It's the one question that can make or break a meeting professional's career: Is a meeting vital to an organization's bottom line?
The short answer, "yes," may have you breathing a sigh of relief. Before you get too comfortable, however, make sure you're prepared to collect, measure and analyze the data necessary to prove a meeting's value.
Effective return-on-investment (ROI) measurement can go a long way toward demonstrating the value of meetings within an organization. It can help planners weather the outsourcing-and downsizing-challenges of the corporate world.
And, in an age when increased importance is placed on meetings (which equals larger budgets), measuring results has become a vital part of justifying dollars and cents to a corporate procurement department. Depending on the type of event or meeting, measurable objectives vary greatly. For the most part, planners often don't encounter the need to quantify ROI until a meeting becomes high profile and costly.
BUY THE BOOK
Planners can find some help in the book, Proving the Value of Meetings and Events: How and Why to Measure ROI, published by Meetings Professional International and ROI Institute Inc. This "how-to" book details ROI methodology and includes 17 real-life case studies.
Implementing ROI measurement and evaluation as a matter of course, however, can take months-even years. "You have to have the metrics in place and you have to have the company supportive of it. The whole goal is to be strategically aligned so that you're all accomplishing the same goal," said Kim Sky, CMP, a meeting planner team leader for Chicago-based CNA Insurance companies.
The ROI Institute Inc., a research and consulting organization, offers information about measuring, evaluating and presenting ROI using Phillips ROI Methodology. This methodology provides a step-by-step process for collecting, summarizing and evaluating data, and was first developed in the 1970s by Jack J. Phillips, Ph.D.
Today, thousands of organizations use a refined version of this methodology to calculate ROI of meetings and events. Although there are differing opinions about the ability of the Phillips ROI (and other methods) to capture actual ROI, many planners insist it is still one of the best options available.
STEP BY STEP
The ROI Institute uses an ROI methodology based on five evaluation levels to measure participant satisfaction, including changes in skills, on-the-job behavior and other planned actions. In addition, a final step determines the return-on-investment by comparing the meeting's monetary benefits to its cost.
Within this framework of evaluation levels, there are 10 steps planners can take. These steps include developing objectives, evaluation plans and baseline data, as well as collecting data before and after the meeting or event. This data is then analyzed to attempt to isolate the effects of the meeting or event, and converted into a monetary value to calculate a return-on-investment.This step-determining the monetary benefits of a meeting-is the most difficult part of the evaluation, say many planners.
According to Monica Myhill, CMP, a contributor to the book, Proving the Value of Meetings and Events, when expressed as a formula, ROI looks like this: The ROI percentage equals meeting benefits minus meeting costs, divided by meeting costs, times 100.
Keep in mind, however, that not all meetings require an ROI evaluation. It's estimated that a small percentage-perhaps only 5 percent to 10 percent-of meetings or events need an ROI, said Myhill.
So how do you choose? Remember this rule of thumb: If the meeting is expensive-either in terms of costs or time-an ROI is a good bet. Likewise, if it's a meeting tied to your organization's strategic objectives or operational goals, get the ROI ball rolling.
"It can be an intense process," said Myhill, who adds there are ways to cut costs and time in the evaluation process, such as using online survey resources like SurveyMonkey.com.
Sky, who has developed an internal evaluation system for CNA Insurance, said that within five years, she expects ROI to be commonly measured for company meetings.
"Right now, we ask for feedback about location, venue, quality, flow and presenters," she said, adding that a meeting planner is best prepared if he or she can present a meeting's value in a more in-depth way. "If a company is trying to decide to slash a meeting's budget and the [meeting] planning department doesn't have the ROI, then what are they going to come back with? ‘Everybody liked it?' That's silly."
To that end, Sky is implementing evaluation forms and surveys. "As a department, we do have to demonstrate why we're here-that the mission was accomplished, whatever it was, for that event," said Sky. "The objectives of a meeting are all woven together. At the end, it should come out as a fine fabric- everyone should have a great experience as well as gain knowledge."
With What Metrics are Companies Tracking ROI?
Scott Lesher, partner and president of operations, Corporate Optics LLC:
>> Healthcare/Loss of work days
Opal Hamilton-Maye, events and promotions at GlobalHue:
>> Media coverage
>> Consumer awareness
>> Vehicle purchases and experiences
>> Community good will
Craig Erlich, president, Pulse 220:
>> Post-event articles
>> Number of attendees
>> Amount of names/data collected
>> Sales figures
>> Follow-up surveys