Starting the ROI Process

If it hasn’t been established already, ROI is an element of the meetings and events industry that planners are going to have to embrace rather than ignore, even when working for a company or client that did not previously require a measurement of return on investment. Originally, the concept of ROI was applied to the measurement of financial investments, including business transactions, employee training and technology upgrades. During the past five years, companies have now begun to implement ROI initiatives for the meetings and events industry.

As the authors of Proving the Value of Meetings & Events point out, this industry is without question a business, as $122.3 billion is generated in this sector on an annual basis. With so much money on the line, meeting planners now have the opportunity to show their relevance to their peers and can do so by producing tangible results from the events they organize and by justifying the budget dollars that go into their projects.

To accomplish these two goals, measuring the ROI of meetings and events is necessary. The process can utilize any one of a number of methodologies, but the industry professionals that Meetings & Events Las Vegas have spoken with have found that procedures that can translate the end result of an event into a financial number are the most effective.

In the last issue we covered the Phillips methodology of measuring ROI. The article received much positive feedback along with requests to discuss this timely topic even further. We’ve decided to produce a series of articles that discuss in detail each of the steps that was outlined in the last issue of this magazine. Even if the Phillips model isn’t the initiative that’s eventually used, virtually every method utilizes these steps in one way or another. This article will discuss the first step in the measurement process, identifying event objectives and needs. Keep a look out for more ROI-based articles in future installments of Meetings & Events Las Vegas.

Identifying Needs and Objectives
Understanding what the event is intended to accomplish is essential to producing a positive return on investment. If objectives are not clearly defined, it doesn’t matter how many people enjoyed the function because in the end, the only thing a planner will have to show for it is a stack of receipts and a lengthy expense report.

One major point that planners forget is that there’s a big difference between determining what the needs are of the event in terms of logistics and then in terms of business. A planner should immediately write down a list of event specifications not related to the bottom line. For example, the size of the venue needed to hold the projected guest list, the time of day the function will take place and the location within the desired city of planning are all variables that can be described as logistics needs. These needs are specific to the event itself and must be considered before any supplementary variables, like catering and technology, are taken into account. In other words, these are elements that can’t be neglected and should therefore be labeled as a definite expenditure on a planner’s budget list.

On the other hand, business needs are the objectives that are fulfilled after the event. If the event being planned is a fundraising function, the obvious objective would be to generate as much money possible with the budget that has been given. A good way to meet this need is to formulate a target figure that is within reason given the budget and any logistics limitations. By identifying the target beforehand, the planner can then structure the rest of the planning process around trying to achieve that goal.

Learning Outcomes
Needs and objectives come in a variety of forms. In addition to business needs, another category of intangible data that must to be considered is the learning outcome of the event. Planners should keep the thought process of attendees in mind once the event is over and they are no longer being exposed to the branding, marketing and information output of the meeting. Chances are, if the planner is only concerned with the here and now of the event, with little consideration to what should be taken away in terms of knowledge, then attendees will leave with fond memories of the festivities and nothing more.

Planners should write down a few key messages or points that they want their audience to be able to recall the next day. If an attendee can recall a point the next day, then it’s most likely embedded in their minds for the long haul. Important messages can be emphasized in a variety of ways. For example, if there’s a keynote speaker involved, make sure to get him to incorporate the learning outcomes in his speech. Repetition is an important learning strategy, so planners shouldn’t be afraid of reinforcing a particular statement in the hopes that the main idea will be recalled months into the future. Also, the visual component of learning shouldn’t be neglected either and can be utilized through branding initiatives, like banners featuring a company slogan or complimentary gifts that highlight an organization’s logo.

When a planner understands the immediate and long-term needs of their event, it shows that they are keeping in mind the event’s final payoff. Even if it’s an awards dinner or a simple company get-together, there can still be an objective to keep in mind. Social gatherings or appreciation parties for a job well done can still produce positive ROI figures. If a group of employees feels appreciated at an event that’s meant to celebrate their efforts, they will be more inclined to produce at a heightened level of excellence, which directly results in product or service of great quality. Keeping needs and objectives in mind is the first step in ensuring that all events are productive and have a lasting benefit to the client company or organization.

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