If you ask any longtime meeting or event planner what her idea of a successful program looks like, you will likely hear a version of “Our client was able to identify strong ROI from the program.” Return On Investment is still the big buzz word of our industry. It is our responsibility as the meeting planner to lead the organization down the path that will prove a strong ROI. Yeah, but what does that mean? Also, how does that relate to nongovernment organizations (NGOs), nonprofits and the like? The key may be in focusing events to narrow in on achieving a small set of goals.
One of my favorite quotes from Harvey Mackay is, “If you don’t have a destination, you’ll never get there.” How true this is for our client’s events. Successful programs start with a clear vision. As a valued adviser, it’s important that you have a solid understanding of not only the vision and mission of the organization, but the vision and mission of this particular event.
Every event or meeting will have a different vision and mission. Sometimes the mission is education. Sometimes the mission is networking. Sometimes it’s fundraising. Be absolutely crystal clear on what the specific (read: measurable) goal is for this meeting. Here are a few ways you can achieve focus.
Step 1: Be involved in the vision casting.
We have a trade organization as a client. They conduct quarterly meetings that take place all over the state of Georgia for their membership. Now, I have no idea about their specific trade (automotive manufacturing); however, I do have a great deal of insight into the leader’s passion and commitment. I also know what it takes to maintain an organization’s roster and make those members feel a sense of value after attending the meetings. Our firm holds a seat on the advisory board of this organization, so we are in the full loop of changes and vision. This ensures the meetings and vision are consistent and congruent.
Step 2: Know what the ROI looks like.
I recently submitted a proposal to a large, national nonprofit for one of their fundraisers. In full transparency, I didn’t win the bid. On the flip side, no one did. The organization was not clear in its vision for the event or for what a successful “return” looked like.
Sometimes organizations think the return is only monetary. I would argue that such thinking is short-sighted, and soon to be outdated. Nonprofits, especially those that rely on memberships, have the potential to age themselves out of their upcoming membership by focusing solely on monetary growth. A better measure of return could be “deeper reach and stronger relationships to the community.” This can easily be done by incorporating new technology, such as Tweetscapes, mobile silent auction bidding (like QTEGO) versus paper and clipboard bidding, live Twitter streams, and RFID Photobooths that link the guests’ photos directly to their Facebook pages and check them into the event.
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Step 3: Follow up.
It is a waste of everyone’s time to create goals if, after the meeting, no one follows up to see if the goals were actualized. This is where making the measurable goals in the first place is imperative. Once again, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there.”
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