7 steps to create an effective KPI for your event

*find your free downloadable KPI builder at the bottom of this post

Quite a lot has been written about why setting goals and choosing success factors is so important for your event success. Though sometimes we face issues when it comes to that crucial moment in setting a goal, or more specifically a KPI, (Key performance indicator) in place.

You are basically facing one of these two options: 1. Using someone else’s KPI. 2. Deciding on a KPI of your own.

The first option is very appealing. Not much to think about, if it’s good enough for **insert name of a large, well know event company here** it’s good enough for me — right? Wrong!!

The first rule of KPI (not included in the 7 rules ahead :-) ) is that while there is definitely a KPI that is bad for all cases, there is no KPI that fits all events. Measuring, analysing and focusing on the wrong goal will do more harm then not setting goals at all. Someone else’s KPI could easily lead to poor decision making and simply wrong decisions.


But deciding on a KPI can be tough for first time goal setters… I know it was for me when I started!

Luckily, a KPI is a generic business tool and studied thoroughly enough to fit any business — even your events, if used right.

Let’s do it right now!

Think of a few possible indicators and write them down. if you can’t — choose up to 3 that you believe could be your key indicators. Now follow the rest. By the time we get to the bottom of the post — you’ll have your indicator!


1. Revenue and financials are not a KPI — Bottom line is important, and should — of course — be measured. Though the issue with financials as an indicator is simple: You can know that something is wrong, but it’s almost impossible (and event worst — tempting and risky) to pinpoint the reasons for good or bad performance. So if you had revenue/profits on your list, toss them!

2. KPIs are recurring, often timely — It means that an effective KPI can be measured on a regular basis. For every event, in between events, monthly or 24/7.

That is why:

  • The number of visitors in a single event is not a KPI.
  • The KPI can’t be related to a specific activity in a specific event.

Again, the reason is simple — you must have a way to evaluate it on an ongoing basis — we’re trying to find and fix the cause of bad performance, so we need to constantly measure the KPI while we optimise the process.

<<<Now think of your KPI candidates — do they meet this requirement?>>>

3. KPI should be management focused with a significant impact — the focus has to be on the management team. The KPI has to be chosen to reflect a “wide” enough or important enough factor that can be acted upon by management . That ensures that you’re not picking a KPI for a specific team/effort but for the organisation as a whole. That’s why some “intuitive” KPIs like meeting the projected number of exhibitors are risky and not so effective. Think what is the essence of your event: networking? creating new business for your clients? educating the community?

<<bring your answer to this level!>>


4. KPIs must be simple. Why? an effective KPIs must be shared with everyone in the organisation. If you set a goal — you want everyone to follow it. That’s your guiding light. Avoid ambiguous and subjective KPIs like “good attendee feedback” or “creating successful business meetings”. Avoid things like ROI that may be well accepted at management level, but often very unclear and unaccessible to the rest of the team.

<<<Still have a KPI on your list? If not — take a second & come up with 2–3 new ones>>>

5. KPIs must be measurable and in your control — It must be measurable and quantifiable so that you can compare your performance over a long period of time. But the key here is choosing something that you can control, that you can directly or indirectly change or improve. The level of engagement in your speaker session is probably not a very good KPI, simply because it has a lot to do with the way the speakers choose to deliver their message, their way of giving such lectures and so on.. so… If you can’t control it, why are you measuring it?

6. KPIs are team based — KPIs usually don’t rely on the performance or a single function of person, but rather on a team or teams working closely together. Try to assign one part of the organisation that would be responsible for the measured indicator. For example, The amount of deals a specific sales person closed with your exhibitors is not a good KPI (for other reasons too). You have to look at an effort lead by a team for the benefit or success of the entire operation.

7. Limit the dark side. Your KPI — any KPI has a dark side. While changing the process to focus on achieving a specific goal, you can easily compromise or neglect another aspect of your business. Always keep this fact in mind. Ask yourself — what do I compromise in order to focus on this KPI. People will do what management inspects, not necessarily what management expects.


Still not 100% what your KPI should be?

Download a KPI building template HERE with pre-made examples to help you through the process!

Try asking your colleagues to do the same. Compare the shortlist of KPIs — and the answer will pop right out.

Originally published at zoliro.com on April 13, 2015.