6 Rs to Grow Your Events

In the wake of recent circumstances, maybe it is the perfect time to reflect on what can make your events even more powerful. 

Are your annual events growing by at least 15% each year? If not, why not?


Those were the provocative questions asked in the introduction of the article The 6 Rs Framework written by Don Neal, CEO of 360 Live Media, whose firm helps member-based organizations create experiential events. Signature events for most organizations can contribute up to 50% of their annual revenue. With competition for causes, attendees and sponsors, it can be challenging to see real growth year after year after year.

Neal’s article focuses on six key factors that drive event growth. By understanding the role each of these factors plays in the success of events and how to measure performance for each, goals and strategies can be created and prioritized to create sustainable growth.


The 6 Rs for Event Growth

1. Relevance — Nothing really matters if the event or your organization is not relevant. This is the most important factor to consider. Neal suggests there are 4 – 6 cohorts that represent 80% of the event audience. It’s important that you understand each cohort—who they are, what they care about and what they want from you. Each event should clearly communicate (WIIFM) What’s In It For Me?) for each cohort.

2. Reputation — Your event has a reputation, brand, image or personality, whether you realize it or not. If the event isn’t awesome, it isn’t likely to grow. As Neal provokes, “If your event were a car, what brand would it be? Is your event a 1984 Oldsmobile or is it a Tesla?” “Is your event . . . a fax machine or a 3D printer?” You could use a survey to collect feedback about your event reputation from exhibitors, sponsors, board members, staff and event attendees.

3. Retention — What percentage of last year’s event attendees came back this year? Most associations report about a 40% retention of event attendees. Relevance and Reputation will drive the retention rate of attendees. Recognize the importance of repeat customers and consider how to reward them for their loyalty with special perks—VIP registration lines, discounts, loyalty status on their name badges, Thank You’s and shout outs on social media or in newsletters can recognize repeat attendees and make them feel appreciated.


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4. Reach — Determine if you are accessing the right audience to invite to specific events. If you typically see the same usual suspects or want to grow attendance with an emerging group of members or targeted future members, you’ll want to explore new lists, new media channels and new social platforms. Relevance is key here—speak to them in ways they understand and answer core questions they might have.

5. Revenue — Let’s not sugar coat it—even though events are member benefits and informative and fun—it is about the money, too. When events create more revenue, you have more resources for initiatives and to serve members and communities and can deliver better experiences at events. Consider ways to increase the revenue for each event like higher attendance, better retention of prior attendees, selling event swag (souvenirs, t-shirts, higher fees, VIP packages, bundling membership and events for future members, barter opportunities to reduce expenses, podcasts of interviews/excerpts, signed books/photos from keynote speakers, etc.). Set higher revenue goals and get creative on how to achieve them!


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6. ROI — This comes from the cumulative investments of the other Rs. Neal suggests a mininum of 20% ROI for revenue from your major events. Most organizations do not factor in staff time, both in terms of cost and whether specific events are a good use of staff resources. Aside from the direct ROI to your organization, consider the ROI for event attendees and sponsors. Sending out a short survey after each event to collect feedback and ask critical questions may determine whether ROI was achieved for your audience. The ultimate question may be “On a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being the highest, how likely are you to recommend others to attend to this event?” Using the Net Promoter Score technique, you can determine the NPS, ROI, Relevance and Reputation for the event and set your goals higher for the next time.

360 Live Media provides a 6 Rs Event Scorecard to help you evaluate how you’re doing. I hope this information gives you food for thought and a path to grow your “Super Bowl” events. Please reach out and share your feedback and your success stories!



Cathi Hight helps organizations manage constant change, develop customer-centricity and “work smarter, not harder”. She is President of Hight Performance Group and the developer of The Member Retention Kit, A New Approach to Tiered Membership, and Work Smarter, Not Harder. Learn more at www.hightperformance.com.


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