by Rachael Alford
It’s a topic that pops up on discussion boards almost daily; one that many meeting planners have all figured out but leaves many others scratching their heads. Return on Investment (ROI).
I asked two groups of meeting and event planners how they are measuring the value of their meetings and events and specifically how that affected their business.
When the planner had no tangible data, they resorted to counting the number of returning attendees and admittedly, the planner felt unprepared. The client ended up canceling the annual event for a few years and then hired a different planner that provided them with a detailed ROI data collection plan.
The calculation of ROI can impact the decision to hold another meeting or event. It makes good business sense to know how the event influences the bottom line as well as determining whether the meeting or event is achieving and advancing the overall business goals.
When talking about calculating or determining the value of their meeting or events, the most challenging part for the planner seems to be collecting the data. Having a formal data collection plan written out can help. Creating a data collection plan will ensure that you are establishing the roles and responsibilities involved in collection. As the cornerstone of strategic meeting management, unbiased, measurable data collection is important no matter what calculation method you choose to use for evaluation. Keep the following in mind when creating your plan:
- Who will be responsible for collecting data? Who is providing the data?
- What information will be captured?
- When will the data be collected?
- Where will the collection take place?
- How will the data be collected? How will the data be distributed?
One planner wrote me a very heated email ascertaining that no matter how hard she tried, she could not get the bulk of the attendees to complete and submit a questionnaire.
The most effective method for collecting a large number of responses to a survey or questionnaire can vary by audience, and there is no ‘one size fits all’ method of delivery to increase response rates. The considerations between survey administration approaches are heavily influenced by expense and the respondents’ willingness to participate.
I recommend using a mixed-mode approach that allows respondents to submit their responses via a method of their choosing. Give them a variety of options; mail, online, mobile, face-to-face, telephone, etc. I also suggest letting them know how important their responses are as this information will be used to directly impact and improve future events.
Some think that proper data collection is too expensive or time consuming to accomplish. However, if it is incorporated into the event planning process at the onset, the value of the data provided should shape future events and assist in exceeding defined objectives.
A close friend of mine, who is also an independent meeting planner, met with me and we talked about how she feels too overwhelmed to add another aspect to her meeting or event duties. She fully understands and agrees that some form of return should be measured but honestly can’t figure out how to incorporate the data collection into her already full plate.
This comes down to expense and priorities. If the client is unable or unwilling to provide an increased budget to allow for the planner to manage the ROI data collection and calculations properly, have a frank discussion about how ROI can impact future decisions. You can suggest that they have someone on their team act as the data repository to offset costs. The timing of the data collection is oftentimes segmented and collected before, during and after the event so it is crucial to identify a single data repository to eliminate inefficiencies, and to maintain the consistency and integrity of the data.
One planner says that he has increased his meeting and event business by 30% since he began incorporating an ROI data collection plan. By setting the expectations in his initial proposal, he says it has alleviated the tension that can arise during the meeting planning stage where he used to ask who was doing the collecting, calculating and distribution of the information.
He also says that having the ROI plan in place has been the deciding factor in choosing his proposal over other planner’s bids, according to his clientele.
Whatever method chosen for calculating the value of your meetings or events, it’s critical to understand how useful this data can be in shaping future programming. If you begin by designing a data collection plan, you will be well on your way to providing your client with the necessary tools to determine the value and impact of their meeting and events to their business.
For online events, be sure to track:
- Live Views
- Recorded Views
- Event sharing
- Follow through or click on call to action