What makes some meetings powerfully effective in creating long lasting results--while others quickly fade into memory? Those who want meetings to deliver a lasting rate of return on investment have to build into these events a high rate of psychological return on investment. Knowing how to do this is the key to positioning yourself as a member of your organization's strategic team.

Rewards That Motivate What promised reward will create high-impact meetings? The answers aren't always obvious. For instance, the idea behind many sales meetings and rallies is to show the salespeople how they can make more money by following a specific program. But while money does serve as a primary motivator for some people, others are inspired by different rewards, such as recognition. Or, some individuals respond to the feeling that the work they do creates impact beyond the specific job. Still others require a blending of motivational factors to move them to new highs.

The message is that we're not all alike. If a sales meeting focuses solely on a money message, it won't accomplish a high rate of psychological return on investment.

The Psychological ROI According to world-renowned psychologist Nathaniel Branden, there is no more important psychological need than self-esteem. Branden defines the concept as being made up of two key components: the feeling that one is competent to cope with the challenges of life, and the belief that happiness--or success--is appropriate (see my column in September CMI, page 140).

The first component can be reduced to two words: self-efficacy (having the power to produce an effect). Creating experiences in meetings and events that foster the attendees' feelings of self-efficacy will help garner commitment to, and action on, the organizational mission. (Even money has a psychological benefit because one of the ways that we view it is as a measuring stick of our self-efficacy.)

Self-Efficacy in Action Harvey Industries, a regional distributor and manufacturer of home improvement products in Waltham, Mass., wanted to celebrate its achievement of reaching $200 million in sales. After several planning meetings and much discussion, the company chose the theme "Thanks To You."

"Originally, we considered a theme of 'Teamwork Works'--a company theme used in previous annual sales meetings and one that is very much a part of our corporate culture," says Glen Frederick, senior vice president of marketing. "But," he continues, "that title didn't put enough of the focus on the people who had created this major achievement."

To help show appreciation to the sales force, Frederick had a Thanks To You video produced. It consisted of clips of many of the company's workers from every level, doing their jobs and speaking on camera about what they thought made the company great. This was in sharp contrast to another approach discussed early-on that would have featured a historical retrospective of the company incorporating a profile of the two founders.

The Thanks To You video was shown at the event, with most of the employees in attendance. It gave employees not only a chance to see themselves on the job, but also to see themselves in the act of achieving the company's $200 million dollar goal.

In another example of the importance of self-efficacy as a psychological motivator, a well-known high-tech company faced the challenge of marketing its message to a group of people who could recommend the purchase of the company's product to their company, but did not typically make the buying decision.

The original discussions with the company focused on what the product actually did. As the discovery process continued, the focus of the conversation shifted to what benefits would accrue to the people in this audience if they recommended that their organizations buy the product. This led to the creation of a live marketing presentation in which the protagonist in a brief ten-minute play was a person just like those in the audience: same title, same look, same challenges, same needs and desires.

The character in the play was faced with the total destruction of his world. But in the end, through the use of the company's product of course, he was able to save the day because his organization enjoyed the benefits of greater information management efficiency. He even got a promotion to the most senior level in his department.

The implicit message of the play was that recommending this particular product would be an act of self-efficacy. Money might accrue from the job promotion, but that was clearly not the point. Even those in the audience who knew they would probably not get a job promotion could see that making the product recommendation would be an opportunity to experience self-efficacy. The results: The marketing presentation generated more than 400 percent of the company's hot-lead development goal.

Bottom-Line Results Interface Inc., the LaGrange, Ga.-based commercial carpet manufacturer, celebrated its 25th anniversary with a 1,100-person event in Maui, Hawaii (see CMI May 1998, page 47). One of the company's goals was to demonstrate the possibilities of moving toward ecological sustainability by focusing on the three components of the company's culture: people, product, and place.

Perhaps the most innovative meeting activity stemmed from Interface's unprecedented partnership with the Grand Wailea Resort and Spa (the host hotel). The mission was nothing less than to achieve significant reductions in pollution and the consumption of major environmental resources during the group's stay. Among the strategies: a request that attendees not throw their towels on the floor each day, but instead reuse them. Changing towels once week rather than every day greatly reduced the operation of the house laundry facility, saving water and cutting down chemical pollution.

At the end of each day the results from all of the conservation activities were added up and reported to the group so that they could see the total effect of their individual actions. The statistics for the week were tabulated on the last day and revealed more than $1 million per year in annual savings for the resort. In addition, there was a tremendous, quantifiable reduction in environmental waste and pollution. Coverage of this environmental exercise made the local newspapers and television newscasts, as well as Internet newscasts around the world.

The return on investment for Interface was phenomenal. A year after the event, the company's stock price was up 40 percent, sales and profits were at an all-time high, and Fortune magazine named it one of the 100 best companies to work for in America.

What if you could create an event in which the participants' self-esteem was raised through the experience of self-efficacy? The answer is, you couldn't stop attendees from delivering the results your organization is seeking.