Within the last decade, ROI has become one of the most challenging
issues facing, not only the training and development industry, but
also the meetings and events industry. In the last two years, the
Phillips ROI Methodology has been brought to the meetings and
events industry through the help of Meeting Professionals
International, the largest association for the meetings profession
with more than 19,000 members in 66 chapters and clubs across the
USA, Canada, Europe and other countries throughout the world.
The US-based Convention Industry Council recently reported that
meetings, conventions, exhibitions, and incentive travel generated
$122.31 billion dollars in total direct spending in 2004, making
this industry the 29th largest contributor to the gross national
product. Considering the size and spend of this industry, meeting
professionals everywhere are under pressure to prove the impact
their meetings and events are having to their employers,
associations, meeting attendees, meeting sponsors, trade show
exhibitors and meeting host cities. As long as there is a need and
a pressure for accountability and the concept of an investment
payoff is desired, ROI calculations will be used to evaluate major
investments in meetings and events.
The Best Meetings and Events for ROI Studies
ROI calculations on meetings and events can be done from multiple
perspectives such as the meeting organizer, meeting attendee,
exhibitor, sponsor, speaker and even the city hosting the meeting.
It is most appropriate for associations, non-profit organizations,
and government entities to consider these multiple perspectives.
For associations, the best meetings and events on which to conduct
ROI impact studies are:
Annual conferences from the attendee, exhibitor and sponsor
Trade shows from the exhibitor perspective
Specialty or in-depth member training or certification programs
from the participant perspective
Corporations may also want to consider conducting ROI impact
studies from both their own perspective and that of their meeting
attendees. For example, a franchise company can calculate the ROI
for franchise owners participating in their meetings and events.
The best corporate meetings and events on which to conduct ROI
impact studies are:
- User, customer, client, independent agent and franchise owner
- Product roll-out meetings and events
- Marketing events
- Team-building meetings
- Management meetings
- Annual sales kick off meetings
- Incentive travel programs
- Trade show booths
Like in the training world, not all programs are candidates for ROI
measurement. Only 5 to 10 percent of an organization's meetings and
events should even be taken to the ROI level. The best meetings for
an ROI study would be linked to the operational goals and/or
strategic objectives of the organization or attendee and would
incur significant costs and staff/participant time.
Levels of Evaluation Applicable to Meetings and
As shown in Table 1, the Kirkpatrick and Phillips levels of
evaluation have been slightly expanded to include a level 0 which
encompasses meeting statistics and attendee demographics. As some
of the ROI junkies out there will recall, Jack Phillips has
included a level 0 in his balanced scorecard approach, which is
labeled as indicators. This level is particularly relevant to the
meetings and events industry in light of contracted hotel room
block requirements; budgeted revenues from attendees, exhibitors
and sponsorships; anticipated press coverage and procurement's
involvement in corporate meetings and events.
Meeting Statistics and Attendee Demographics
Measures meeting statistics such as the scope and volume of meeting
attendance, marketing efforts, press coverage and budgetary
measures and documents attendee demographic information.
Reaction & Planned Action
Measures participant satisfaction with the meeting and captures
Measures changes in knowledge, skills, attitudes, opinions,
professional contacts, and/or sales leads acquired due to the
Measures changes in behavior back in the workplace due to the
knowledge, skills, attitudes, opinions, professional contact,
and/or sales leads acquired at the meeting.
Measures changes in business-impact variables due to the meeting.
Return on Investment
Compares meeting benefits to the costs.
Table 1: Levels of Evaluation for Meetings and
Source: Phillips, Jack, Breining, Terri, and Myhill,
Monica, Measuring Return on Investment for Meetings and
Events, meeting Butterworth-Heinemann 2007
For meetings and events, the chain of impact starts at level 0
since the right attendees for which the meeting was designed and
planned must first be present at the meeting and participate.
Demographic information can help to identify if the right mix of
attendees were present at the meeting.
As with training programs, a successful meeting is dependent upon
carefully collected needs assessment data. It is best when a
meeting or event defines the target audience and their educational
and/or networking needs before planning and designing a program.
For example, similar employment positions/roles, levels of industry
experience, employer types/categories, leadership roles and
workplace challenges will predispose attendees for success at a
meeting while attendees outside the target audience may find the
content challenging and unrelated to their workplace demands. In
addition, similar or complementary demographic groups will find
networking easier and likely more rewarding.
Level 2 and 3 have also been expanded to include acquisition of
and/or a change in attitudes, opinions and professional contacts as
a result of the meeting or event. Company wide meetings, sales
kick-off meetings and marketing events are often conducted to
change the attendee's attitude or opinion about the meeting host or
its policies, products or services. Regarding professional
contacts, we can all acknowledge that the people we meet and
converse with in the hotel bar after hours or, for us women, in
line for the restroom, often make the meeting beneficial and of
value to us.
Evaluation and ROI Case Studies on Meetings and Events
In late 2006 to early 2007, Meeting Professionals International and
the ROI Institute, Inc. will be co-publishing a case study book
featuring ROI calculations and evaluation studies conducted on
meetings and events.
I bet that many of you may have done evaluation and ROI work on
programs that could be considered a meeting or event. A meeting or
event would be defined as a gathering of individuals for the
- Delivering and/or communicating educational content, an idea or
- Motivating attendees to purchase a product, support an
initiative or achieve a goal/objective
- Networking among participants to initiate relationships or
strengthen existing relationships
- Determining future goals, strategies, policies or actions by an
individual, group or organization
- Achieving an organization's mission, vision or goal
Case studies are sought from a range of industries, countries,
meeting types, and evaluation/ROI perspectives. If you are
interested in submitting a case study, please let me know.
Help spread the ROI word and methodology to this sister industry!
2006 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.