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To ROI, add ROE

John Fisher measures events emotionally
Event managers all over the world will be painfully familiar nowadays with the need for ROI (Return On Investment) on events. This has been supplanted by ROO (Return On Objectives) in recent years. No doubt there will be other acronyms to come as funders look for ever more sophisticated ways to prove that events work. I can imagine ROMS (Return On Marketing Spend) and even ROT (Return On Technology) where finance directors will link the cost of event tech spend to customer sales.


It is a worthy thing to measure financial gain from events. But when delegates talk about great events they have attended, they very rarely mention ‘sales’ or ‘net profit’. They remember the people they met, the new ideas they came away with and the smoothness of the admin. But they also remember when things went wrong.

A recent survey of event delegates revealed that 70% associated bad transport experiences with the event itself…even though the organisers may have had nothing at all to do with how delegates got to their event. It’s as if they blame the organisers for infrastructure issues, bad weather or even union strikes. The organisers ‘should have known’ these things would happen, may be their line of thinking.

This leads to the inevitable conclusion that the delegates’ response to an event - and therefore the success of the event itself - is more about emotion than hard facts. ROE (Return on Emotion), if you will.

Let’s talk about the emotional response to events. For an event to be memorable emotionally you have to build in some key elements. The principle is to ‘surprise and delight’.

Starting with the travel logistics, you could choose a venue which is easy to get to. Of course, many other factors determine the venue choice. But how about giving ease of access from the main airport or highway a higher priority than, say, the daily delegate rate?

You could choose a date when weather is unlikely to cause a travel issue or a lack of services issue, avoiding, for example, deep midwinter or a National Holiday.

You could arrange the timing of meetings to link with relevant flights or trains. so that delegates are not stressed about getting to your event in time for the opening sessions. You could end the event at a suitable time, so that delegates are not ‘slipping away’ from lunchtime onwards, leaving only a skeleton audience for the main sponsor’s big sign-off speech.

In terms of the content for events, delegates certainly remember celebrities, so, provided they are relevant to the message, they are worth the money. Delegates also have a short attention span, so varying the delivery of the messages is always a good idea – interchange plenary, break-outs, interaction, pre-shot videos, live links to other communities, unusual locations and views.

People also remember ‘news’. So, if you have something to announce or privileged information, your event would be a good time to deliver it. News enhances concentration on detail and makes delegates feel very special.

Anything that improves well-being makes delegates also feel grateful to the organisers. So, frequent breaks to facilitate networking is a good idea. Cashless ways to pay for food and drink or discounts reduces queues and encourages delegates to ‘be human’ rather than simply sit there and listen all day long. Massages, shoe-cleaning, organising taxis, complimentary water, simple ways to network with industry colleagues on site, places to relax and rest … they all help to provide a positive environment for good memories.

‘Bonding’ is an over-used word in marketing circles, but there is no denying that a shared experience is something that brings people together and gets them talking. It could be something all delegates get given, announced from the main stage, such as an enhanced commission or product improvement simply by having attended. Or it could be a sit-down meal where the main speaker reveals something personal or shares a vision. We all remember when X announced that the new product would include Y!

Learning is often enhanced when it is reinforced. After the event, sharing key information or the thoughts of key speakers after a few days when delegates have had time to think about things can be a powerful way to get the main messages across once again. Too often the event content gets forgotten immediately the delegate gets home.

All these ideas are nothing to do with finance or sales or budgets. They are about building a space in the brains of delegates called ‘emotional response’. so that they remember the event, long after the event itself has passed into oblivion. Once stored, it is very hard to unstore it.

The great thing about emotional response is that, if it is positive, people will do almost anything to repeat it. The Finance Director will be pleased about that as well and even she will want to repeat it.

ROE, Return On Emotion, is well worth investing in.

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