MEASUREMENT OF THE effectiveness of meetings is rapidly becoming a required step in the meeting management process for industry professionals. While there seems to be consensus on the benefits of effectively measuring and reporting return on investment, there are often barriers to its implementation. Several of these were raised during the Pharmaceutical Meeting Planners Forum held this spring in Philadelphia:
is not an appropriate term for CME meetings. Some planners are leery of the term because it can create the perception that the purpose of CME events is to increase sales rather than educate physicians, and they are concerned about incurring the wrath of the Accreditation Council for CME. Many organizations prefer to use the terms return on education, or return on objectives. It's easy to get hung up on terminology, but it's the concept, the process, and how you use the information that counts.
I don't have the time or resources to implement ROI measurement effectively. This is probably the most common complaint and certainly a valid one. ROI does take time, but start by adding simple measures to your meetings protocol, such as agreeing on goals and objectives with the key stakeholders, devising a methodology for collecting data (evaluations, focus groups, post-event surveys etc.), and communicating the data to stakeholders after the event. This level of measurement can provide valuable information about the meeting's effectiveness that can be used as a development tool for future events.
It's not my job — I need to focus on the meeting logistics and am not involved in setting objectives and goals. Try focusing on the elements within your control. ROI measurement and reporting can give you the opportunity to demonstrate the contribution the logistical elements made to achieving the goals and objectives of the meeting. This in turn can raise your profile as a strategic partner.
How can I report ROI when there is no money involved? In the case of internal corporate meetings where delegates don't pay for attendance, there is still a return on the investment made in the meeting. ROI includes audience satisfaction and on-site reaction, learner outcomes, and application and implementation of new skills and knowledge. For example, if a participant learns something new at the meeting, and then applies this new skill, it will have a business impact that ultimately can be converted to a monetary value.
How do I get people to take notice of my ROI measurement and reporting? Often, once a meeting is over, stakeholders shift focus to future activities. It can be challenging to find time to review reports and materials on past events, and too often an ROI report can be filed away, never again to see the light of day.
So establish diverse communication strategies to disseminate information. Ask key stakeholders how they prefer to receive information — e.g., internal memos, a one-page summary posted on internal notice boards and on the company intranet, and lunch-and-learn presentations — and communicate accordingly.
The bottom line is that ROI is here to stay. By recognizing the potential barriers to its implementation within your organization and developing a plan to overcome the challenges, you can increase your value to your organization, while at the same time developing essential skills to add to your professional tool kit.
For more information about ROI, check out the article “The New ROI: Too Tough to Tackle?” available at meetingsnet.com, and visit Meeting Professionals International's Web site, mpiweb.org, and click on education.
Sue Potton, CMM, president, Photosound Communications Inc., Princeton, N.J., has 20 years' experience in marketing, sales, account management, and conference planning in the medical education industry. A native of England, she has managed pharmaceutical and healthcare SuePotton@PhotosoundUSA.comand events in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and chairs the International Brand Marketing Committee for Meeting Professionals International. Reach her at