Meetings No 19
Artificial Intelligence
Atti Soenarso: AI is soon an everyday commodity.
Cover Story
Anders Sörman-Nilsson
Gazing into the future of the meetings industry.
Europe is not a market
It is the will to live together.
Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre
“Our vision is to create Europe’s most attractive venue.”
Padraic Gilligan
Why ROI for meetings and incentives is a waste of time.
Elling Hamso
Why ROI is not a waste of time.
ICC Sydney
An important contributor to innovation.
Radar on penetrating the ­European meetings industry.
HR Technology
The Rise of AI
Rohit Talwar and Alexandra Whittington: On AI and HR.
Sustainable Growth
Scandinavian sustainability initiative expands.
In a Hole
Lending a hand.
Record number of association meetings in 2016.
Best Cities Global Forum
“Unlocking the collective intelligence.”
My 23 Best Tactics for Personal Greatness
Robin Sharma: “Protect your willpower.”
Technology and Meetings
Tech is key in creating purposeful meetings.
IMEX Frankfurt
Packed with opportunities.
Cyber Security
The Anti-Cloud
Jaak Geens and Linas Bukauskas on
Cyber vs. Personal
Roger Kellerman: “Now is the time to improve online security.”
MCI middle East and Zahara Tours
join forces to bring association events to Oman.
business intelligence
ibtm world pre-matched appointments
reach new high ahead of 30th anniversary edition.
Meeting Industry
Convene Hosted Buyer Programme
Reaches All-Time High.
Award winner
Gothenburg ranks number one
among sustainable and innovative cities.
association meetings
Inaugural Winners
of Incredible Impacts Grants Announced.

Nigeria, Senegal and Cape Verde
dominate the West African hotel pipeline with 77% of the total planned hotel rooms.
business Intelligence
Business events
must adopt Olympic standard when it comes to safety.
hotel news
Dubai’s first all-inclusive resort
sees big rise in demand.
maximum meeting place
Paris Convention Centre:
the largest conference centre in Europe.
Business Intelligence
Digital focus gives 13% uplift
for Denmark on German MICE market.
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Why ROI Is Not a Waste of Time

Elling Hamso, Managing Partner, Event ROI Institute, responds to Padraic Gilligans piece Why ROI for Meetings and Incentives Is a Waste of Time.

Thank you, Padraic Gilligan for your entertaining piece, I like your style. As for substance, I think you may need some guidance. Please allow me to shine some light on your path ;-).

Cancel all Events! Whenever I have an opportunity to speak to senior corporate management, I have only one message: Cancel all events. Don’t just reduce the budget. Cancel. There is a good chance that your events have a negative impact on your bottom line, and even if they don’t, you could probably get twice the value on half the budget.

Then you start taking applications from those who had their budget cancelled and want it back, and require them to answer the following questions:

What is the context of your event? What other initiatives does it support and how is it supported by other activities? Stand-alone events don’t do the trick, and if you think you need a team-building or incentive to make up for everyday bad management, you will probably make things worse.

How exactly does the event connect to our bottom line? What will participants do differently afterwards to make me believe that the investment will return a positive ROI?

How will you design your event to make them do that?

This is all about event design, what does it have to do with measurement? In short, everything. Measuring results and designing the event that will achieve them, are inseparable entities.

The Magic. To measure anything, you need objectives. Otherwise you don’t even know what data to collect. You need detailed and measurable objectives with simple and unambiguous success criteria (KPI’s).

Then you give your objectives to the event designer, whose job just got a whole lot harder. A big wow won’t do the trick, neither will a room full of happy people, with an element of surprise thrown in. Now, certain messages have to be understood and retained, attitudes to your brand or management or whatever, have to improve with a measurable amount, and new relationships have to be forged between certain categories of participants. When the event designer has done that, your event just got a lot better.

That’s the magic, you decided to measure results, so you need measurable objectives, and because the event is designed to meet those objectives, and nothing else, the results that you measure will be better. It is like a self-fulfilling prophesy, and it is meant to be. It is not as if you measure results from one event and learn from that how to do it better next time. You do it better this time, instant payback on the extra time spent to set objectives and design a string of specific participant experiences to meet them.

Apples and Apples. I agree with you Padraic, that we need to measure what really matters, rather than just what is easy to measure. I agree that benchmarking schools by testing reading, writing and math, is to disregard the more important role of schools to nurture “the social, physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual growth of the child.” So why not measure what matters? Maybe not as easy as measuring maths, but not really difficult. And it is not as if these qualities will lay dormant for years and then suddenly erupt, it’s a journey over time which you can measure over time. If you put a seed in the ground in the spring, you don’t need to wait until the autumn harvest to find that the seed has died, you find that out after a few weeks when the seed doesn’t sprout.

The same for meetings. You want participants at your product launch to buy your product, some time in the future. But you also have some pretty good ideas what that journey towards a purchase looks like. Maybe it is a test drive, a total cost of ownership calculation, an RFI, an in-house presentation to decision makers, etc. If you are clever about it, you already have historical data or good estimates for the increased probability of purchase for every step in the buying process. Already at this point you may well be able to do an ROI estimate.

The five cities hybrid FRESH Conference in January is a good example. Pre-conference research found that customers don’t organise multi-city hybrid meetings for three main reasons: a) the technology is a risk, b) participant engagement is harder and c) networking is less rewarding. These attitudes were measured during the opening session and again during the closing session two days later. Trust in technology increased by 110 %, concerns about participant engagement were reduced by 13 % and networking suffered an increased concern by 24 %. Apples and apples.

And yes, I know these are crude measures of attitude change. I totally agree with David Ogilvy who said: “The problem with people is that they don’t think what they feel, they don’t say what they think, and they don’t do what they say.”

But even our crude tools of measurement (which you can replace with better tools if you have the time and money) give us good enough data for our purpose.

ROI is bound by time and space. Indeed it is. Serendipity happens in the long term, thankfully. That’s a bonus. But if you ask me if I would like to invest a heap of money on the off chance that somehow, some time into the future I might get my money back, I would probably look for a better deal.

A better deal would measure some behaviour, like a RFP I wouldn’t otherwise have received, or a change in attitude, such as a greater belief in the new strategy, or some information retained, like the USP’s of our new product, or something that I know is a step in the right direction towards a sale, or a better functioning organisation, or a reduction in suffering from cancer or whatever my ultimate goal is. If I want to reap the harvest, I need to see the seeds sprouting.

The Dead Duck Test. It may look like a good party, sound like a good party and feel like a good party, but if that is all it is, I think it has just passed the dead duck test. What does success look like? What needs to happen for a meeting to be good, creating some real bottom line value to stakeholders?

Although there are many different types of meetings, from exhibitions to X-mas parties, product launches, team buildings, kick-offs, congresses, incentives, and the like, they all have one single success factor in common: participants have to physically do something which they would otherwise not have done. There is no other way to create value from any kind of meeting. Never. It is not possible. And what they do, of course, must be something that you have reason to believe will lead to more sales or a more efficient organisation, or for a not-for-profit organisation in one way or another help fulfill its mission. A staff party to inspire and believe and engage and love management even more, has no value, unless they work harder, quarrel less, collaborate more, implement management decisions and other things that will oil the wheels of the organisation.

The Rowannabes. ROI is a financial measure based on real money values. How much money did I invest and how much money did I get in return? Every business event has its own profit and loss account. ROI is simply the profit as a percentage of the cost. So ROI and profit are essentially the same thing. The problem is not to calculate ROI, that’s easy. The problem is to calculate the return, the profit from an increase in sales, for example. In particular when you have to isolate the effect of the meeting from all the other activities that could (and should) contribute to the increase in sales that you measure. Not that you can’t do that, you can, but that is another story.

I am not a big fan of all the RO acronyms. Like ROE, meaning Engagement, Enjoyment, Expectations or Effort or anything else starting with an E. I am not entirely sure why I don’t like them, maybe because they pretend to be close relations of ROI, which they are not. I just think they look silly, as will probably also your CEO and CFO and other senior managers that you want to impress. They know that ROE is a financial measure for Return on Equity, and as a real money calculation, it is a close relation of ROI.

Measuring the achievement of non-monetary objectives, call it ROO if you have to, is essential to any measure of business results for events. The road to ROI is paved with such objectives, measures of attitude change, learning, relationship building, behaviour, participant satisfaction and engagement, instructional design, target audience and the like.

The ROI Methodology has been around for almost half a century as a method for measuring the results of human behaviour. Thousands of trained professionals practice it every day, mostly in the training industry, but also in many other fields. It was first introduced to the meetings industry in autumn of 2004. I know, because I was there, at MPI’s train the trainer course in New York with Jack Phillips who developed the methodology many years earlier.

The ROI Methodology is a structured approach to setting objectives and measuring results at six different levels. You have probably measured a dozen or more objectives before you get to the ROI calculation, if you still feel you need it, given all that other data now in front of you.

ROI Illustration © Meetings International Publishing

The basic concept is easy, as illustrated by the ROI Pyramid, just common sense really. In practice it much more difficult. And why shouldn’t it be? Why should just about anybody be able to practice the profession of a meeting designer? They just need to know how to throw a good party? To become a professional teacher or nurse or doctor or lawyer, you have to study long and hard and learn how to do difficult things. Those are professions enjoying the recognition and respect that meeting designers crave for.

The Reward. But when you have studied long and hard and practiced with diligence and acquired the skill, your professional life will change. I spoke a while ago to one such meeting designer. She works for a large event agency and does mostly internal events, strategy meetings, kick-offs, team buildings and the like. Here is one thing she told me: “I feel so much more confident going to customer meetings now. I know the mechanisms which will change staff behaviour and deliver bottom-line results, I really know what I am talking about, I know exactly why and how my event will work and deliver the ROI.”

I don’t think that’s a waste of time.