Editor's Blog

Let's not squeeze the life out of meetings

There has been a shift in emphasis in the meetings industry over recent years, with the pendulum swinging away from tourism towards business development and inward investment.

Even if most destination marketing organisations still fall under the umbrella of tourism, the focus has been much less on bed nights and more on knowledge transfer and inward investment.

And rightly so. If the meetings industry is to make its case in the face of mounting concerns over mass tourism and climate change then it must be able to demonstrate its value to wider society.

While doing this, however,  it must be careful not to squeeze the joy out of convening.

Martin Sirk writes neatly about this in the next edition of AMI Magazine. In an increasingly hectic, ‘always-on’ world, meetings should be an opportunity to take a step back, too, he argues.

If we become too preoccupied with return on investment (ROI) or learning outcomes, there is a danger congress becomes a mere extension of the workplace and not something distinct.

I wholeheartedly agree – not least because I think how we judge the R in ROI is often biased towards the box-ticking, somewhat superficial, learning culture that now holds sway.

Congress ought not to be about packing your delegates’ heads  with as much information as possible so they can go back to the office and say, ‘Here, this is what I have learnt’.

People can go online if they fancy a spot of cramming. No, congress should be about something deeper than that:  a chance to throw ideas around, reflect on things in a receptive environment.

It should be an opportunity not just to learn new stuff, but to think about what you already know afresh, and that’s not going to happen if there’s too much pressure to absorb and retain.

That’s why the networking/social element of meetings should not be downgraded in this puritanical push to demonstrate the seriousness of the meetings and events industry.

So much of the good that comes out of meetings has its origins in the coffee-break or the late-night bar, when people get the chance to catch-up with old friends and shoot the breeze. 

That’s often when the real business gets done, even  if it doesn’t tick any boxes. 

Facebook Share Twitter Share LinkeIn Share
  • Steve Pinnock 06/09/2017 Of: Performance & Event Management Ltd

    Is focus on ROI killing meetings?

    Event ROI methodology should enhance the effectiveness and reinforce the relevance of face-to-face meetings (or any live event), not detract from them. It is not just about money.

    Influencing attitudes and behaviour are key outcomes that help to “justify” meetings expenditure. Event ROI provides a formula for presenting the event sponsor with powerful evidence of impact on the target audience.

    This is a complex and nuanced subject however and a short answer does not do it justice. I fully respect the knowledge and opinions of other commentators, but welcome this opportunity to contribute to the debate.

    Here are my thoughts, summarised in five parts. I hope they help.

    1. Issues
    1a) Financing meetings and events
    Who pays? He or she who pays the piper always calls the tune, so they need to be impressed by the performance. Even the most “creative” and accomplished event organiser must deliver positive, tangible results to sustain their reputation.
    1 b) Justifying meetings and events
    Who decides? The event organiser must agree clear aims with the sponsor (client) in the planning process. Objectives can be quantitative or qualitative. If they are not specified in advance, and there is disagreement over the outcomes, there are no winners!

    2. Aspects
    2a) For “delegates” (participants, guests, conscripts)
    Does the event provide a unique opportunity for improvement and development? If so, how can that be identified and described?
    2b) For “sponsors” (clients, financiers, investors)
    Does the event enable access to and engagement with a valuable target audience? Will it allow the sponsor to achieve a satisfactory degree of influence over them?

    3. Threats
    3a) Complacency and naivety (organiser or sponsor)
    Have both or all members of this enterprise “partnership” understood and acknowledged the difficulty of achieving excellent results from the planned event? Have they discussed and dealt with the awkward questions? Have they seriously considered the cost of failure?
    3b) Lack of clarity or purpose (organiser, sponsor and delegates)
    Has the need for clarity and purpose been honestly and openly addressed at the early stage of planning? Have opinions and expectations been canvassed from all interested parties? Will these questions be resolved to everyone’s total satisfaction before decisions are made?
    3c) Competing priorities (sponsor)
    Is the organiser confident that the sponsor is fully convinced and committed to the idea of a live event as the right solution to their needs? Will sufficient and appropriate resources (financial and material) be invested to ensure success, or are uncomfortable compromises being made?
    3d) Social media and digital communications (sponsor, delegates)
    Nobody can deny that social media has pervaded every area of enterprise and competes for the attention of the target audience, whatever their demographics. Can the organiser confidently demonstrate the unique benefits of a live event in terms of building relationships, affecting attitudes and behaviour and delivering different and better outcomes than would otherwise be possible?

    4. Opportunities
    4a) USPs of live events
    There are definite unique aspects of live events that must be celebrated and illustrated, to constantly remind clients that face-to-face personal interaction yields unique opportunities. Whether we call it “experiential” or not, the fact is that live