A manifesto for the future of meetings
As the global economic meltdown struck in September 2008, one of the first things that most companies did was to cancel all their conferences and staff development. This was an instinctive response for many companies, probably necessary in order to cut back on costs and focus on surviving the downturn. But as the economy picks up and conferences are once again being scheduled, there is a nagging doubt in the minds of many business leaders about the real return of investment from these meetings they are planning.
Many companies spend a large amount of money each year running conferences designed to grow their businesses – either internal staff events or conferences for their business partners, channel or sales teams. ROI on a conference is notoriously hard to isolate, but there is no doubt that companies normally have very clear objectives for their conferences – normally to catalyse business growth or change behaviour in some way.
Teams of people, both internal and external, swarm around the planning and preparation for conferences. Most of the effort is put into crafting a great experience for the delegates including the sourcing of interesting and entertaining venues, approving of the various menus for food, selecting themes and appropriate décor, and slotting in various speakers who have been designated to deliver specific messages. As an added extra these teams will also attempt to source some external speakers to add a little bit of pizzazz, motivation, edutainment and expertise to the event. All of this gets thrown in a pot, stirred round for a bit and out pops something that, truth be told, is remarkably similar to what you did last year and what your competitors are going to do next month.
This is a problem. It can get a short term response and a good feeling from delegates. But …
• Does this type of event do anything more than a video conference might have achieved?
• Or a well thought through incentive that would cost you a fraction of the price and energy?
• Are conferences just an excuse for your team to have an expensive few days out of the office?
• What is the return on investment?