Change behaviour if you want to create value from events
What does Event ROI mean and why is it important?
As project professionals and practitioners we are used to working with stakeholders to plan successful projects. So why are we sometimes guilty of organising, or rocking-up at, events with little or no thought about what we want to get out of them!
As event architects and designers it really is our responsibility to ensure that that they are fit for purpose. That purpose needs to be abundantly clear to all concerned - if we don’t start with the end in mind there is every likelihood that we will pouring money down the drain.
Dr. Elling Hamso, who runs the Event ROI institute is an advocate and trainer in the Eventroi methodology. This provides a compelling logic to a structured approach to event organisation based on a simple hierarchy of objectives.
In his pecha kucha, a presentation comprising 20 slides of 20 seconds duration [6 minutes 40], entitled ROI for non-believers, he argues that the only mechanism to create value from events is to ‘change the behaviour of attendees.’ They must actually do something [different] as a direct consequence of their attendance.
Before the event
Planning for any event involves the management of risk. For example that insufficient people actually turn up. ‘No shows’ I would argue, are at an unacceptably high level at many of the 200 events that APM organises annually! When people don’t show up, the fixed cost of venue hire and refreshments don’t change. Typically ROI is reduced and as consequence organisers and speakers are disappointed and frustrated.
Pre-event marketing needs to be carefully planned and executed; and closely monitored to see what is, and is not, working. A tight feedback-loop is vital and helps organisers to be responsive and, where necessary, make changes in mid-flight. If you know your target audience you are able to tune publicity.
The day of the race
It is in the interest of all concerned that the audience is fully engaged. Presentations should be kept short. Less is more. Don’t mistake the mistake of inflicting a cruel and painful ‘death by PowerPoint.’ Slides should be light on text and image-rich. Too much information creates ‘cognitive dissonance’ and the danger that attendees will remember nothing … let alone a change their behaviour!
Event experience should be enjoyable and engaging. I don’t recommend that you risk insulting the audience - for example by telling them to turn their phones off. People won’t do that anymore! Instead why not encourage them to use their smartphones and devices by providing them with WiFi and providing a Twitter hashtag to extend the reach and exposure of the event. Encourage participation by voting, commenting and submitting questions.
For example PWC did this to good effect, at a recent APM event, by using Poll Everywhere software enabling to ask the audience for their views, which in turn were contrasted with those of more than 3,000 respondents who had participated in their Portfolio and Programme and Global Management 2014 Survey.
And another thing! You know that embarrassing bit of event – the Q&A that is choreographed to fill the gap between one presentation and another – or lunch. This is the ritual where, one or several people, rush around the auditorium with a handheld microphone, often in a vain attempt to reach the questioner, to amplify the relevant voice for all to hear! Well, there is some good news here - the Catchbox has been invented, a throwable microphone, which is guaranteed to increase the ‘energy in the room’, lighten the mood and resolve the aforementioned microphone issue. I’ve done it and it works well!
And remember to record the event. Capture the audio for a podcast, take pictures or even make a short movie. It doesn’t have to be high quality to be memorable and increase impact.
After the event
Add some more value and change behaviour of non-attendees too. Embed collateral as multi-media content in a web site to support impact objectives - such as promoting future events or increase membership and subscription Encourage those who attend to make a record, and share their thoughts as part of their own reflective practice if you are serious about changing behaviour.
See for example where Penny Pullan has interspersed mindmaps in her post-event commentary on APM ‘Myth-Busting’ Conference to create, and share, a powerful visual narrative.
Event proceedings can be aggregate to create a living ‘body of knowledge’ - for example via Slideshare. APM currently has more than 460 presentations in its Slideshare channel. Tags and a full description of available content helps to optimise for search [SEO], and embedding a relevant presentation in the relevant web site article provides additional commentary, context and - ultimately learning.
Reflect those involved. What went well or badly? One event should anticipate another. If you hit your objectives this time – go for a stretch target next. Bigger, better - multi-tenanted, international – online / hybrid etc. but never lose sight of the fact that this is all about optimising #eventroi.
When the results come in from those that take time out to complete a ‘happy sheet’, most likely, immediately after the event, listen closely to what they are saying? How does Net Promoter Score [NPS] compare with others and what can you learn for this and thereby change your own behaviour for greater success next time?
So, let’s now turn theory into practice. Benefits, ProgM and Value Management SIGs have organised a 3 day Benefits Summit #apmbmsummit at the end of June. The summit comprises; two workshops, an executive briefing and a one day conference. Discrete events are interspersed with 3 SIG AGMs and preceded by a webinar the 10th June on a similar topic to inform and whet the appetite of prospective attendees.
In short, value-creation, or #eventroi, doesn’t just happen it needs to bring about changes in behaviour, which in turn requires careful planning from the outset and a relentless focus on objectives throughout the entire event life-cycle.
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Agile refuses to analyse requirements beforehand – and thus declines to provide an initial certainty. This will probably always scare any stakeholder trying to understand whether or not they can show results to the board with the budget that they are granted.
You have a choice. You can either muddle on, stand firm and fix it – or look elsewhere.