The size of the formal event industry (meetings, conferences, exhibitions, and trade shows) in the US was estimated at a whopping $325 billion in 2018. That figure excludes most private events such as weddings, anniversaries, and the Friday-night tribute gig at your local pub. All of which combined would probably more than double the total amount spent on events each year. Are all these events successful though? What constitutes a failed event? And most importantly, who or what should be blamed when events fail?

How do you measure event success?

Let’s start at the beginning and have a quick gander at the most common measures for event success. Broadly speaking, event performance indicators can be divided into three main categories: physical, financial, and customer-centric.

Physical metrics for success include the number of attendees (in the case of open or public events), number of tickets sold, or registration numbers. The ultimate metric in this category would probably be the number of eyeballs your event attracts. Thus far, the London and Rio Summer Olympics narrowly pip the 2018 FIFA World Cup for the accolade of most-watched television broadcasts in history.

The financial success of your event would depend on ratios like revenue vs production cost, amounts such as total ticket sales, or the value of leads generated. Charging $10,000 for standard admission to its five-day TED Conference has enabled TED to build a globally respected media network.  Plus it helps TED to provide free access to talks by the world’s foremost experts on education, business, science, tech and creativity. Charging $12,000 for VIP packages at a luxury music festival couldn’t save the infamous Fyre Festival from an ignominious ending.

Event customer metrics measure the feedback and behaviour of your guests through surveys, Net Promoter Scores (promoter vs detractor ratios), social media engagement (likes, shares, mentions), and interactive apps such as those that promote live polls and other forms of audience engagement.

When do you decide that your event has indeed failed?

In general, the success or failure of your event would depend on the goals that you have set for yourself when you decided to organize it.

Making a financial loss, when for example, ticket sales amount to less than total overheads, may still be considered a success when measured against brand exposure. Losing $2,000 on a $50,000 event, which allowed your brand to reach a targeted audience of 20,000 people, is negligible when compared to a magazine ad that would have cost twice as much to reach the same number of people.

Sometimes it could be just a part of an event that fails, while the rest was a relative success. Consider an exhibition with 1,000 stalls – if 75 percent of the stallholders are happy with the outcome, you have achieved relative success. However, you are still stuck with a 25 percent dissatisfaction rate. The fact is, you could have done better.

A suboptimal return on investment may also be hidden. For example, you may not be aware that you are overpaying for event services or products that could be found cheaper elsewhere, in the process handing too much of your event profit to your sub-contractors.

Brand damage can sometimes be hard to detect, but may nonetheless have serious consequences for your business. A sellout crowd means nothing if your event gets into the media headlines because of sanitation issues, long queues, and lack of crowd control.

And now for the fun part …

Whose fault is it that your event did not live up to expectations?

If you came across this blog post googling ‘why do events fail’ then we have some refreshing news for you. You have probably trawled through endless blog posts written by event industry operators, with titles like, “5 Event Planning Fails You Can Easily Avoid” or “8 Reasons Why Your Event Failed.”

Without exception all of those articles blame you, as the host or organizer, for not delivering suitable catering, lighting, floorplans, parking, marquee tents, generators, exhibition stalls, waiters, bars, audio-visual effects, PA systems, ticketing, ablution facilities, etc. But is that really true?

Let’s do a simple little test. Who is the expert in lighting, catering and so forth? You or the vendor who was supposed to look after that particular aspect of your event? Exactly!

There seems to be a total disregard within the events industry for its biggest supporters – the hosts or organizers (aka the clients who write the checks). Event blogs are written for event managers and other event professionals. Most event platforms and apps have been created to make the lives of event professionals easier. Which is a bit strange if you consider that without clients, there are no events.

So what are the real reasons why events fail?

There are three universal reasons why events don’t deliver. None of them should be laid at the feet of event hosts or organizers. Taking care of all three will ensure better events, happier hosts and guests, and a more level playing field for event professionals.

1) Lack of benchmarks

There are currently no universal quality benchmarks that separate good and bad event businesses. Event industry bodies and associations only cater for event professionals; most clients (that’s you and me) aren’t even aware of their existence.

What certification does happen is highly localised with a narrow focus on particular sub-sections of the events industry. Certification criteria are also not open to input from clients, while membership fees often create a barrier to entry for many fledgling event businesses. This results in a playing field that is very uneven for event professionals and completely fragmented for clients.

The solution: a Recommended Vendor program that is 100% based on verified client feedback, and hosted on a neutral global platform that is dedicated to all event verticals.

2) Lack of transparency

We are no longer interested in what businesses are telling us in their marketing campaigns. The most powerful form of product or service endorsement these days comes from our fellow consumers, with more than 80 percent of US consumers saying they check online reviews before making a purchase. Unfortunately, no dedicated platform existed up till now that allowed clients to create, view and compare reviews for event professionals in all event locations and categories.

To make matters worse, ongoing review scandals involving platforms like Amazon have eroded consumer trust in the validity of reviews. Even Google and Facebook reviews can be gamed, further exposing the grating lack of an accountable industry platform.

The solution: a transparent industry platform, for all event locations and categories, with clear and consistently enforced review policies.

3) A fragmented industry

Up till now, hosts and organizers of events had no central point of reference. Those looking for accommodation can start their search with a dedicated industry platform like AirBnB or TripAdvisor. Event hosts, on the other hand, have to take their chances with unverified and irrelevant search results on Google and other search engines, often resulting in financial and reputational losses.

Existing event-related platforms have also not been able to add much clarity for a variety of reasons. They mostly cater for limited geographical locations and specific event categories, often do not have review mechanisms, and are usually developed as a support system for event vendors, not clients.

As an event host, browsing event management software options or 100 Great Ideas for Trade Show Booths does not help me much. I want to know who will be able to get the job done, not how it is done. This is where things usually go completely off the rails, with frustrated hosts deciding to go the DIY route, often with disastrous consequences for the inexperienced.

The solution: a location- and category-relevant platform with features that ensure fast, efficient, and secure selection of event professionals.

Conclusion

Eventerprise.com was created to solve the multiple challenges that people face when they try to organize events, and at the same time give event professionals an equal chance to compete for business, based on merit rather than insular industry networks.

Most global event platforms such as Eventbase, Aventri, Cvent, and Eventbrite focus on their own apps and CRM tools for event management and marketing. Eventerprise is the only dedicated platform that offers reviewed-based comparisons between all types and categories of event professionals, – products, – services, and venues.

Give your event the best chance at success by choosing the benchmarks, transparency, and efficiency of the only global events platform that is dedicated to making the lives of both event professionals and their clients easier.

About Birgit Thümecke

Digital transformation | Diversity & Inclusion | Organizational change | Innovation Winner at the 15th Annual Stevie® Awards for Women in Business in the Female Entrepreneur of the Year category in November 2018.


I am an experienced business strategist and entrepreneur who loves to help companies innovate and grow through the power of analysis, creativity, and teamwork. As a career-spanning campaigner for customer success, I promote exponential growth where it matters - your users. My more than twenty years senior leadership experience in the technology and airline industries includes a successful tenure as group managing director of the customer service network of the Lufthansa Aviation Group, with 1800 team members across seven global locations