Nigel Cooper: Justify your ROI

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Nigel Cooper, executive director, P&MM Events & Communications, explains how conferences can be structured to provide the ultimate networking opportunities and ROI for delegates…

The association meetings sector has been one of the most robust and fastest growing over the last 20 years. This is not to say that there haven’t been changes and challenges along the way: there certainly have, but getting together to discuss issues is part of the very essence of an association.

In this and every other recession the same questions are asked. Can I justify the time, and can I justify the cost. In simple terms, the answer for many is based on the ambitions of the association meeting organiser. What do I mean? Well, of course, I’m referring to the fine balance between sexy and practical locations. I myself have attended a number of association meetings over the years and I have to admit that my personal decision to attend has on occasion been influenced by the location and cost. The content and what I call “walk away value” ie, what did I learn that I can use to benefit my company, should of course always be paramount, but we are all human and we are all influenced by emotive factors as well as practical.

Flipping over into the incentive and marketing communications meeting environment temporarily, we have seen that these have, quite rightly, become much more focused and targeted with companies looking to ensure their return on investment through research and fiscal measurement and control. Is this the next step for associations?

Meetings managers tend to measure the effectiveness of meetings via the audiences experience and understanding of the message delivery. To me, the measurement needs to move from “did you understand the message” to “how did what you learned last change the way your organisation works today and what has been the financial/operational impact?”

If associations are able to demonstrate these type of genuine fiscal and cultural ROI measures to potential delegates then they will become far more powerful motivators ensuring growing attendances for the next 20 years, wherever the location! There is on old adage about what you put in is what you get out. So planning effective sessions that create the opportunity for delegates to not just take away the message but implement the message through specific post-event courses, support and communication, improves the opportunity to measure ROI and significantly increases the effectiveness of the association in providing a practical and positive daily influence on their member organisations.