Clear objectives lead to successful business events

When companies want to increase the return on investment of their business events, they need to focus on defining exactly which objectives they wish to achieve.

When it comes to business events, return on investment or return on objectives thinking (ROI&ROO) should be an important guidebook for both business event planners as well as their professional event agency. In my view, event agencies can make a difference by advising their clients to take time to think about the real objectives of the event and by using these objectives when planning, evaluating and improving the event. This is how it works for me:

  • Most events are evaluated at the ‘satisfactory’ level: Has the hotel accommodation been satisfactory? Would you advise this moderator to a friend or colleague? How would you evaluate the quality of the information you received?
  • However, the event ROI/ROO methodology (http://www.eventroi.org/) speaks about three more levels that are harder to monitor: learning (did the participants actually learn something?), application (do the participants apply in their day-to-day business what they have learned? Meaning: did the event started a behavioural change?) and result (once the participants apply what they have learned, does it impact the bottom line or any other change I wish to see?).

But how to monitor this in a pragmatic and cost effective manner? My advice would be: First, think things through at the concept phase of the event and second, to use online and offline tools for continuous monitoring purposes. At both stages, bringing in the expertise of an event agency will bring much added value and lead to a successful business event.

  • Think things through: If you have a meeting to inform several EU subsidiaries about the new sales strategy, you want them to apply the strategy in the end. As a result, you wish to see a coherent EU wide sales strategy. If your meeting is about a detailed product repair briefing to technical staff, you wish the staff to repair the product using the learned procedures. Hence, from the onset of the event planning, one should think ‘strategy’: what behavioural change, leading to the result, does the event aim for?
  • Use online tools: This should not be rocket science. A first online survey right after the event, should measure the ‘satisfactory’ and the ‘learning’ level. For the learning level, smart questions are necessary to measure whether participants did actually ‘get the key messages you want to come across’. Close collaboration between the event agency and the sponsoring company is necessary for this. A second online survey should be planned 3 or 6 months after the event, measuring whether the participants actually apply what they said they have learned (behavioural change). Again, close collaboration between event agency and sponsoring company is necessary.
  • Use offline tools: To find out whether or not the EU sales strategy has been coherently applied throughout Europe, one could easily speak to the national sales managers. If the objective was to improve the bottom line, one should consult their sales figures. And if the objective of the repair briefing was to lower recurring breakdowns, this could be in the companies IT system. The point here is that measuring results, cannot be done via an online survey to the participants. The participants can confirm they changed their behaviour, but the result should be monitored via other, often offline, tools and methods.

The above methodology is straightforward and cost-effective and allows, what I would call, continuous improvement of how the business event is organised. A good starting discussion on the real behavioural change one wishes to see, ensures that the right focus is brought into the event setup. Lean monitoring whether or not the ‘satisfactory’, ‘learning’ and ‘application’ objectives are met, allows to adjust the focus of the event for the next edition.