A Year in Review: Conducting an Annual Evaluation of Your Events

The end of the year is a natural time to reflect on achievements and failures as you prepare to adapt and refine in the year ahead. Evaluating your year of event programming in order to prepare for the next one is no different.

Event evaluation is an ongoing process throughout the year. But understanding the value of your event programming more broadly, and how it advances or hinders your organization’s overall strategy and values, requires a holistic review. 

To conduct your annual event programming evaluation, begin with the following steps:

Step 1: Create a Snapshot of the Year

Start by establishing an overview of the entire year of events, include:

If necessary, include a breakdown of stats by event types or category, such as small recurring events, large seasonal events, virtual, in-person, etc. Make note of any outliers, such as those with the highest attendance or those that garnered the least amount of revenue. 

As you create the snapshot, be sure to include highlights from events that brought about notable engagement or resulted in press coverage. If putting together a formal presentation, include photos that capture important moments from events to bring the year in review to life. 

Step 2: Revisit Initial Goals KPIs

As mentioned above, Q4 should not be the first or only time you’ve planned or conducted an analysis of your events. Instead, now is the time to take a look at your event data as a whole and see how it compares to KPIs (key performance indicators) and goals set for your marketing or programming at the beginning of the year. 

If using Ticketbud as your event ticketing platform, use the reporting tool to generate sales or scan (attendance) reports for each event. You can then compare the amount of ticket sales to your total expenses to determine your event profits. Don’t forget to include any money made from sponsorships and any costs associated with staff or volunteer training. You can also compare a report on ticket sales versus check-ins to determine attendance at each event. 

Beyond monetary and attendance success, it’s important to evaluate how your events progressed your core strategy and values. For example, if your goal was to engage new demographics, were those audiences present at your events? If you had sustainability initiatives, did your event help move the needle forward? 

As you evaluate, consider the reasons behind your successes and failures and whether some events may need to be reproduced, rethought or simply left as a memory. 

Step 3: Look at Social Media Engagement

Most social media sites provide the tools and analytics you need to gauge the success of posts and campaigns related to your event, offering data on likes, comments, shares, clicks, etc. To understand how events may have impacted your overall social media growth and strategy, review any tags, mentions, or increases in followers. 

Special event hashtags can help capture engagement from user generated content. If you did not do so this year, make sure future event marketing campaigns include a specific hashtag for the event or encourage others to tag your organization when posting about the event.

Understanding social media engagement will provide insight into how to reach and interact with your audiences more effectively for future events. It might also offer another avenue to gather feedback and stakeholder impressions of your event. 

Step 4: Review Feedback and Testimonials

It’s best to gather feedback when the event is fresh in people’s minds. So if you did not do so this year, be sure to develop a plan to collect responses from attendees, vendors, partners and staff through surveys during or shortly after each event. 

Then, review this data in its entirety at the end of the year to determine any consistent wins or pain points. Monitoring feedback from each event can demonstrate how you improved from event-to-event and established best practices. All of this is important information to take with you into the next year of events. 

If any feedback is particularly positive, consider using it as a marketing tool for future events. Whether it’s a strong quote or a consistently high rating across attendees and event dates, this data will demonstrate to audiences that an event is worth their time. 

reviewing testimonials and feedback

Step 5: Evaluate Partners and Vendors

In addition to digesting the feedback of your stakeholders, it’s important to assess the value of each relationship. Perhaps certain events could not have been done without the financial support of sponsors or contributions of partners. So, consider why they chose to contribute, what they got out of it, and how you can ensure they’ll help in the future. 

It’s also good to maintain a directory of vendors you have worked with – both good and bad – and make note of any info that might make it easier to work with them moving forward (for example: responds best to email, needs attendee numbers 1 week ahead of event, requires payment upfront, etc). This living document will make it easier to plan and delegate vendor communications for future events. 

It’s also important to note if working with outside organizations allowed you to tap into new audiences. So, ask your partners for any details and analytics related to any social media posts, newsletters or emails they produced related to your event.

Step 6: Debrief with Your Event Teams

Report your findings with your events committee or decision-making teams. Together, you can discuss the return on investment (ROI) of your events, or whether the events you hosted were worth the time and resources that went into producing them. Are there any areas of fat you could trim to make the planning processes more cost and time efficient? Are there any best practices you could replicate to ensure no event eats into your ROI?

Wisdom is gained in experience, and failures can help guide future planning efforts. So, outline the lessons you’ve learned along the way, and use your knowledge to refine your approach. 

Step 7: Set Future Goals

Your reflections should inform your aspirations as you set new goals and establish KPIs for next year’s event calendar. Make sure these goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART):

Make annual reviews of your events and annual programming a regular practice. Consistently reviewing your goals and progress leads to continuous improvement in the planning and execution of your events. 

A Complete Event Planning Checklist

Planning an event can be an exciting but daunting task. Whether you’re planning a fundraiser, corporate conference or a private gathering, making your event a success requires meticulous planning. 

Below, we offer a complete checklist to help you plan and execute a memorable and successful event. 

Pre-Planning: 4-6 Months Before the Event 

Before diving into the details, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of your event’s purpose and objectives. Ask yourself what you aim to achieve with this event. Are you raising funds for a cause, celebrating a milestone, or launching a product? Consider who the right people are to help achieve those goals – think: partners, vendors, sponsors, staff, volunteers, etc. Having the right people in place and clearly defining your objectives sets the tone for the rest of the planning and process. 

In this stage, be sure to: 

Get the Ball Rolling: 3-4 Months Before the Event

At this point, the event date is set and you should be rolling full steam ahead with planning. It’s important to secure partnerships, such as sponsors and collaborators, early on. These relationships will help amplify your event promotions as you build interest and anticipation for your event. Consider hosting early bird sales to lock in audiences that are already engaged with you. These folks can also help spread the word about your event. 

In this stage, you’ll need to: 

Ramp up Sales and Promotions: 1-2 Months Before the Event

It’s time to spread the news far and wide about your event. Finalize and use event details, such as partnerships or novel experiences, to pique interest and build interest in your event. Tease your audiences with news about what they can expect and encourage those who have already committed to refer others to your event. 

During this phase, it’s important to:

Tie Up Loose Ends: 1-3 Weeks Before the Event

The last month leading up to your event is your chance to make sure all of your ducks are in a row. Start thinking about what your event will look like from start to finish, run it by all who are involved and ensure you have all the people and mechanisms in place to execute it successfully. Additionally, if your ticket sales have become stagnant and you’re worried about attendance, it may be time to consider last-minute sales or promotions. 

During this time period, complete the following: 

The Calm Before the Storm: 1 Day Before the Event

Today is the culmination of all of your preparation, when all the pieces come together to show the exact potential of the event you’ve been planning. During set-up, work closely with your event stylists to create a cohesive and visually appealing atmosphere that matches the theme and purpose of your event. Pay attention to details like table settings, lighting, signage, and seating arrangements to enhance the overall experience.

To prepare:

It’s Showtime: the Day of the Event

Take a deep breath. The day you’ve been preparing for is finally here. And because of your careful planning, you’re ready for it. On the day of the event, coordinate with your team and vendors to ensure everything runs smoothly. Assign someone to manage logistics, oversee the schedule, and handle any unexpected issues that may arise. Be prepared to adapt and make quick decisions as needed.

Follow-Up: 1 Week After the Event

After the event, be sure to show gratitude to all of your attendees, partners and vendors while the experience is still fresh in their minds. This is important to preserve trusting, working relationships. Use your follow-up as an opportunity to gather feedback from everyone involved. This information will help you evaluate the success of your event, identify areas for improvement, and allow you to make informed decisions for future events.

Within the a week of your event, consider the following:

Post-Event Analysis: 1 Month After the Event

After you’ve had some time to decompress, take time to look back on the experience, measure your success and identify any lessons learned. What you determine in this phase will go towards improving events for years to come. 

During your post-event analysis, be sure to: 

Planning a successful event requires careful preparation, attention to detail, and effective teamwork. By following this comprehensive guide, you can create an event that not only meets its objectives but leaves a lasting impression on your attendees. 

Remember that flexibility and adaptability are key, as unexpected challenges are a part of event planning. But through dedication, trusting partnerships and the right planning strategies, you can host a memorable and successful event.