The time of reckoning has arrived. According to the National Business Travelers Association, "Senator John Kerry has introduced legislation that would ban all 421 firms including the nation's largest banks that received money from the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) from hosting, sponsoring or paying for conferences, holiday parties and entertainment events." The federal government now thinks it must regulate what is acceptable business practice with regard to meetings. This is another glaring example of politicians setting destructive, sentiment based legislation in motion with real unintended consequences.
Are we partially to blame? I think we share some responsibility. We have produced many glitzy, high profile events without discernible, measurable business objectives in place to justify their cost. Now, a couple of very visible events have made the news, with little in the way of defense. In too many cases, we have ignored the need and opportunity to report value.
What can we do about it? First, contact John Kerry and let him know that tens of thousands of jobs will be affected by his ill-conceived reaction. http://kerry.senate.gov/contact/email.cfm . Here is the message I sent him this morning:
Even though the sentiment for anti-event legislation may seem worthy, it will hurt tens of thousands of meeting and event producers, hotel and food service employees, transportation workers and countless others. Many of those employees are union workers. This most assuredly would not stimulate the economy.
Events produce valid, reportable business results. Visit http://constellationcc.com if you want to understand meeting and event measurement and the impact of meetings and events on business results and profit.
Next, investigate and join any one of several movements at work to counter this legislative trend. The NBTA Action Alert can be found here: http://capwiz.com/nbta/issues/alert/?alertid=12773376, also the Keep America Meeting initiative has good momentum. You can visit this organization at: http://www.keepamericameeting.org/ (You may want to be cautious about joining the mailing list for the host organization that provides the web hosting for this movement.)
In addition, we must begin now tying our event planning and measurement squarely to business improvement objectives. The results of these events must be presented in “Business Speak.” There can be no doubt that event cost is aligned with event outcomes in terms of business profitability.
As I have said in the past, identifying what to measure is perhaps the most difficult hurdle in event measurement. Once crossed you are well on your way to justifying an event expenditure. You may have 1,000 customers and prospects visit your exhibit or conference, but none of those visitors have an identifiable value until you can link them to an element in the simplified profit equation. Revenue – Expense = Profit.
To be successful you must think of event activities in terms of their value to the company. The event activity must accomplish two main goals. Business Improvement and Communications.
Under the goal of business improvement, interactions with people should include meetings with customers for the purpose of existing revenue retention and growth on the customer base, prospects for the purpose of expanding market share and the customer base, suppliers for the purpose of reducing cost and increasing availability or improving process, partners to make better solutions from your offerings, and regulators and legislators to keep market conditions conducive to success. For employees, meetings must result in changes in job behavior that improve profitability. Cost reductions through speed, accuracy, improved process, better teamwork, and superior decision making can be demonstrated and valued.
In a recent blog post I detailed a simple way of tying event accomplishments to business value. Consider the simple relationships between typical event activities, business processes and the simplified profit equation:
• Seeing and documenting new prospects (sometimes referred to as developing leads) is really customer acquisition.
• Seeing existing customers and thanking them for the business, providing executive access and introducing them to preferential programs is really customer retention.
• Briefing customers at a conference on how to use, manage and troubleshoot a system or product is really customer support.
• Asking customers and prospects questions at an event is really product or market research.
• Spreading and reinforcing the brand and priority messages is really advertising.
So, tying event accomplishments to business improvement and value might be fairly straightforward. In any case, it is quickly becoming a requirement. Linking event activity to these types of business accomplishments puts events squarely in the context of business improvement and will help us insulate them from knee-jerk reactions of ill-informed politicians.