In this brave new Digital World, everybody talks about the importance of “content”. If you are reading this piece, the content will very quickly influence your decision about whether to continue! That may be stating the obvious, but it is easy to ignore the basic stuff in favour of the sexy bits in any plan or project. So rule number 1 is simple:
Step 1. Make sure you are booking the best venue for the event.
The criteria may vary but should always include:
• The right image, style and atmosphere to complement your brand and message
• The right environment for communicating and engaging with the participants
• The right location for optimum access, with an appropriate background setting
• The right quality at the right price, to make a positive impression
The next consideration concerns the balance of content during the event and the impact you want to make on participants.
Step 2. Design the event to reflect your objectives
Too often the venue, event format and features – such as entertainment – are chosen to please the event “sponsor”, who for example may be the company sales director or CEO. The core elements must be decided “scientifically” not emotionally which means you should:
• Design the event to influence your audience not the sponsor
• Decide in advance what changes in behaviour you want to achieve
• Agree how you will measure success
• Consult with or research your target audience for their expectations
• Ensure your service providers (venue etc) understand your event objectives
In many cases, events are part of a calendar and are repeated regularly. This situation poses twin but opposite dangers to guard against, complacency and insecurity. So a vital action to take is to review the event specification and the outline plan with the sponsor (client) at the provisional stage, before binding commitments are made.
Step 3. Get the event specification right
When a decision is made to arrange an event, the initial burst of activity usually starts with a venue search so that a date can be set and approved. From that moment forward, every suggestion will be judged by:
• how it compares with previous events
• whether it conforms with tradition or an established reputation for the event
• if it will impress the participants
• if it will impress the sponsors
• if it will make the required impression
All of these are emotional reactions and are much more likely to arise because the envisaged event is being compared with previous ones. It is important to maintain standards but it is much more important to be objective about what event content will produce the desired change in behaviour.
So, another set of questions must also be asked when deciding the specification. For this purpose, our agency believes in the power of Return on Investment Methodology. Dr Elling Hamso has helped us to appreciate the value of this approach. Event ROI planning is based on a pyramid concept which defines the event objectives as follows:
• Target audience: How do we ensure that the right people are attending?
• Learning environment: How can we design a learning environment which will make cognitive change most effective? “Atmosphere” makes a lasting impression.
• Learning objectives: What cognitive change (ie learning) is required for the participants to change their behaviour? The cognitive change might be subconscious, but something always has to change in the mind before behaviour changes.
• Behaviour objectives: What do the guests or participants at meetings and events need to do, during and after the event, to create value for the stakeholders? There will be different answers according to the target audience.
• Impact objectives: The Impact, or Business Impact, is the ultimate value contribution of the event to its stakeholders. For a customer (or channel partner) event, the Impact is usually sales. For an internal event it is typically organisational effectiveness.
• R O I objectives: Expressed in the simplest terms, ROI is the net value created by the event minus the costs. ROI can be described as a percentage of the cost of the event. Events have a value to stakeholders, who can include the event owner and funder, sponsors and participants.
Having thoroughly examined the event specification, the planning can continue until all the pieces of the puzzle are in place and the picture is complete. The next big challenge is to operate the event itself, co-ordinating disparate elements to produce an experience that delivers the desired results.
Step 4. Orchestrate the event
An event manager behaves like the conductor of an orchestra. The talents and contributions of a team of specialists are directed and controlled to achieve a collective performance that hits all the right notes! So, what in real terms does this mean for an event manager? The skills and disciplines needed to successfully orchestrate the performance include:
• Tact, patience, trust and respect for other members of the immediate team and especially for service partners contributing to the event
• Clear communication, briefing and updating on requirements at all stages
• Providing precise product quality definitions and service standard descriptions
• Consulting with the sponsor and other stakeholders at key times during the event
• Sharing a detailed working document with all team members
• Ensuring every team member knows their part and is fully equipped to perform it
• Having a contingency plan that has been approved by the sponsor and can be implemented in agreed circumstances without delay and with minimum disruption
After the event, there is one critical step remaining. If lessons are to be learned and every possibility for further improvement is to be identified, then a proper debriefing process must be conducted. Once again we turn to Dr Elling Hamso and the Event ROI Institute for guidance.
Step 5. Measure Event ROI Value
Converting Impacts to Monetary Values:
• Some business impacts are monetary, such as sales, but others need converting into money for the ROI calculation. A team building event may for example reduce absenteeism and staff turnover, improving productivity and quality control as well as saving on recruitment costs.
• Impacts which lead to time savings can be measured using a standard hourly value, which could relate to an intra-company billing rate, salary cost or opportunity cost of staff time.
• It may not be practical or economical to attempt to convert all business impacts into monetary values. Those which are not converted are referred to as “intangibles”.
• A promotional event may result in new orders or prospects, while at the same time also motivating staff and improving team relations.
• A sales value may be applied to the new orders, but the motivational effect may be left as an intangible which is not converted into money for the ROI calculation.
CONCLUSION – THE ROI ON ROI
Irrespective of what ROI you get and how far you go in turning intangibles into money values, the benefits of applying the ROI Methodology will always outweigh the costs. The methodology forces you to identify the precise event objectives at different levels. Armed with these objectives you set about planning the event.
Because your objectives are detailed, clear and measurable, the event programme will be more focused on achieving them. Because you decide to measure, the event produces better results.