Recent economic challenges have affected the prevalence and
attendance of corporate meetings and events, so being able to
demonstrate their return-on-investment is crucial.
ROI calculations on meetings and events can be done from multiple
viewpoints, such as the meeting organizer, meeting attendee,
exhibitor, sponsor, speaker, and even the city hosting the meeting.
Associations, not-for-profit organizations, and government entities
should consider these multiple perspectives when evaluating
meetings and events.
Applicable levels of evaluation
As shown in Table 1, the Donald Kirkpatrick and Jack Phillips
levels of evaluation have been slightly expanded to include a Level
0, which encompasses meeting statistics and attendee demographics.
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 staff involvement in
corporate meetings and events.
For meetings and events, the chain of impact starts at Level 0
since the audience for which the meeting was designed must attend
and participate. Demographic information can help to identify if
the right mix of attendees was 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 its educational
and networking needs before planning and designing a program. For
example, similar positions, levels of industry experience, employer
types, leadership roles, and workplace challenges will predispose
attendees for success at a meeting, while attendees outside the
target audience might find the content overly challenging or
unrelated to their workplace demands. In addition, similar or
complementary demographic groups will find networking easier and
Levels 2 and 3 have also been expanded to measure acquisition of or
a change in attitudes, opinions, and professional contacts as a
result of the meeting or event. Companywide meetings, sales kickoff
meetings, and marketing events are often conducted to change
attendees' attitudes or opinions about the host's policies,
products, or services. Regarding professional contacts, we can all
acknowledge that the people with whom we network in between
sessions or in the evening often make the meeting more beneficial.
Not all programs are suitable candidates for ROI measurement,
however. Only 5 to 10 percent of an organization's meetings and
events should even be taken to the ROI level. ROI studies should be
linked to the strategic objectives of the organization or attendee
as they entail significant costs in addition to staff time.
For associations, the best meetings and events on which to conduct
ROI impact studies are annual conferences, trade shows from the
exhibitor perspective, and specialty training or certification
Corporations may also want to conduct ROI impact studies from both
their own perspective and that of their meeting attendees. For
example, a franchise company can calculate the ROI for
participants. The best corporate meetings and events on which to
conduct ROI impact studies are product roll-out meetings and
events, and team-building, management, and annual sales kickoff
Proving the Value of Meetings and Events: How and Why to
Measure ROI, Jack J. Phillips, Monica Myhill, and James B.
McDonough; 2007; ROI Institute/Meeting Professionals International.
Return on Investment in Meetings & Events: Tools and
Techniques to Measure the Success of
All Types of Meetings and Events, Jack J. Phillips, M.
Theresa Breining, and Patricia Pulliam Phillips; 2008;
Note: A version of this article appeared in the
April 2006 issue of ASTD Links.
Monica Myhill, CMP, CPLP, is senior program manager at the Center
for Executive Education, Haas School of Business, University of
California, Berkeley. She has more than 12 years of experience in
developing, marketing, managing, and evaluating training programs,
conferences, and special events in North America and Europe. Myhill
holds a master of arts in teaching from George Washington
University, and a bachelor's from Baylor University.
2010 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.