EventView 2006, the fifth annual study of how senior marketing professionals use meetings and events in their marketing mix, documents a slight decrease in the percentage of budgets earmarked for meeting and events, as well as setbacks in some other indicators of their perceived importance. At the same time, the study leaves little doubt of their strategic role and high perceived return on investment.

EventView was inaugurated in 2002 by The George P. Johnson Co., an event marketing agency based in Auburn Hills, Mich., and, since 2003, has been co-sponsored by the Meeting Professionals International Foundation. Over the past five years, the study has evolved into a significant inquiry, growing from 120 respondents in 2002 to almost 900 in 2006.

According to this year's results, marketing professionals are spending a full quarter of their marketing budgets on meetings and events (about 1 percent less than the 2005 results). When characterizing the role of those events, 34 percent call them “a vital component” of their marketing plan (down from 40 percent in 2005), 14 percent say they are a lead tactic, 36 percent say events are “taken into consideration with other mediums,” and 13 percent say they are “usually an afterthought.”

The events getting funded in 2006 are largely trade shows and conferences, getting, respectively, 59 percent and 35 percent of the event marketing budget. In 2005, respondents reported a greater portion of the event budget for conferences (47 percent), a significant change that the study's authors say reflects a shift toward lead acquisition over brand awareness and other marketing goals in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Proponents of event marketing can be both cheered and alarmed by respondents' opinions on the ROI of meetings and events. On the one hand, the percentage of respondents who say event marketing delivers the greatest ROI has dropped steadily over the five years of the study. Still, in the last three years, no other tactic has been regarded as more effective. This year, 24 percent of marketers believe event marketing delivers the best ROI. Only Web marketing came close, with 18 percent of marketers saying it offered the greatest return. Sales promotions, public relations, direct mail, print, and broadcast advertising, in that order, each got a smaller share of the votes for best ROI.

According to the survey, that ROI is being measured, rather than guessed at, more often. Seventy-one percent of respondents report post-event measurement activities, a big jump over the 60 percent who said they were measuring results in 2005, and the highest percentage since the survey began. The report calls this “a clear sign that event marketing professionals and CMOs continue to need to demonstrate the ROI that comes from producing successful events as greater financial scrutiny comes from corporate finance departments.”

For more results, download the survey from the MPI Web site, www.mpiweb.org — click on MPI Foundation and scroll down to “Industry Research.”