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 more rewarding.

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 programs.

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 meetings.

References

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; Butterworth-Heinemann.

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.

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