prioritises closing out event leads while they are still hot, rather than being distracted by new inbound leads post event. This will maximise event ROI while also giving you a good understanding of how to invest in future events.

8.2 Nurture with valuable content

The day after the event, send a free “gated” ebook to all attendees and those who became leads. The ebook should be behind a gateway which requires people to enter their email, name, and website url to get a copy. This will automatically add them into your email nurturing program.

If you don’t already have an email nurturing program, create a simple sequence. Nothing fancy is needed here. Just ensure each email clicks through to three or four blogs you have created. Pick the best ones or create some articles before the event. This will help keep your prospects warm and keep your brand top of mind, whilst establishing more trust with your brand.

8.3 Calculate event cost

Closely monitor your event spend, deals created and deals won — this is the data you need to calculate event ROI. You’ll need to gather data from the event and sales and marketing teams, including revenue generated and event costs, to accurately measure event ROI. 

Did the event generate revenue for your business? What was the actual cost of the event? What is the total sales revenue compared to the total cost of the event? 

9. Wrapping up

If you religiously follow the above checklist, you will make incredible returns on your event investments.

How do I know? Because I’ve done exactly this.

Following this process, I’ve typically spent around $30k and banked between $1-2M in annual revenue.

Including events in your sales and marketing mix is about more than just rocking up — as you can see, it’s about orchestrating a symphony of tasks and seeing them come together harmoniously to create beautiful outcomes.

Here are some final tips:

    • Don’t jump into events at the last minute. Even if it seems like a great discount deal from the event marketers, you’re better off holding off for an event that you can prepare properly for to maximise the event’s ROI.
    • Hold your teams accountable and create robust dashboards and processes to help them generate sales — this is one of the best returns you’ll get.
    • It’s easy to “look” busy at an event, but it’s the effort post event that brings you the dollars. Don’t slack on quality, meaningful follow up. 
    • Lastly, treat your marketing team with respect. Events are often thrown at marketing. They get little credit for a good one, and all the blame for a bad one. Treat it as a sales AND marketing effort – you are one team. Plan, collaborate, be respectful of each other and watch your event ROI thrive. 

About Wasif Kasim Consulting

I’m Wasif Kasim and I help business leaders realise their dreams of scale. I work with companies that are craving exponential growth, but aren’t sure how to get there. From inconsistent marketing ROI to underperforming sales teams, to key person risk, and beyond – I advise on how to move past these issues and create a clear pathway to accelerate revenue.

Most recently, I’ve:

    • Quadrupled revenue in 4 years, to $30M, for a Digital Agency
    • Tripled revenue in 1 year to $25M, for an Education Consultancy
    • Doubled revenue in 7 months to $20M, for a Content Agency

I did this by building elite sales and marketing engines designed to deliver rapid, sustainable revenue growth. 

Ready to unlock hyper-growth for your business and achieve 10X revenue, leads and brand awareness? 

Let’s talk. Email me at wasif@wasifkasim.com or call +614 16 725 561 to see how I can help you supercharge your growth.