If you enter the phrase “value of meetings” into Google, you will receive approximately 292,000 results. The articles cover everything from improving the value of time spent in meetings to the fact that attendees often feel their meetings have few meaningful results.
In March 2016, Forbes featured an article entitled “The Immeasurable Importance of Face-to-Face Meetings.” It stated that face-to-face interaction is, and will continue to be, the most effective form of human interaction. If we believe this, why aren’t meetings valued more? MPI, SITE and PCMA are just three of the industry associations that have dedicated time and resources to showing statistically that meetings and events drive commercial success.
Why do events seem to have a reputation for being time-consuming, expensive and non-productive? Probably because too few people know how to design their meetings and trade shows to maximize impact, ensure their incentive programs drive incremental profit, or even how to measure the effectiveness of their events with an eye to continual improvement.
A few years ago, I moderated a panel at an industry trade show that was focused on the value of events. After one panelist had eloquently described how her company measured the success of all their marketing efforts (including events) with surveys and pre- and post-event data, I asked the executive of a large telecommunications company why his company held events. His answer caught me by surprise. “Because we have always held these events,” he said. He didn’t know if their events were successful or if they were driving business, he only knew that other companies in his field held events and so he didn’t want to be different.
I remember a SITE white paper that said companies that operated incentive travel programs were true believers in the ability of these programs to drive results, but those that had never run incentives could not see the value (please note that is my paraphrasing). A perfect example of not knowing what you don’t know.
Those of us who work in this industry should be able to explain how events can drive business results. A well designed incentive not only encourages the top performers but can drive increased profitability by generating additional transactions far exceeding the cost of the trip. When I worked at Tupperware Canada, marketing decided that incentives would generate far greater results if the potential achievers were not just the top five per cent of our sales force, so we created programs based on percentage sales increase rather than just top dollars sold (the qualifications required those who had sold less in the previous year to achieve a larger percentage increase). This not only increased the pool of potential winners, but drove sales increases from a much larger portion of the active sales representatives.
A well-designed meeting will also drive financial results by informing, motivating and educating the attendees. To maximize effectiveness, corporate or association goals need to be determined before the planning begins, and then the format, location, and logistics should all be selected to support the objectives. All too often this important step is neglected.
We planners need to be able to assist the marketing team by ensuring we understand the objectives before we focus on logistics. We need to be able to show how specific speakers or activities can support the desired result, and be able to advise against other strategies as being less effective in certain circumstances. We must be able to advise on techniques of measuring event value, not just satisfaction with venues or menus. To prove the value of events and incentives, we must act as a valuable resource that our colleagues in marketing can call on to drive corporate or association success.
– Les Selby is the director of Meetings & Events for Aimia’s Channel and Employee division in Canada. He has been a corporate, third party and independent event professional for over 25 years. Les has earned both his Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation and his Global Certification in Meeting Management (CMM). Inducted into Meeting + Incentive Travel Magazine’s Industry Hall of Fame in 2009, he is an active member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI). He served on the Toronto chapter’s Board of Directors, and was the 2000-2001 chapter president. In 1997, Les was recognized as Planner of the Year by the MPI Toronto chapter, and received the President’s Award for 2009. He can be reached at email@example.com.