Attendance at industry events and conferences is essential for technology PR and marketing but few businesses measure the impact of this activity effectively. This week nextgen, the UK’s leading bioenergy and renewable energy event, opens at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire. There is no doubting the importance of this event for the energy technology sector but how do the investors, installers and energy end-users and generators attending the event justify their attendance or measure its effect on the success of their own business?

Measuring ROI

The bottom line is the first priority to most technology firms and being able to measure the cost of the event against new sales leads is vital. A simple formula looking at the value of new sales minus the cost of attendance at an event, over the cost of attendance at the event will give you the ROI but many technology businesses miss out some of the long term costs or benefits.

The cost of the ticket or booth, travel, accommodation and subsistence, additional promotional material, printing, graphics, digital design work, copy and so on is obvious but there is also the cost of lost production or sales from employees attending the event and therefore not doing their usual job. Paying for cover in their absence is expensive. Events generate a lot of extra PR work for the social media team, marketing team, administrative staff and this may lead to claims for overtime or result in later claims for flexi days off or even sickness.

Financial benefits may be measured immediately after the event, looking at the number of leads gained, the number of items sold but the events impact could last for months, even years, with conversations influencing sales long after the conference has ended. The impact of the event may be experienced, second or third hand and this is very difficult to track and measure.

It is not just about sales

Financial benefits for a company do not just come in the form of increased sales. Increased efficiency from lessons learned, relationships forged, and suppliers or equipment identified at an event or conference can have just as great an impact on a company’s bank balance. Extra publicity from social media, appearing in other attendees’ blogs, feeds and photostream is cheap publicity is a recent benefit that many neglect to measure. The motivational and inspirational effect on the business is particularly hard to measure as is the effect on the way the business is perceived. How do you quantify the psychological and behavioural changes brought about by the event?

Measuring ROO

An event like nextgen benefits from the measurement of any return on objectives. A good technology PR team understands that exploiting an event like this requires a great deal of preparation and planning and a clear strategy. To fully exploit the opportunities provided by attendance at nextgen, attendees need to decide ahead of time what they want to get out of it. What constitutes a successful event for them and how will they measure that success? Set smart targets for your team; how many new business cards you will collect, how many conversations, how many demonstrations, which competitors will you check out, which opinion leaders or influencers you will make contact with, what key points will you aim to communicate, which product or service will you focus on and how do you wish to be perceived?

After the event you can return to this list of objectives and assess your success in meeting them. Conduct surveys before after and during the event to measure the impact of the event on perceptions of your brand, product or service and changes in behaviour as a result. Monitor mentions of your brand on social media, Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin throughout the event for great qualitative feedback and see the event’s impact on your web stats for quantitative data.

Many of the technology and engineering firms attending nextgen will enjoy the event and get a great deal out of it, particularly as this year it includes the UK’s leading bioenergy event, ebec, and microgen which focuses on the vital sub 50 kWh renewable energy market. But without clear objectives they will never be able to measure the impact on their business.