Why events are not (and cannot be) valued – and how to change this
Events are expensive. And only rarely do we pay attention to what they yield. I have been wondering for years how this can be changed. During my holidays, I read a book about optimising sales processes. It explained that you need to understand how the customer makes a decision – in order to respond to this as a company. This made me wonder: is there a scientific method to make events more effective? I started my research, but when such a method did not (yet) seem to exist, I decided to take action myself.
Be honest: how often do you pay extensive attention to the formulation of proper objectives? We surveyed this question among our target audience. 79% indicated that they would do this structurally at any event. Only 70% say they always evaluate the objectives. If you look at the budgets that are being invested in events, one would expect these percentages to be higher. Gert Slob of the Behavior Change Group has done a lot of research on objectives. He has his doubts about the quality of these objectives and their evaluation: “Objectives are often not measurable and very limited.” This makes it difficult to justify the investment in events. That can be changed.
Where it goes wrong
For many of us, paying attention to the formulation of proper objectives is not self-evident. In my opinion, two aspects play an important role: time and autonomy. Events are still (too) often initiated ad hoc, or the event manager is involved in the process (too) late – meaning they have to get into execution mode without seeing the bigger picture. Another important aspect is the fact that event managers often lack the autonomy to point this out to their clients. They follow the instructions, but do not sufficiently inquire about the ultimate goals and objectives of the event. Gert Slob: “A well-known speaker and nice networking drinks do not guarantee a successful event. Yet, these are often the main points on which an event is assessed. What actually happens at the event itself, in terms of behaviour, is still too often a black box.”
Not everyone knows there is an essential difference between a goal and an objective. A goal is something you want to achieve in the long run, whereas an objective is the concrete and measurable translation of this goal. According to Gert Slob, this is what structurally goes wrong: “There is no urgency to formulate proper objectives. But without a clear focus point, it is hard to determine a strategy.” The formulation of proper objectives takes time – and will sometimes be a challenging process. However, this process is crucial and leads to the right discussions. And yet, these discussions are often the reason this important step is skipped.
“First and foremost, the content of the event must be aligned with the needs of the target audience,” Gert Slob says. “You are not the one to decide whether your event is relevant for your target audience. Your target audience determines the relevance. You only get their attention when you address a shared problem.” In addition, it is important that everyone involved in the event has the same objectives in mind. When everybody follows different directions, it is impossible to achieve the goal. Shared commitment to the objectives is therefore essential.
In other words: you can only move your target audience when you know both your objectives and your target audience. “If you don’t take these elements as a starting point, the event will not pay off - despite all the interesting speakers, smart presentations and creative break-out sessions.” What seems to be a great event, will result in nothing but a pretty picture.
The event is where it happens
The moment your attendees are in the room they are within your reach - and that is when the magic should happen. What do you want to tell your audience? What message do they need to take home? If you know this in advance, you can determine how to get this message across on the day of the event. There are so many more ways to do this than just putting a speaker on stage! Consider, for example, communication and interaction in the run-up to the event. This ensures commitment of the target audience at an earlier stage. On the day itself you can align the various work forms to the extensive networking options for your sales staff. There are also interactive tools – like Sendsteps – to interact with the audience. This way, you can measure whether the desired effect has been achieved immediately.
The breakdown is not the end!
The 'breakdown' section is the final section in the script of many event pro's. Yet, this is not the end of the event! You strived to give your attendees an experience, but only after the event you can measure whether this has worked. The event results determine whether the investment was beneficial. For this, you need 2 things: pre-formulated objectives and proper tools to measure them. An event survey is an excellent opportunity to discover whether your objectives have been achieved. For example, consider measuring the NPS (Net Promoter Score) or validate whether the main message of the event came across. Our research shows that 64% of event professionals do not exactly know how to measure the event objectives, or do lack the right tools for this. Such a shame! Attendee feedback holds a wealth of information about your event.
Event managers, dig deep into the objectives of your event – together with your client! Clear objectives are crucial in order to measure your performances and indispensable for the client to justify the budget. Ensure measurable objectives in advance, a clear strategy during the event and a solid evaluation after the event. Only then you will know the value of your events – and what can be improved next time. And the scientific method I mentioned? It is available now for all Dutch event professionals!*
*For now, the Event Blueprint is only available in Dutch. English version coming soon!
Connecting the Dots
Because Connecting the Dots is a Dutch-language event, it is less suitable for English speaking attendees. However, we feel the articles we write about this topic could be of added value for all event professionals. Are you interested in the content? Read more here!