Sometimes just doing a good job isn’t good enough. If there’s one lesson meeting planners have learned in recent years, it’s that putting together a meeting or an event can have a positive or negative impact on the client’s organization, its employees and the surrounding community. By staying focused on designing the meeting to achieve business objectives, and measuring return on investment and return on objective, planners can begin to gather concrete evidence of their worth that they can use to prove the value of their work.
How you can use the F.O.R.C.E. to prove the value of your meetings and events
The easiest way to prove the value of your work is to use the F.O.R.C.E.:
- Find out the goals and objectives for meeting
- Organize a game plan
- Research the results
- Calculate business impact and ROI
- Evaluate and communicate findings
Find out the goals and objectives for meeting
When you sit down with your client or boss to discuss the event, be sure to ask questions that go beyond logistics. Make sure you understand the goals for meeting and how that feeds into what the organization is trying to achieve. If they have more than one goal, make sure that all your stakeholders agree on which ones are the highest priority.
Once you’ve discovered what the goals are, it’s time for the fun, creative part. Figure out how you can achieve and reinforce those goals through the setting, design, organization, pattern, content, communication, room set-ups, menus and execution of the event using S.M.A.R.T. objectives.
What makes an objective S.M.A.R.T.? It’s something that is:
Think of the goal as being the big picture and the objectives as the steps you need to take that allow you to measure your progress.
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Organize a data-gathering game plan
Now that you have an idea of how you want to achieve the meeting’s objectives, organize a way to measure whether or not each goal has been achieved and put that into your game plan. Include what data will need to be gathered, by what method, when and by whom.
Will you need to conduct pre-, on-site and post-event surveys? If so, decide who will be in charge of setting those up, gathering and distributing the data.
Will you need to measure attendee application or behavior to see if they learned anything that saves them time at work? Determine the period of time will you need to gather data, which supervisor you need to follow up with and how that information should be collected.
Do you need to track how much business your sponsors and exhibitors gained from attendees? Consider giving trade show exhibitors digital means of tracking attendees on-site and a special marketing code to keep track of transactions that occur after the event. (You may also want to offer attendees an incentive for telling you which of your partners they’ve done business with.)
Do you need to measure motivation among the sales staff? Gather records of their sales numbers before, during and after the event and compare them to available historical data.
Do you need to find out how to drive attendance? Maybe you need to start asking the people who have declined your invitation why they’re staying home.
Don’t forget to keep track of how much money you’ve saved the company, thanks to your relationships, negotiating skills and expertise.
Other metrics that may apply, based on your objectives, include registration data, revenue generated, satisfaction surveys, social media impressions, technology adaptation and/or earned media coverage.
RELATED STORY: Goal-setting: The trick is to have one
Research the results
Information is useless until you put it in context.
Make sure you isolate other success factors that contributed to the event’s benefits so you know how much of the credit is really due to your work. For example, if you’re measuring the impact of an incentive program, ask the sales team what contributed to them making their numbers: Was it the incentive program, new sales kits, better training or a new manager?
You might find that they attribute 80 percent of their success to trying to qualify for the incentive program, so figure out what 80 percent of their revenue numbers represent. Let’s say that’s $6 million. That’s the financial impact your incentive program had on the organization. If you want to be even more conservative with your numbers, ask survey respondents how sure they are of their answers. If that sales team is only 75 percent sure they’re right, figure out what 75 percent of $6 million represents. Now you have a conservative estimate of the minimum amount of revenue that was generated because of your program.
It’s easy to calculate how much money the event made using hard data like revenue from admissions, book sales or other on-site transactions. But don’t forget about the intangibles. After all, time is money, too.
And if your program taught attendees skills that save them time in the workforce, that time has a monetary equivalent. How much is that time worth per person, per week, per month, per year? When employees are out of the office traveling to and from and attending events, the company loses money, so if your program is held closer to the home office or is of a shorter duration than it was last year, you are saving the company money. How much money is that time worth to the organization? If you can get numbers from HR departments on estimated annual salaries, you can figure out how much a day or a few hours are worth to the organization per attendee.
Another intangible that can have a monetary value is turnover. On average, it costs a company 80 percent of an employee’s annual salary to replace them, after factoring in the costs of posting ads, interviewing, loss of productivity during their absence and the time it takes to train new staff. If you are designing programs to raise morale, prevent harassment or retain internal leadership, take a look at historical turnover data prior to and after your event as well as why people state they leave in exit interviews. If you find a pattern of improvement, that may be due to your efforts, which means the money saved by avoiding lawsuits or losing employees can be attributed to your program’s success.
Calculate the business impact and ROI
After you’ve taken the data you’ve gathered and converted what can be into a monetary value, calculate what business impact your work (the money saved by your negotiating skills, relationships and expertise) and the event (revenues generated and money saved by resultant attendee behavior) has had on the organization. The numbers generated equal the contribution you and your event has contributed to the organization’s bottom line.
Go a step further and calculate the benefit to cost ratio of the event. First, add up all the dollar benefits generated by the event. Then, divide the benefits by all the costs associated with the event (including the money lost by attendees being out of the office, if applicable). The resulting number is how many dollars the event generated for every dollar the organization invested.
To determine the return on investment, add up all the benefits. Subtract the costs from that number. Then, divide that by the costs. Multiply the resulting number by 100 to determine the percentage of return. For example, .25 multiplied by 100 equals a 25 percent return on investment.
Survey information on attendee and exhibitor satisfaction, attitude shifts and behavior can help you determine the event’s level of success in achieving its objectives. The event’s return on objective is just as important as its business impact, because it may translate into future revenues, increased attendance, improved morale and increased productivity for the organization.
RELATED STORY: ROI metrics and measurement objectives
Evaluate and communicate findings
In addition to what worked, take a hard look at what didn’t and determine the reasons why. Are there areas that need improvement? Are there things that worked surprisingly well? In using the FORCE, did you uncover information that might help different departments of the organization, like sales and marketing? If so, share that information with those department heads.
Now that you have amassed information about the worth of this meeting and the value of your work, it’s important to understand how to communicate it.
How does your client or boss want the information packaged and delivered? What do the key meeting stakeholders expect? What is important for attendees to know? What information could influence exhibitors and sponsors to commit to your event next year? Are there special perks your group brought to the host venue or destination that could be good selling points to future sites and hotels?
For every audience or stakeholder group you have, determine the most appropriate way to package and deliver that information to them, whether it’s in a 10-page report, 30-minute PowerPoint presentation, 15-second elevator speech or company newsletter.
Keep track of your successes and don’t forget the things that you need to improve on next time. Having a record of how your work generates revenue and helps organizations achieve their goals and improve their bottom line is the best way to prove your worth to current and future employers.
Proving the value of your meetings and events is just one way in which meeting planners can change the world. Learn what the other two are in this presentation, created by @PYMLive for the MPI Academy.