The Intangible Impact of Events

Many times after an event, the first thing someone will ask is “how many people were there?” Why? Because we tend to measure the impact of events by the number of attendees.  While high attendance numbers show interest in an event, they don’t always accurately reflect the economic and social impact of an event.

Take some time to consider the intangibles when evaluating the success and impact of an event, things that are not always measurable can be equally impactful as data collection.

  • Overall enjoyment. Take pictures and collect comments from attendees while they are enjoying the event. These can be great tools in marketing future events and securing sponsorships.
  • Capitalize on the positive. Events create goodwill and a strong sense of community that are valuable assets for strengthening the image and position of an organization of a community.
  • Quality over quantity. In vendor or retail events, many times it is not the number of people at the event, but the quality of the customer that make a strong impact. Leads, sales and interactions with new customers are more valuable than a larger crowd.

Events should be a dynamic part of the overall brand and style of your organization They can help to position your community as a destination and ultimately increase tourism. These impacts can be felt for weeks, months, and years beyond a single event.

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Measuring Event Impact with Surveys

Summer events are just around the corner and most of you are busy planning, engaging volunteers and looking to maximize the impact of those events. The challenge is identifying and measuring the impact of the events and festivals.

In 2012, the National Main Street Center explored this issue in an article that used two different case studies. Both of these communities employed teams to implement the studies and analyze the impact. (You can read the article here: http://www.preservationnation.org/main-street/main-street-news/story-of-the-week/2012/120627festivals/measuring-the-economic-impact.html) The common tool was a survey; and the good news is that you, and a few volunteers, can measure the impacts of your events with surveys.

First, create an attendee survey. Ask questions like:
• Where are you from?
• How did you hear about the event?
• What was your favorite part of the event?
• What businesses in the district have caught your eye?
• Do you plan to visit any of the shops in the district while you are here?
• How likely are you to come again?
• Out-of-towners: Would you be willing to estimate how much you have spent on food and lodging during your visit?

Then decide how to implement the survey.
• Have team members circulate in the crowd and ask questions
• Have a station at the event where people fill out a survey and can spin a wheel for a prize (t-shirt, hat, mug, event poster, etc.)
• Hand out cards for people to visit an online survey (may be the least effective, people are easiest to engage at the event)

Next, create a simple district business survey. Explain your reasoning behind the survey and they will be more likely to share information with you.
• Were you open during the event? (The whole time, or part?)
• Did you see an increase in traffic during the event?
• Percentage of sales increase during the event (you can ask for amount of sales, but they will be more likely to share a percentage of sales.)

Finally, collect similar data from vendors at the event.

Once the data is collected, it should be assembled into an easy-to-read format. We recommend a database or spreadsheet of the findings with a list of any additional comments.

Things to look for:
• Return on Investment (ROI) – Do the event benefits outweigh the costs?
• How much money was spent in the district, during the event, with businesses and vendors?
• How many out-of-town visitors? How much did they spend in the community during the event?
• Attendance growth – more people this year than last year, why or why not?

Remember, you are looking for the positive ways that events are impacting your district and ultimately the community. Data, especially over time, will tell the story of your event. This data can be used to share with stakeholders, recruit sponsors, request Lodgers Tax and apply for marketing grants. Events are great tools in revitalizing your MainStreet or Arts & Cultural District – use them wisely!

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