Hey, we know that Teddy Bear Picnic is super awesome, but is it an event you should continue through the chamber? What about the golf tournament, which is now the area’s third of the season? Does it make sense?

When evaluating events (and even programming) to ensure they are valuable, engaging, and fresh, many factors must be considered. As the business and community landscapes evolve, so must your chamber’s offerings. Regular evaluation of your events and programming is essential to staying relevant and providing maximum value to your members.

But how do you critically assess what’s working and what’s not, and how do you bravely let go or rework it into something that better fits your current audience?

Why Evaluate Chamber Events?

As Cathi Hight recently shared in the Chamber Pros Community group on Facebook, The Race for Relevance authors recommend that groups evaluate programs on an annual basis for agreed-upon factors (e.g., relevance to our mission, alignment with our strategic plan, financial performance, member engagement).

Even if you don’t do it annually, here are some reasons you need to periodically assess the event’s value to your community and organization:

Maximize Impact

Events and programs are investments in the chamber’s relevance and value to members. Ensure your events deliver the best possible return regarding member engagement, community impact, and revenue generation.

Stay Relevant

Trends change, and your members’ needs evolve. Evaluation helps you keep your finger on the pulse of what your community truly wants and needs. After all, do your members need to know how to work an iPod these days? That’s one Lunch & Learn that won’t get you very far. While that topic is dated and easy to cast aside, there may be others that no longer fit (in their current version) that you need to end or revisit. For instance, a formal gala may be less appealing to your community now with more people working from home and adopting a more casual approach to dress. Conversely, your work-from-homers may love the idea of a special night out on the town. What is appealing to your audience will vary from chamber to chamber.

And just like a barometer, what was appealing last season to your audience may have dropped overnight.

Optimize Resources

Time, money, and staff energy are precious because they’re limited. Don’t waste them on initiatives that aren’t performing well.

Now that you know why periodic assessment is essential, let’s talk about some of the things that will go into the evaluation. The last thing you want is an emotional weight clouding a business decision.

Key Considerations for Events

Cathi Hight shared that she had done a few webinars on using an evaluation process to evaluate programs objectively. She advised, “You have to practice Purposeful Abandonment to let go, evolve, and stay essential to members.”

Here are a few areas you may want to explore when evaluating the efficacy of events:

  • ​Alignment with Mission. Does each event or program support your chamber’s core mission and strategic plan/goals? If not, it might be time for a change.​
  • ​​​Member Engagement. This is your most vital metric and one of the easiest to assess. Track attendance, participation, feedback surveys, and social media mentions. Are members excited, or do they seem indifferent?
  • ​​Financial Performance. Another easy one to assess is money. Calculate the return on investment (ROI) for each event. Consider revenue generated, expenses incurred, and any intangible benefits like brand awareness (while not needed for the chamber, per se, it may advance the chamber’s brand as a tourist destination, etc.). Which brings us to…
  • ​​Community Impact. It’s not all about money. Look beyond your members. Does your event enhance the overall community? Does it attract visitors, support local businesses, or address a community need?
  • ​​​
    Staff Resources. Be realistic about the time and effort required to plan and execute each event. Are you spreading your team too thin? If you are, you risk burning them out or taking time away from activities that significantly impact essential chamber outcomes.

Data That Tells the Story

If you want to use data (and you should) to assess event relevance to your community, what should you look at? Which numbers are important in decision-making?


  • ​Attendance & Demographics. How many people attended, and who were they? Compare this to your target audience.
  • ​​​Financial Reports. Revenue from ticket sales, sponsorships, and additional income (e.g., merchandise). Track expenses meticulously.
  • ​Survey Results. Gather feedback from attendees. Ask about their experience, value received, and suggestions for improvement. Find out if they’d suggest the event to a friend.
  • ​​​Social Media Analytics. Monitor mentions, shares, and sentiment related to your events. These numbers provide valuable insights into public perception.

The Tough Decision: When NOT to Let Go

Sometimes, the data is clear. An event is underperforming. However, there are a few scenarios where you might choose to keep an event despite less-than-stellar numbers.

These include an event that is (or has):

Mission-Critical. If an event aligns perfectly with your core mission and serves a niche audience, it might be worth keeping even if it doesn’t draw massive crowds. This may be especially true if you’re the only one hosting this type of event, and if it has…

Potential for Growth. The event may need a fresh format, different marketing, or a change in timing. Don’t give up on something with potential before exploring all options. For instance, maybe your golf event is the third in the spring season, and by the time it rolls around, people are tired of it. However, switch it to the fall, add a few twists, and now you have something people are talking about again.

Emotional Value. Some events hold a special place in the community’s heart. While not always a primary factor, it can be considered alongside other data. If you decide to shed the challenge of bringing one of those events together, consider asking other organizations if they have any interest in it. Perhaps a new host can give it the time it needs to thrive.

Seek Help from Others

Chamber of commerce pros are a great source of advice. Here’s what several of them had to say about evaluating events:

Kendra Vincent shared her chamber’s method for evaluating events. She said they measured several things including, “Staff time vs revenue generated, how many members it was directly and indirectly impacting, trending community interest, is it mission centric, is there another organization in town that's better suited to host, etc. We were able to use COVID to kill a couple of events, which was really helpful. We're continually adjusting our current programming now in a way we weren't necessarily before which has also been helpful.”

The President and CEO of the South Tampa Chamber, Kelly Flannery, uses a very simple measure: “Does it meet our mission? Do our members show up? Do we make money?”

Dorothy Harvey, the Executive Director of the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce, had a similar, albeit a little more humorous way of measuring, “Does it make us friends, does it make us rich, does it make us famous?” (Maybe that should be our measurement for everything we do.)

Cathi Hight shared her experiences working with chambers and suggested balancing the load of your events throughout the year: “… we tend to offer too many programs that overwhelm members and staff and focus on quantity rather than quality.”

Finally, your events shouldn’t be a static “same thing every year.” Try new things (venues, meals, entertainment, speakers, attire, themes, etc.), assess, and adapt. A willingness to evolve is vital to long-term success and will keep members interested in what you’ll do next.


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