Some people are just ahead of their time; they are visionary forces that drive change and inspire awe. Then there are those who come upon a good idea, and, when it starts to become a norm, get to say, “See, I told you that! 20 years ago!” I’ll let you decide which I am, but I’ve been saying this forever: you need to measure the return on investment when it comes to meetings and events. Sure, it sounds obvious now. But 20 years ago. Revolutionary, I’m telling you. With greater demands on smaller budgets, it is even more important to measure your ROI now than ever. We can’t assume our events have value. We need proof.
ROI came into sharper focus during the economic downturn, and even as we recover, companies are wary of spending on events that do not provide commensurate value. Measuring the investment to determine the impact could be as simple as creating a pre-survey and a post-survey. Say we are measuring the delta in how knowledgeable a sales team is about a product it is selling. We would want to measure how much the team knew before the event compared with after. There has to be real, demonstrated learning.
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Like anything, if it can be measured, it can be funded. Companies are so concerned with each dollar being spent, that everyone has to account for the return on investment. It has certainly hit the meetings and events budgets. And that’s not a bad thing. It gives planners and facilitators the chance to say, “See, this stuff works. Meetings are the method by which we spread the message and make it stick. It is worth our time and money.”
The keys to measuring ROI effectively are:
· Putting the proper metrics in place.
Let’s go back to our sales force example. If our objective is to teach the team about Product X, we need to measure whether our event has been successful by asking targeted questions about the product. What are its benefits? What prominent features does it have? What problem or concern does it address? What are potential objections? A pre- and post-survey is one way to get at the real ROI.
There are a variety of metrics companies can use to measure the return on their event investment. Some of these measure quantifiable elements, such as revenues or attendance size, while others focus on the experience. Did participants feel the content was relevant and created specifically for them? Did they feel learning was real and applicable to their work? Are there techniques or knowledge they can take back to their jobs that will make a difference? These “softer” metrics are often where the real value lies and where companies can realize a healthy ROI.
Without the ability to demonstrate any measureable results from a meeting or event investment, it is impossible to determine its real impact. Any organization can host a meeting or conference to announce a new process or strategy to their employees, but how can you be sure they are on board or that they understand? How can you be sure they even paid attention?
We instinctively measure the ROI of virtually every activity in which we engage. On a first date, we gauge success on whether the other party laughed at our jokes, complimented our dazzling looks, and asked for a second date. When we cook dinner, we measure our success by how many times the smoke detector is triggered. What? You don’t? When you need to prove the value of an activity – whether a meeting or an event – you have to move beyond instinctual and put proven metrics and testing methods in place.
Some people can rely on their good looks to get by; the rest of us need proof.