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The Conference ROI Equation

Events, Performance

Return on investment (ROI), whether at a personal or corporate level, can be measured in several ways. The immediate assumption is that value for money – or cost versus benefits – is the only way to assess ROI. The reason for the investment, expressed as objectives, can be qualitative as well as quantitative.  In many situations, return on investment is hard to gauge unless ROI methodology has been used in the planning process. So, outcomes are what should be assessed as the determining factors as to whether or not a healthy return on investment was achieved.

ROI is often assumed to be a corporate concern only, however even academics (who you may argue are not pursuing the same commercial objectives as a business) are just as concerned about how to enhance their studies – their professional lives –  by investing in extra-curricular activities [1].

Your individual perspective

In planning and developing your career, you will no doubt welcome opportunities to raise your profile, increase your business connections, gain knowledge and improve your skills.  Any live business event, especially a conference, creates an ideal setting for networking and developing new relationships.  Even if you simply want to get to know your colleagues and understand your company or industry better, conferences are seen as the ‘cream of the crop’ method of networking, a great way of gathering information and essential for continuing your professional development [2].  

The business case for conferences

Conferences offer showcases for talent, vision, skills and enterprise for employers as well as employees.  The messages, images, aims and objectives may differ, but the most effective live events are ones where all the strands of thought and effort converge to form a cohesive feeling of unity and common purpose.

Every principal and each individual delegate has expectations and opinions which they hope the conference will address.  Facilitating and encouraging active participation is a powerful technique for energising and empowering people to influence change and performance improvement.  Active involvement and a feedback process that instantly captures responses heightens the sense of achievement.  Conference apps are a great asset in encouraging this type of interaction.

ROI measurement

The formula for measuring return on investment from conferences and other business events is EVENT ROI [3].

The five areas of measurement that must be incorporated into the event plan are:

  • The target audience
  • The satisfaction and learning environment
  • Learning
  • Behaviour
  • Impact
  • ROI

They are depicted as a pyramid, demonstrating that to achieve ROI all the other elements must be considered – but some of these elements are also dependant on others. For example, without first considering your target audience, how can you determine how best to impact behaviour?

Using Event ROI when planning conferences, product launches, hospitality events and corporate group travel programmes provides the following management tools:

  • A sense check before you proceed
  • A clear set of objectives
  • A simple cost-benefit analysis
  • A proven method of assessing results
  • An effective reinforcement of your brand

Sole purpose

The prime purpose of an event is to change behaviour and that is how results should be assessed.  For example, greater cop-operation between internal teams will increase efficiency.  Improved communication between departments reduces losses.  Greater attention to detail and processes improves quality.

Live events such as conferences can have a major positive affect on a business and if planned properly have the potential to generate an outstanding return on investment.

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