Planners often judge their virtual events to be successful based on the number of attendees they attract. While attendance does play an important role, there are other aspects of an online event that you also should consider when determining its overall impact. And why wouldn’t you? Unlike on-site events, where feedback is limited in most cases to registration, evaluations and session check-ins, webinars and other online events offer a wealth of measurable metrics beyond attendance

Because it doesn’t show the level of interest the audience has in your virtual event or how they feel about your message, attendance is a limiting measurement. Wouldn’t you rather know that 100 people are fully engaged in what you are offering than have 1,000 people whose interest level you don’t know? Consider tracking these four metrics during your next virtual event:

1. Attendee behavior patterns

One primary benefit of virtual events is that they allow event marketers to track and analyze attendee activities—including their engagement with content, presenters, and other attendees. For example, you can use the virtual platform tools to determine which presentation program garners the most attention. If you’re using PowerPoint, you can see who actually downloaded the content and interacted with the material. If you lost half of your attendees when you introduced the presentation, then you should consider using a different approach.

2. Attendee engagement

It’s important to track your attendees’ engagement levels because they will most likely vary throughout the event and during each individual session. Looking at attendees’ interaction with the content offers insight in two key areas:

  • What was and wasn’t effective—If a session draws a large crowd, but attendees aren’t engaging by clicking on the content, asking questions, or interacting with presenters or other attendees, you know something needs to be reworked. Attendees clearly found the topic interesting (it’s what attracted such a large crowd), but the speaker dropped the ball on the delivery. On the other hand, if one session exceeds engagement expectations, it’s obvious little work needs to be done to the presentation.
  • Prospective clients—From a marketing point of view, measuring and analyzing engagement levels makes sense. It enables marketers to identify the most-qualified prospective clients. Many virtual event solutions supply customizable engagement metrics. This feature allows marketers to give higher rankings to more senior-level attendees who not only join particular sessions, but also heavily participate during those sessions. If the contacts surpass a certain threshold, they can then be passed along to your sales team and labeled as qualified leads.

3. Gauge attendee experience

Whether an attendee left your event feeling great and inspired or not so much, you want to know why they feel the way they do. To find out, send a short survey one to two weeks after your event has ended. A survey will give you a better understanding of what stood out for each attendee—good and bad. If they remember it well enough to tell you about it days after your event, you know it must have made an impression. You can then use this information when planning your next event to determine what aspects to keep and what to do away with.

4. Don’t get discouraged by attendance rates

Usually only 40 to 50 percent of people who register for a virtual event end up going, so don’t be disappointed when only 150 out of 300 registrants actually attend. One advantage of virtual events is their extended shelf life. Just because your event has ended doesn’t mean the material is useless. With a virtual event, you’re able to give those who couldn’t attend the event in real time options to still participate—either through an on-demand version or digital recording. By implementing a strong followup plan, you’ll be able to up your attendance rate and even attract new viewers who didn’t sign up originally, but still wish to hear some of the sessions.

Eric Vidal is a director of product marketing at InterCall, managing the strategy and initiatives for technologies that include virtual environments, streaming, event management services, and operator-assisted services. He has more than 15 years of experience in developing, implementing, and optimizing “virtual business” strategies and previously held positions with WebEx, Cisco, IBM, BBDO Worldwide, and Macromedia.