by Amith Nagarajan | June 27, 2013

Attendee engagement is the life force of any event, yet meeting professionals rarely measure it objectively, as they would gross revenue or profit margins. However, taking the time to calculate engagement presents planners with the means to score a speaker's effectiveness, a raffle's popularity or an itinerary's inclusiveness, among many other facets of a gathering. That information can be used to better engage attendees in the future and improve the overall event. 

Here's a method for developing your own Composite Engagement Score (CES) -- a clear and easily calculable formula that quantifies attendee engagement based on an event organizer's priorities.
This approach starts with setting Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs -- ideally no more than five -- and then normalizing their values and assigning a weight to each value. These values are then combined to create a single-number composite score. This number clearly demonstrates an attendee's engagement at a glance.

How It Works
Here's the simple, four-step CES formula for an event planner's easy implementation:

• Choose your KPIs based on what you and your organization value. For example, if session attendance and social media discussion are two categories of engagement you find particularly indicative of an engaged attendee, label those categories as your KPIs.

• Weight the KPIs according to their relative importance. Perhaps session attendance is more important than social media discussion; you can assign session attendance 60 KPI points and social media discussion 40 points. The assigned weights must add up to 100.

• Assign values to attendee activities in the KPI categories. If an attendee attends one or two sessions, you might value that at 15 points; three or four sessions might be worth 30 points and five or more worth 60 points -- or the maximum allowed for that KPI.

Similarly, if an attendee posts one or two comments about your event, you might value that at 10 points, three or four posts at 20 points and five or more posts at 40 points.

• Determine each attendee's overall engagement according to his or her participation in all KPIs. Let's say Sarah attends four sessions (30 points) and posts two comments about your event on her social media sites (10 points). Sarah receives a total of 40 CES points. Jake also attends your event. He doesn't attend any sessions (0 points) but posts seven comments about your event (40 points). Jake's CES also is 40.

Assessing Results
Even though Sarah and Jake engaged in the event in different ways, they were equally engaged. Engagement is a matter of what you do, not just how often you do it.

The resulting information can be used in myriad ways across all lines of your business. Complaints from highly engaged attendees, for instance, might carry more weight than those from less involved participants. Also, year-over-year scores can be compared. If attendees were highly engaged during last year's event and only moderately engaged this year, you might need to tweak some aspects of the event. 

Amith Nagarajan is the CEO of Aptify, a provider of association management solutions. He also is author of the eBook Scoring Member Engagement, which can be found at, along with a CES Excel spreadsheet.