Friday, August 27, 2010

ROI Measurement — It’s Importance to the Future of Meetings & Events?

This article was written as a result of some amazingly talented work done by Jack Phillips, Terri Breining, and Patti Phillips.  Much of the content is driven by their words which have been very influential on my thinking about meetings and events, and value measurement.  Thank you to all three of you for your thought leadership!

For many years, during a “healthy” economy,  the meetings business survived and thrived based upon value defined largely by attendee reaction or satisfaction.  Rarely did many organizations look beyond these feel-good factors to measure deeper outcomes such as learning, application and business impact.

The Great Recession, of the past couple of years, changed that.  With significantly increased financial strain, businesses began to earnestly evaluate every aspect of their operations, including meetings and conferences.  This put many event professionals into the “hot seat” as they were suddenly challenged by their executive leadership to demonstrate, more tangibly, the value of the company’s meetings.

While causing some discomfort, this new expectation makes perfect sense to me, and should have probably happened a long time ago.  Think of it this way, the meetings business is finally growing up.  If we want our industry to be taken seriously, as the significant economic force that it is, then meeting executives must become more strategic.

Why Bother with Measuring ROI?

For Event Professionals, setting goals and developing a strategy for the business outcome of their company’s events is certainly very important.  Equally vital is to successfully measure and report the meeting’s value (ROI) back to executive leadership.  The struggle, for many, is to determine how to most effectively and efficiently accomplish this process.

To anyone interested in this subject I recommend a book entitled, “Return On Investment In Meetings and Events.”  Written collaboratively by Jack J. Phillips, Terri Breining, and Patricia Phillips this book is a must-read for anyone interested in the relationship of ROI to meetings and events.  To forewarn you, this book is not a quick read as the concepts, while thoughtfully presented, are comprehensive.

From my perspective, one of the most important takeaways from this book is that meetings and events can, and should be measured at several different levels.  Measuring the value of meetings  is not as simple as just identifying financial return.  Other measures, not converted to money are equally important, if not critical to most meetings.  Its important to note that while goals and objectives differ from event to event, the same holds true for how and where to measure their value.

Terri Breining Speaking at e4 Conference

ROI Methodology — What is Being Measured?

The methodology presented in this book is centered on measuring events across five levels as indicated in the below diagram.  The indicated percentages estimate how often events attain a particular level of measurement.

Here is an explanation of what the measurements mean:

  • Level 1:  Reaction and Planned Action –Measures reaction to and satisfaction of attendee experience.
  • Level 2:  Learning and Confidence — Measures what participants learned.(takeaways)
  • Level 3:  Application —Measures use of acquired knowledge, information, skills and contacts.
  • Level 4:  Impact — Measures changes in business variables such as output, quality, time and meeting costs.
  • Level 5:  ROI — Compares monetary benefits of the meeting to it’s costs.

“Implementation of an ROI measurement system gives us the ammunition to make a business case for meetings, and then gives us the information to make good, solid decisions about whether the meeting is working, and where its greatest value exists.”  — Terri Breining

Earn a Seat at the Table!

If an event professional is seeking to strengthen credibility with executive leadership they must learn to speak the language of business.  Senior executives are passionate about seeing ROI.  They appreciate the effort, by their events team, to relate meetings to business impact and demonstrate monetary value.  Through a disciplined methodology, such as the one presented in this excellent book, event managers may successfully convince executives that meetings represent an investment and not just an expense.

Question:  Have you implemented an ROI measurement plan for your organization’s event(s)?  If so, what has been your greatest challenging in rolling it out?  What has been your greatest reward?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Lutz September 1, 2010 at 6:32 am

Mike, nice write up on ROI! Over the past few years, I’ve learned a ton on this topic through my consulting with MeetingMetrics. Their tools and systems definitely help in the data collection and analysis side of things.

What’s interesting though, is to see how social media is changing the game a bit. If an association or user group has active social media utilization, they can get more real time data on the effectiveness of their education programming through listening and encouraging dialog. ASAE 2010 is a great example. Attendees gave real-time feedback through twitter and wrote numerous blog posts on their learnings with detailed discussions. It’s so cool to get that kind of deep qualitative data to help increase future ROI…priceless!

It’s going to be interesting to see how online discussions can be used to help quantify the value delivered and mine real life stories about improved results. I like having the ability to mine this data without going through intense surveys. Many will need both, but sentiment is getting easier and faster to measure in the digital world.


Michael M McCurry CMP September 2, 2010 at 7:00 am

Hey Dave,

Great point you brought up about Social media enabling qualitative feedback. That is one of the ROI’s of Social Media :)

Social Media certainly reduces the operational cost of polling stakeholders for their feedback. This is a topic, that while not the most exciting thing in the world, will help Event professionals gain credibility as business people.

Thanks for adding to the conversation.



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