Meeting design and ROI have been buzz words in our industry for quite some time now. But is there a connection between the two? Actually, there is and it’s key to understand it to plan more effective meetings. Today I’ll show you how properly designing a meeting can lead to a higher ROI.
First of all, what exactly is meeting design? There are several definitions, but one of my favourite ones is from Mary Boone: “The purposeful shaping of the form and content of a meeting to achieve desired results” (2009). The caveat here though, is that those results are not inputs like having a number of attendees or meeting our target budget, or even getting high scores on the satisfaction survey. The results must be connected to the bottom line of the organization because that is the only way in which our events create real value. In the case of a company, that value will ultimately be to increase revenue, to decrease costs, or both. In the case of non-profits, the ultimate value will be determined by the organization’s mission statement.
If our meeting sparks a behavioural change between the participants, which adds value to the stakeholders, then we’re on the way to achieving a positive ROI. But for a behavioural change to happen, we must learn something new. The learning process is what happens during the event: we share information about the company, the products, we make new business contacts.
Let me give you an example: let’s consider the annual meeting of a medical society. Their mission statement is to improve patient care. For that to happen, new discoveries need to be made and new treatments must be implemented. At their annual meeting, two doctors from a different country meet and find out that they’re interested in doing the same research. They decide to collaborate together and they make a breakthrough that improves patient care. Therefore, thanks to the annual meeting and that encounter, they’ve made a positive contribution towards the medical society’s mission statement.
But now imagine this scenario: these 2 doctors met because the event planner had asked them, during the registration process, to submit keywords with their professional interests. Based on that, the delegates had been allocated a seat during the gala dinner – like a matchmaking service. If it hadn’t been for this, these two doctors may never had met, as there were more than 10,000 participants. This, my friends, is what meeting design is about!
Simply put, meeting design is about creating an effective learning environment, be it to facilitate learning or networking. With meeting design, we’ll not only improve the attendee experience, but we’ll provide greater value for all stakeholders. So how do we do it?
- The first step is to define our objectives. Remember that we’re talking about business objectives: first, you need to define how your meeting or event will contribute to your organization’s bottom line.
- The next step is to ask: what do participants need to do in order to make that happen? And why don’t they do it already? In other words, what behavioural change we’re looking for.
- The next logical question is what do they need to learn to make it happen. That’s what will define the content of your meeting and the design. You will need to think about all the delegate touch points and how to make the learning process as effective as possible. For example: do we need shorter presentations to allow more time for reflection and Q&A? Do we choose a venue that offers rooms with natural light, because that improves our performance?
The good news here is that the number of options is endless! There are literally hundreds of tools and techniques that you can choose from, for all purposes and budgets: from Open Space Technology conferences, to speed networking, to using theatre or comedy to convey a message, even event technology, the list is endless. Once you clearly define your goals, it will be easier for you to choose what fits your needs. So next time you’re planning an event, remember to ask yourself these questions.
Rosa Garriga Mora
Rosa is the Marketing & Communications manager of myQaa, a mobile event app company specialized in boosting attendee engagement and networking. With a background in event ROI measurement and meeting design, Rosa is passionate about events that are aligned with an organisation’s strategic objectives. Rosa is also a lecturer and speaker at several universities and industry events (EIBTM, Primer Simposio de eventos de Cotelco (Medellín, Colombia), Universidad Complutense de Madrid, CETT, ESDEN Business School, amongst others) and jury member of Eventex Awards International. She has been included in PCMA’s “20 in their twenties” inaugural class, which honors the top young event industry professionals.
Written by: Rosa Garriga Mora