Director of Conference Focus, Max Turpin is sharing his insights on a range of topics with a regular column in BEN. Topics include new generation events and making events effective and valuable.
ANDY: “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
Red (later): “I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it is in my dreams. I hope.” Released in 1995, The Shawshank Redemption is a genuine movie classic. While the film was overshadowed at the Oscars that year by films such as Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump, today it’s ranked No. 1 Best Movie of all Time by IMDb moviegoers – the world’s most popular and authoritative source for movie and TV content. In a recent article I mentioned having read the findings of a Cvent survey – their second Global Events Industry Benchmark Survey. If you missed the headline findings, you can read the details HERE. In brief, what it revealed is that Budgeting (working with stagnant or reduced budgets) and Proving ROI are the top two challenges facing event planners. I believe these two things are indelibly linked, the reason being obvious: without proving or demonstrating ROI (or ROO, ROE or effectiveness) the likelihood of equal or greater investment being given to that marketing activity diminishes. When asked how they measure ROI, the two top answers were (via) Attendance Numbers and Attendance Satisfaction – ie. forms asking “Were you happy?”. If you ask me, neither of these is a valid way to measure ROI. Indeed, I challenge anyone to explain to me what satisfaction has to do with ROI. I’ve just read through the findings of another insightful industry survey. It was an Event Marketing Survey conducted by The CMO Club in conjunction with Cvent. The CMO Club is a global community of Chief Marketing Officers comprising 850+ members who help each other solve their biggest marketing challenges. Some of the key survey findings include: 69% of respondents indicated that they view events as being very or extremely significant in accelerating sales and adding to sales revenue. Quotes: “Events are considered a traditional form of marketing” and “Events are a significant driver of sales pipeline”. So most CMO’s consider events an important sales and marketing tool. No surprise there. 87% of those surveyed said that ROI is critical or important when it comes to allocating budget to their events. However, only 34% said they have access to the information they need to validate their event spend. As one CMO said, “I view face-to-face events as an integral part of the closedloop marketing process. So when my team wants to invest in particular events, I look for the ROI of that event, just as I would, for example, if investing in digital media”. As the report states (emphasis added mine): “Despite the significant power of events, almost two-thirds of CMO’s surveyed don’t believe they get the data they need to fully evaluate the effectiveness of their event programs. This creates challenges at budget time when funding decisions are being made about events. While events are deemed very important, they lack the supporting financial data to objectively prove their value. Event marketers are lagging in their ability to connect the dots between activities and demonstrated results.” To highlight the point further, when asked to name their Most Pressing Event Challenge, nearly 75% of CMO’s cited Proving ROI and Understanding Effectiveness. Recently, Australia became a world champion….the country with the longest running record of unbroken economic growth (26 years). Even when most of the world was slammed by the 2008 GFC, Australia kept going and growing. We now have a generation of people not knowing what a true recession feels like. Think business is tough now? Wait for the recession that will inevitably come our way. It will bluntly put things into perspective and make these times seem rosy by comparison. The thing that worries me most, as it should every operator in the events industry, is what the findings from these surveys are telling us. Budgets are a major challenge. Investment by organisations into events is a challenge and under constant scrutiny. Proving ROI and effectiveness is also a big challenge….and this is directly linked to, and unquestionably affects, the former. When the economy slows or retracts and organisations are forced to rein in spending, any underperforming or unjustified sales & marketing activities will be brought forth to the chopping block. Events of every type will receive the first and heaviest blows from their cleavers. Those of you who know me or read my articles will know I’ve been a strong advocate of event ROI, meeting effectiveness, strategic meeting design and meeting architecture for many years now. While I remain passionate, I’ll admit to sometimes feeling disheartened. I can count on one hand others in the industry who have approached me to give support, if only to convey their shared feelings. Many event owners are resistant to change and reluctant to try anything new – ignorance, fear and ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality rule supreme. The result is that many meetings and conferences are stuck in the past, which is to say today’s mediocre zone, oozing blandness and displaying all the ho-hum, run-of-the-mill characteristics that have them looking and tasting every bit like vanilla…..or chicken schnitzel if you were to ask Andrew Klein. I hope fundamental change takes place in people’s thinking. I hope there are other exponents of this ideology out there. I hope event owners are willing to step away from their damaging comfort zone of ‘we’ve always done it this way’ and understand too that a 10% increase in effectiveness far outweighs a 10% reduction in cost. I hope. My feeling, however, is that it may take the harsh, stinging lesson of a recession to deliver enlightenment.
‘Proving ROI and effectiveness is also a big challenge’
If you’d like to learn more about how to make your events fresh, innovative and effective, please contact
Max Turpin at Conference Focus on 02 9700 7740 or visit the website at conferencefocus.com.au