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White Paper - ROI for Meetings & Events

ROI White Paper

ROI for Meetings and Events

Caterina Bulgarella, Ph.D.

The What and Why of Meeting ROI

The ROI methodology for meetings and events developed by Drs. Jack and Patti Phillips is a comprehensive measurement approach aimed at assessing reaction, learning, application and financial impact results for meetings.  The goal of the measurement process is to accurately identify an event's return on investment (ROI). 

There are several important benefits associated with supporting the planning and implementation of meetings through the application of the ROI methodology.   First, decision-makers will be able to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of meetings they manage and organize.  Secondly, they will be able to identify which meeting investments they should grow and expand and/or which they should discontinue or reconsider.  Finally, they will be in a position to establish stronger and better relationships with clients and executives because the knowledge and data the methodology provides them with enhances the influence of their role and function. 

The uniqueness of the ROI measurement process derives from its focus on financial results and the isolation of the financial effects of the meeting/event.  In this sense, ROI is the ultimate level of evaluation.  The methodology extends beyond measuring participant reactions to the meeting and participant learning.  Rather, it extends meeting measurement objectives to determining how the meeting affects on-the-job behavior, and thus how concretely it impacts the business performance of the organization. 

One of the methodology's fundamental tenets is the notion of "chain of impact."  Participants' positive reaction to the meeting is essential for them to experience a change of attitudes/perceptions and to more easily acquire new skills and knowledge.  Similarly, newly acquired attitudes/perceptions and learning are critical for the completion of planned work behavior.  Finally, a change in work behavior drives the desired change in business performance, leading to those meeting-related financial benefits that the ROI methodology is ultimately interested in unveiling. 

By following this chain of events, the ROI measurement process is able to compare the monetary value of the business performance driven by the meeting to the costs of the event.  This means more than computing profitability indicators.  It means linking the program to specific business needs and precise objectives for behavior and business impact.  Because the assessment of the meeting performance is based on tangible results (e.g., profit, productivity, revenue, quality, reduction in costs/errors/accidents/turnover, etc.), the event is managed as a strategic opportunity to maximize such outcomes in line with principles of sound management. 

The ROI Process

The ROI methodology entails four components:  Evaluation planning, data collection, data analysis and reporting. 

The first phase - the planning of the evaluation process - guarantees and preserves the integrity of the process.  At this stage, objectives for the event's performance that span through the entire chain of events discussed above are set.  Specifically, objectives will be set in terms of attendee reaction and learning, attendee work behavior, meeting impact on the organization's business performance and meeting ROI.  The evaluation planning requires also the identification of basic but essential measurement components.  For example, which measures will be used (e.g., ratings, evaluations, hard data, etc.), which data collection methods will be implemented (e.g., surveys, interviews, etc.), which data sources will be accessed (e.g., employees, managers, production records, etc.), which techniques will be applied to isolate the effects of the meeting (e.g., subjective estimates, control studies, etc.). 

During the data collection phase, all the data gathering activities needed for ROI calculation purposes are completed.  This entails the collection of reaction data at or right after the meeting as well as the collection of follow-up, behavioral data a few months after the event.  During this phase, for example, surveys may be deployed to acquire reaction and learning ratings, job performance may be monitored to assess changes related to the meeting, turnover and absenteeism data may be recorded, and so forth. 

Once all necessary data have been collected, the measurement process continues with the implementation of those analyses necessary to isolate the effects of the meeting.  For example, if a control group was used to identify the effects of the event on work behavior, the job performance data of meeting attendees is compared to the job performance data of those employees who did not attend the meeting. 

At this stage, the monetary value of the changes observed will also be computed.  As for isolating the effects of the meeting, several sources and techniques can be used to translate savings or increased productivity to dollar values.  Such choices will be made in a discretionary fashion, depending on the data available as well as the nature of the event and the range of its effects. 

The last step in the measurement process includes tabulating the costs of the meeting and computing the financial return on the meeting investment.  Once this is done, the results gained through the implementation of the ROI methodology can be compared to the objectives set at the beginning of the process and communicated to all key stakeholders. 

Challenges in ROI Measurement and MeetingMetrics

While the ROI methodology may seem daunting and difficult to implement, it is in actuality a rather linear process.  MeetingMetrics leverages the linearity of the methodology providing an interface where the steps to take and the decisions to make become obvious and intuitive.  Moreover, the application provides support for most, if not all, the computations needed to calculate ROI. 

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