As an industry there are many tools and metrics available to us to measure the success and impact of our conferences and events. We can gather and analyse data for hours, even days if we wanted to! Yet, given the investment in both time and money a conference or event takes, I question if it is wise to wait till it’s all done and dusted before we determine if it was successful?
Don’t get me wrong, I believe post event surveys and onsite feedback is all incredibly valuable when facing the challenge of improving your conference year after year. There is plenty we can learn from this data to maximise attendee engagement next time around. However, as author Arthur Conan Doyle (of Sherlock Holmes fame) once said, “It is easy to be wise after the event”.
I believe the integration of a key measurement step during the event planning phase is essential if we are serious about designing conference programs that have a lasting impact on our delegates. Put simply we should be checking the ROI well before our delegates arrive.
Create a ‘Picture of Success’
As always, being clear on your event objectives or what your ‘picture of success’ will be at the beginning of the project is the starting point to all successful planning. This is when you think about the behaviour you want to drive, the audience you want to engage and identify the business, social, and/or industry impact you want to achieve. Drilling down on these objectives, clearly articulating them and making them measurable should always be part of the initial event plan which is signed off by all key stakeholders.
Of course using previous event data as a benchmark is useful for setting goals such as the number of delegates, sponsors and exhibitors. This data may also tell you who the delegates are and where they came from; why they attended and what they found most valuable. It will also shape your marketing and revenue goals. All of this information can and should be leveraged to develop your ‘picture of success’ and enable you to craft a powerful event strategy.
Once developed, we shouldn’t leave these objectives in an event planning document only to be looked back upon when we are writing up our post event report. These should be the reference point for any major decision made throughout the planning process and used to measure the potential success of your event.
Check the ROI
Once you have profiled your audience and mapped their journey at the event, you’ll have your first draft program ready for review. Quite often, in my experience, this is where things can go off track. Different stakeholders have different business or personal agendas that they bring to the table and the program can shift in one direction, then back in another – losing focus and purpose. I recommend that at this stage you do a preliminary check of the ROI with all stakeholders. Go back to your event goals – will this program meet them all? Look at your audience, brand, learning environment and behaviour based objectives and make the adjustments to your program if it’s not meeting these. Leave things out if they are not contributing to achieving the best outcome.
Allow time for change
Unfortunately, with reduced lead times common place these days, I don’t believe we leave enough time in our pre-event planning timeline to go through this ROI checking process – more than once if necessary. How many times are we pushing our teams to publish that program on the website, lock in that keynote, get registrations open – we are so deadline driven that we miss this opportunity to tweak and refine the event and ensure the greatest chance of success BEFORE we’ve spent the budget and delivered onsite.
At Nectar, we always schedule in a ‘review’ with our team and our clients before we start locking everything in and publishing. It’s important not just to be ‘wise’ after our events when, with hindsight, it’s clear to see where we strayed from the plan. Don’t wait 12 months or two years to implement change at your next event – be proactive and take control of the delegate experience by designing the program for maximum impact now.
For more information on Nectar CC and how we can help manage and track ROI for your next brilliant event, please contact Peta on 1300 878 815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.