Lucid Thoughts

How to stop the cuts…to your event budget

Friday, 10 December 2010 17:10

As I came out of the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre last night we were diverted away from Parliament Square for obvious reasons! But I couldn't help reflecting that here was a bunch of people whose budget had just been savagely cut and they didn't like it! It's an affliction not restricted to students. During difficult financial times event managers also find that their budgets are under threat. Neither they nor their agencies are too keen on the idea either. Something that could help event managers defend their budgets would be a way of demonstrating that their events are actually creating value for their organisations.

Strangely enough, that's exactly what we had just been studying inside the Conference Centre. I was taking part in the Event ROI Foundation Certificate Programme run by a bearded Norwegian called Dr Elling Hamso. As we got into it, it became clear that this isn't just an evaluation methodology; it is also a very precise way of planning your event in the first place. And that answers many of the issues about fuzzy objectives I raised in my last blog.

The model is predicated on the assumption that the only way for an event to generate value is if its participants actually do something afterwards which adds value for the event stakeholders. Just thinking or feeling something isn't enough.

This is called the 'business impact'. You define what you want this impact to be and then follow a series of logical steps, defining the behavioural, learning and satisfaction objectives for your audience.

Each of these stages is linked by a 'Chain of Impact' – ie. each stage depends on the one below it. Elling presents this in the form of a graphic pyramid. At the base of the pyramid is a clear definition of who your audience is.

Sitting at the pinnacle is the ROI itself. There are methods for calculating this which can be quite time-consuming and this may be the reason why only a few organisations have gone this far. But Elling claims that a clear evaluation of learning and behavioural change is usually enough for managers to make a decision about the future direction of an event.

My experience is that most event managers don't get beyond a measurement of satisfaction (with the hospitality and content elements of the event.) This simply isn't enough to define event value.

We spent a jolly couple of days learning and applying what we had learned. There were elements of the model that I wasn't entirely happy with. For instance, why call it 'the Event ROI model' when most people don't get as far as the ROI calculation? But this is quibbling.

Clients these days seem to be crying out for more effective ways of evaluating events and measuring ROI. So you can imagine my astonishment to be sitting next to the only corporate participant in the workshop.

If we are serious about increasing the professionalism of our events we should all be out there exploring solutions like this!

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