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  • Writer's pictureJoe Federbush, EVOLIO

5 Virtual Exhibit KPIs You Should be Measuring Now

You know that virtual events have become the standard, at least for the time being, and you’ve probably heard that many virtual/online events are attracting larger audiences compared to the same event held previously in-person. Increased attendance seems like a huge benefit for virtual event producers, show organizers, exhibitors and sponsors, however, few have reaped major reward. Many exhibitors have not seen a greater number of visitors or leads compared with in-person events. Is this because the quality of the attendee has been diluted? An EVOLIO industry survey conducted between April and September 2020, revealed that only about 10% of virtual exhibitors and sponsors were very satisfied with virtual events meeting their objectives. That’s not good.

So, what’s an exhibitor to do?

The good news is that a virtual event win comes down to planning. And by implementing many of the same pre-pandemic exhibit and sponsor planning protocols, success can still be achieved and expectations may even be exceeded. Setting measurable objectives and establishing realistic goals are more important than ever because we’re all having to reset and rethink how we exhibit and sponsor at virtual events and eventually, hybrid events. When done methodically and carefully, brands will be back on their way to successful event marketing experiencing ROE and ROI (return on event and investment), and delivering value to visitors.

Think about it this way…the more strategizing and planning your team and stakeholders do in advance, the bigger the benefit will be later on. You’ll be in a better position to develop best practices, identify where targets were met, exceeded, or fell short, and be able to track, report and present results so they make sense to stakeholders, delivering greater accountability.

Establishing your KPIs starts with the following steps:

Identify how virtual (and hybrid) exhibiting success will be defined, how it will be (and should be) different than in-person, and then develop an actionable KPI and measurement plan. Once objectives are defined, prioritize them from most to least important based on platform capabilities and feedback from internal stakeholders, to avoid feeling overwhelmed and so that you’re not taking on too much at once.

For online events, the highest priority should an extremely impactful pre-event communications plan and a well thought out social media plan to drive quality visitors to your online booth, sessions, and/or other digital event activities.

Why? Because people are no longer walking by your booth and it’s much less likely they’ll randomly find you during an online event.

Reset Your Goals & Targets for Objectives. Greater number of event attendees does not always correlate with greater number of booth visitors and leads. So, keep in mind that in general, virtual exhibits tend to have fewer visitors than in-person events, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the outcomes will be lower.

If you’re comparing year-over-year results, you might seriously consider decreasing virtual event lead count goals and number of visitor goals compared with previous years by as much as 30% to 50%.

Aim for greater quality over quantity. Cliché? Yes. Important? More than ever.

Create Your Content and Communications Action Plan: Measuring and tracking what happens post-event is just as important as tracking pre- and during the event, so be sure that each of your event-related content and communications can be sourced and that reporting shows how the results contributed to goals, ROI and ROE. Emails and reminders sent to your customer/prospect databases (pre-event) and visitors (post-event) should track deliverability, open, clicks/downloads, and sign-ups. Social media posts should use appropriate hashtags and handles, including your companies’ and the event’s. Always work with the show organizer to determine what information they’ll be providing you with too. Most importantly, communications should all have targeted messages with strong call-to-actions (CTA). Think about outcomes when planning activities.

The Five Most Important Virtual Exhibit Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

There are five KPIs that every virtual exhibitor should be reporting. Remember, while every KPI is based on metrics, not every metric is a KPI.

KPIs are the most important metrics and…

· KPIs should be based on the datapoints that ultimately determine success

· KPIs should not focus on tactics

· KPIs are typically used to set strategy and budgets for future planning

· KPIs can determine whether or not to continue investing in an event

Here are my recommended 5 most important KPIs for your virtual exhibit, starting with the most basic (and obvious) because it will serve as the foundation for the next four:

1) Visitor Activity

If you don’t have visitors, or you’re not tracking their behavior and activities (i.e., log-ons, clicks, visits), then you won’t see results. It’s that simple. Almost every online platform should provide you with Total and Unique Number of Visitors to your booth, demos, downloads and sessions.

Joe’s Tip: Communication is key! Create a targeted communication plan for pre-event and during-event days. To drive traffic, begin communicating 2 to 3 weeks before the event and then go heavy during the 3 days prior to the event. About half of attendees plan their event agenda a few days leading up to the event. Get on their agenda! Be sure to include a strong call to action in your communications giving your targets a purpose to visit.

2) Targets Attracted

Targets Attracted (TA) is the percentage of visitors that directly align with who you’ve defined as your targeted audiences, which is typically based on criteria like job role, industry/specialty, company size, age, and gender. It may also include criteria like press/analysts and customers versus prospects. The bottom-line is to have a clear definition of your targets going into every event. Notice targets is plural, because having more than once specific target audience is logical.

Joe’s Tip: Be sure to obtain attendee demographics from the event organizer and use that to set your TA goals. It allows you to calculate the number of attendees you should anticipate reaching and attracting. For example, you may determine that 50% of the total audience represent your target. Then, your goals should be to attract at least 30% of the 50%. Sounds complicated, but it’s not.

Calculate How Many Visitors You Should Hope to Achieve:

TA% x Total # Registrants x 30% = TA Visitor Goal

The next 3 KPIs pertain to your visitors’ experiences, something I like to call Return on Experience or ROX. My recommendation is replacing ROI with ROX as one of your KPIs due to the basic fact that if your guest did not have a great experience interacting with your brand or staff, then you definitely won’t get a return on your investment. And, you won’t know why you didn’t get the ROI if you don’t understand which part(s) of the brand experience were not effective.

3) Value of Experience

Value metrics cannot be quantified by clicks, downloads, or visits, so it’s important to capture value metrics by asking the question via polls or surveys. To determine value, you’ll need to ask questions like:

• Please rate the usefulness of the information presented (i.e., in a session or demo)

• Rate your level of agreement with key messages. Key messages should tie back to your KPIs. What is it that you’re ultimately trying to accomplish and ask it.

Joe’s Tip: Keep your questions short, simple and direct. Do not ask leading questions and do not make respondents feel like they must answer in a positive way (i.e., like auto dealership service dept surveys).

4) Brand Impact

Are your efforts inspiring your guests (visitors) to more favorably view your brand? Are you motivating them to want to interact, learn more, engage, and take the next step to move them from the marketing funnel to the sales funnel? To do so, be hyper-focused on making a positive impression. Surprise. Delight. Don’t let your approach be routine. People want to learn and see what’s new and they want information that helps them and their business solve problems. Even without a product launch or big news announcement, you can still get positive brand attention that amplifies your brand and distinguishes you from the competition by focusing on benefits.

Joe’s Tip: Timing is everything. Your successes, and ways to improve, should be identified immediately so that you know which interactions and activities drove results, inspired or motivated, and which didn’t. With that info, you will develop Best Known Methods (BKMs) and have extremely valuable key learnings and insights to share with your team.

5) Business Impact/Demand Gen

When your guests leave your booth, session, event, experience, etc., are they motivated to take action? Keep in mind that action does not always have to equal purchasing. It could be that they want to schedule a meeting, do some research online and read reviews about your products or solutions. Or, taking action could be influencing their purchasing team to make a decision, or preferably, assist in finally making that buying decision. Whatever buying stage they are in, think about how every piece of content (digital, live, etc.) and experience you share will impact and effect that buying consideration decision.

Joe’s Tip: Similar to the Brand Impact KPI, Business Impact must also be asked, or it can’t be tracked. Asking the question, “What do you intend to do in the next 6 months as a result of your time with [Brand] at this event?” allows you to be proactive in terms of next steps. Just tracking the information in CRM and/or marketing automation tools, is more reactive. Both are important.

Having data is great if you know what to do with it. A lot of data does not necessarily equal good data. It’s much more important to collect the right data based on your objectives. This is why I say that not every data point is a KPI. KPIs are the most important metrics that will determine success. Identify your KPIs to clarify where you are in meeting, or exceeding, your event marketing strategy and objectives – online, in-person, and hybrid.

If you would like assistance in determining your KPIs and evolving your event marketing portfolio, EVOLIO would love to help. Email me directly at

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