Getting the Greatest Return on Your Event
A Dose of Sass
By Steve Kemble
MANY COMPANIES AND INDIVIDUALS ARE QUESTIONING WHETHER THEY SHOULD BE DOING EVENTS at their meetings and conferences as well as even doing standalone events in today’s economic conditions. It is our job as meeting and event professionals to show the power of events by putting in various methods where we can show ROI to our colleagues and clients.
As many of you know, I am a firm believer in the value and power of events as marketing tools to promote not only various products, but business as a whole. We need to focus on the marketing value and the ROI vs. the frills and fun of the event when pitching to our colleagues and clients. Whereas five years ago the theme, the entertainment and the food and beverage were what everyone wanted to hear and talk about, today it is the ROI—we have to show why they should spend coveted budget dollars to hold an event.
The key to determining ROI is incorporating measurable activities within the event. In order to measure activities, you must first get the right people to the event (which in itself is measurable) and then measure how long they stayed or how many signed up to participate in a new program or initiative announced at the event.
When thinking about how you are going to produce the event itself, think of various ways in which you can determine ROI. First, determine exactly what your colleagues and clients want to achieve by holding the event. Trust me, in today’s world, you will not hear what we heard quite often in years past—that we held it just for fun.
While some companies are indeed still doing celebratory events, today even these events need to show ROI. For example, company XYZ may play host to a celebratory event for winners of an incentive contest, yet more importantly they are probably holding it because they want to encourage those in attendance to have even greater sales next year. Therefore, while you have the enthusiasm and captive attention of the event’s attendees, think about various activities you can do during the event to encourage greater sales for the next year. For example, hire an emcee or have the CEO announce and issue a challenge (a launch if you will) for the coming year at the event that is measured each quarter of the fiscal year, and have those in attendance sign up for the challenge. The energy and enthusiasm that you create at the event, because of the concept, will encourage attendees to sign up. Consider, too, giving bonus points to all those who sign up at the event.
The same can be true for events you are doing for your clients. Personally, I think determining ROI on an event for your clients should begin from the initial stages, the moment the attendees are invited. By designing an event that seems both intriguing and worthwhile, you will get the clients to respond and attend. Everyone’s time today is valuable, and you yourself have to invest a great amount of time into the pre-stages of the event to entice those prospects to make the time to attend (especially if it is a multiday event). Again, the event has to seem as if it’s going to be enjoyable, while at the same time attendees have to feel they are going to get something out of it.
Therefore, you can go back to your client or superiors and say, “As the first stage of determining our ROI on this event, we are going to measure the actual number of quality client responses we get to the invitation itself. This ROI (attendee number) will be based in great part upon the concept you came up with for the event itself.” The graphics, the body copy explaining the event (put in an actual schedule of events, e.g., “7 p.m.-New Product Announcement”), the location, the guest speaker, the date and timing are some of the critical factors that will determine attendance. Then when you host the actual event (as mentioned above with an employee incentive event), be sure to include activities that are measurable.
Many times as event professionals, we do the event and then close the file. I encourage you to follow-up with your clients every quarter and ask them how the ROI program that was initiated at the event is doing and how sales are tracking. If sales are tracking well, then most likely you will be able to again produce the event in the coming year, because the clients did receive a great ROI for the event produced on their behalf. One+
STEVE KEMBLE has been the magic behind countless international events for more than 20 years, from celebrating NFL players' accomplishments to organizing parties for two presidents. Follow him at www.adoseofsass.com or on Twitter @stevekemblechat.