Beginner's Guide To Calculating Trade Show ROI

Hamilton Hamilton

But as someone important once said, “the greatest thing we have to fear is the fear of metrics itself” — or something like that. We’re here to break it down for you and lay out the basics of how to calculate your trade show ROI.

A great place to start is by deciding what you want to measure. While ROI is traditionally calculated as how many dollars you made for how many dollars you spent (i.e. you made $4 for every $1 spent), it can be more than that.

To figure out what ROI means to you, check out our previous blog post: Decoding ROI.

Once you know exactly what kind of ROI your company or organization cares about, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of how you can calculate it and put your success into numbers.

There are a few ways of looking at ROI. The first method, which we’ve dubbed dollar-for-dollar, calculates ROI in terms of revenue: how many dollars you got for every dollar you spent.

The second method measures brand support or success in terms of a cost-per-x model. You can calculate how much you spent for each lead, engaged conversation, booth attendee, and more.

Now it’s time for everyone’s favorite part — math!


The more traditional type of ROI figures how much money you made for how much money you spent. It’s simpler than it seems: just divide your revenue by your investment.

Let’s break it down.

First, calculate your total revenue from a trade show or event. That’s all the money that came in because of the event that you wouldn’t have made otherwise. This can be revenue from closed deals within a certain period of time after the event, or projected revenue based on typical conversion rates.

Let’s say you made $80,000 in closed deals as a result of attending a trade show. That’s a lot of direct revenue — congratulations, hypothetical you!

Now it’s time to calculate your total trade show investment. For a detailed list of what all should be included in your total investment and how to factor in recurring costs, check out our whitepaper, Measuring Return: Understanding the Value of Your Event Marketing (link to ebook). For now, we’ll say you spent an even $40,000 on your event.

Divide your total revenue ($80,000) by your total investment ($40,000) and voilà! You’ve got an ROI of 2, or 200%. That means you got back $2 for every $1 you spent to execute your event or show. Not too shabby!


Not every organization is chasing direct or immediate revenue from trade shows or event marketing. If you want to get the word out, make connections, or gather leads for future use, you can still measure ROI and put some numbers to your success.

Start by figuring the total number of leads or whatever it is you’re wanting to calculate the cost of, such as foot traffic counted by badge scans. Let’s say over the course of a three-day conference, 10,000 people visited your booth.

Divide your total investment ($40,000) by your foot traffic (10,000 people) and you get a cost of $4 per booth visitor. From there, you can evaluate if that’s a good investment for each impression, or if you need to adapt your strategy to bring down your cost per visitor. Regardless, you now know what you’re spending for what you got.

Take it to the next level.

Of course, simplified equations and round numbers are just scratching the surface of calculating your true ROI — not to mention the importance of incorporating ROI into your event marketing strategy.

If you’re ready to dig in, check out our e-book to learn more about the importance of ROI and how you can calculate it, understand it, and apply it.