Measuring the Value of Events and Meetings

Businessman and businesswoman with digital tablet in empty event space
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It’s not enough to plan and execute a great business event or meeting. Business events are most frequently viewed as an investment for a given purpose, and because of that, event planners should understand how to measure the value of their programs.

Event measurement for return on investment (ROI) or return on objectives (ROO) may be new territory for some planners, but it’s the type of effort that will help expand their involvement and overall contribution to an organization, explains Tony Lorenz, founder of Headsail, a strategic and events agency that focuses on experiential marketing services.

Strategic Event Measurement Tactics

Lorenz explains that meeting ROI may be viewed at two different levels: organization and participant. Organization-level ROI can be found by aggregating all costs and comparing them to a value that is estimated by the organization. Participant-level ROI may be measured at the individual level and estimates the value on a per-participant basis.

Lorenz advises clients to follow a strategic process to measure event ROI:

Discovery: Discovery should occur early in the process so that planners may involve key stakeholders to ultimately define meeting content, speakers, etc. Planners should involve key stakeholders who can define strategic objectives for both the organization hosting the event and the meeting attendees. It can be achieved by asking them to complete six to eight open-ended questions.

Pre-Event Survey: This is the time when the meeting or event planner may define some quantifiable measures for ROI and ROO. They should survey a broad sample of invitees to identify their issues, concerns, and needs on multiple levels, which will help the planner define measurement benchmarks for meeting attendees.

Pre-Meeting Core-7 Baseline. This step gives measure to the meeting attendee’s psychological and behavioral perceptions about the items identified during discovery.

  1. Knowledge/understanding (“I know”)
  2. Opinions/perceptions/beliefs (“I agree”)
  3. Feelings/attitudes (“I want to”)
  4. Abilities/skills (“I can”)
  5. Intentions/commitment (“I will”)
  6. Behaviors (“I am doing”)
  7. Business results/impacts – ROI (“I am delivering value”)

Meeting Design: With an understanding of stakeholder objectives and attendee perceptions, planners may now define key objectives for the meeting itself and how those messages will be presented.

Post-Event Survey/Benchmarks: After the event, it is important to measure how well the program delivered on those benchmarks that were defined based on the results of the discovery and pre-event survey. Did the program result in changes in attitudes, perceptions, beliefs, etc.? Will attendees act on those changes?

Follow-Up Business Impact: Strategic measurement requires a focus on the long-term impact on meeting attendee behaviors. This is also a good time to determine the financial and non-financial impact of the program.

Suggestions to Optimize the Meeting Measurement Process

Lorenz offers six guidelines to help meeting planners measure the value of their events:

  • Apply pre-meeting/post-meeting process
  • Measure psychological, behavioral, and financial dimensions
  • Use ROI measurement for large, important meetings
  • Measure and track year-to-year results
  • Establish professional standards and staff skills
  • Improve over time

Suggestions for Measuring Smaller Events

To be sure, a formal measurement program for an individual program will be useful for large, expensive events. But what about the rest of the business events that are scheduled throughout the year?

Lorenz suggests that organizations identify five or six benchmark questions that are critical to the organization. Then, measure the various events to determine whether they made a psychological, behavioral, or financial impact. Then, aggregate the results.

For example, if an organization is holding 30 similar events throughout the year in different markets with similar benchmarks, this can certainly provide qualitative and quantitative measures.

“Isolate the success and build measures from there,” Lorenz advises.