Events are complex, living creatures that happen in the messy, real world. I am not satisfied that we capture the true business impact of events. In an effort to capture a more complete picture of my events, I have started using a Net Promoter Score (NPS). There is little discussion online about using an NPS for measuring live events This post will detail some of my experience experimenting with NPS for live events, and also offer some initial benchmarks for those just starting out.
What is a Net Promoter Score?
Net Promoter Scores measure the likelihood of someone recommending a product or service to a friend or colleague. Respondents pick a number between 0–10 and some simple math gives you a final number between -100 and 100. A score above zero is technically positive but I will get into that further in a moment.
The simplicity of the NPS approach is its obvious strength. A single question survey is much more likely to get a response. A single number outcome is much easier to communicate within organizations and to senior leadership.
The more subtle benefit is the follow up that it enables. NPS surveys often include a single follow up question like, “What is the most important reason for your answer?” Some surveyors follow up with respondents to discuss their comments in more depth.
Using NPS as a proxy for loyalty is somewhat fashionable among product teams but it is not without its critics. The crux of the criticism is that the NPS score might not be more statistically significant than other survey methods. I have found that the NPS is a good enough measure of experience because it reduces my uncertainty by either validating or challenging my experience of an event.
A series of NPS numbers reviewed over a series of events can be plotted to provide a rough sense of direction. What is more important to me is that there is a follow up question paired with the NPS result. By first asking the respondent to score their experience, the follow-up question becomes a more focused prompt that asking for feedback alone and you get plenty of ideas for optimizing future events based on the follow up feedback. Taken together, both the quantitative and qualitative feedback make great fodder for reports and pitch decks. So, in short, I like what I have seen so far.
How do you apply Net Promoter Scores to an event?
Apparently, it is big mental leap to apply NPS methods to events. Events are not a “product” to many organizations in the same way as a piece of software or a pair of shoes is a product. I think that is just lack of understanding. The same work of producing, positioning, packaging, marketing, and selling goes into creating an event ‘product” as it would with any other product. People talk about and “recommend” events to their friends like they would a pair of shoes. Whether it’s for marketing, fun or profit, an event is a product like anything else.
Event-makers also tend to use long surveys to gather post-event feedback. Long surveys don’t get enough participation and often surface too much useless data. Introducing an NPS approach might demand the changing of well-worn habits.
What I have been experimenting with is a short compromise survey with the NPS question, “How likely are you to recommend [your event series] to a friend of colleague] and a follow up question, “What is the most important reason for your answer?” I make those two questions required. I then follow up with three more quick multiple-choice questions that address the metrics I established before the event. I also end with another open question asking if they would like to share anything else.
For smaller events, there is the problem of getting enough responses to feel like the resultant number is valid on its own and comparable to other events in a series. This is a problem with any survey of small groups. I am experimenting with ways to increase participation like refining the call-to-action copy. A shorter survey would likely help as well.
You can easily build an NPS questionnaire in Google forms, but survey tools like Survey Monkey have NPS widgets that you can embed into the surveys you build. There are also some dedicated NPS survey tools out there like Promoter.io and Typeform
How do your events’ NPS results compare to other events? There isn’t much information available online. Even Satmetrix, one of the firms that helped develop the NPS model, does not include events as a benchmark category. The one exception I have found uses a questionable approach that derives data from social media “likes” in the absence of public NPS data. So, you are going to have to make some choices based on imperfect information.
If you want to compare your event to other kinds of consumer product and brand experiences, NPS Benchmarks shows the source of its scores. For instance, the Apple iPhone had a score of 63 in 2015 while Blackberry scored 23.
Anecdotally, I have heard from someone who ran outdoor excursions that they would get NPS scores in the 80s. I have seen decent B2B meet-ups score in the high teens, and well received B2B events, both small and large, score into the high thirties.
I understand that TEDx uses NPS to measure their events and there are a few events with numbers in the single digits on this list but again, I am not sure if I trust that source. I would be curious to learn more about how the TEDx events score.
There are meaningful differences between the experience of an iPhone, a fun hike, and an industry conference so you will have to handicap your event scores as it makes sense to you. Based on my experience so far, I am using these ranges as my rule of thumb.
- NPS of <0 — something is terribly wrong
- NPS of 0–10 — meh
- NPS of 10–30 — a pretty typical thumbs up considering people are there for work and the standard experience at B2B events is a bit boring
- NPS 30–50 — is excellent for a B2B event but still has areas to improve
- NPS 50+ — a special experience by any measure
- NPS of <0 — something must have caught on fire
- NPS of 0–20 — meh
- NPS of 20–40 — thumbs up but average. Your mom loved it though.
- NPS 40–60 — excellent, nice work
- NPS 60+ — very, very special, your only daughter probably just got married
A NPS is just one way of viewing an event or a series of events. I still like to pair attendee feedback with a separate staff survey to collect both the staff’s observations of the event and experience of being part of the production. I follow up with my team to do post-event retrospectives in personal. Of course, we look at the numbers of RSVPs vs attendance and such. Photos are also essential to painting a picture of what the experience was like and are a source of data in themselves. All that together give me the ability to tell a story about an event.
I plan to keep experimenting with this approach. I would appreciate hearing from anyone else who has used NPS to measure their events. I thank you in advance for your comments and invite you to ping me if you need help improving your event program’s NPS score.
Originally published on Linkedin.