By Mark A. Vickers
Businesses invest heavily in meetings and events; yet often have no concrete plan to help increase their return on investment. Research compiled by PriceWaterHouseCoopers for 2012 looked at meetings or events that:
- were at least 4 hours long
- had 10 or more attendees
- were held in rented venues
- and determined that there were:
- 8 million meetings
- 225 million attendees
- $280 billion in costs
Add to this the meetings and events held at corporate facilities plus salaries for all attendees, and the total cost of meetings and events easily exceeds a half trillion dollars annually. Are you maximizing the ROI for your meetings and events?
A Google search shows thousands of articles on the importance of calculating meeting and event ROI, however, there is little guidance on how to improve event effectiveness. In order for your next meeting or event to produce a positive ROI your attendees need to leave the event motivated to do something different long-term.
Events like All-Employee Meetings or multi-day conferences require special planning. ROI will be created when you are able to build value for the attendees through a well-defined intent and objectives delivered through clear and compelling presentations.
The Event Presentation Life Cycle
The Event Presentation Life Cycle is a formal process designed to help improve speaker skill and presentation quality therefore improving event effectiveness and ROI.
1. Theme/Topic Selection
The first step in preparing a high value event is to determine the main objective, theme, and desired results of the event. Once the theme of the event has been identified, topic selection and sequencing can begin.
Topics should be sequenced to build on previous topics, creating a storyline that runs through the event. By utilizing a variety of presentation styles and audience interactions, audience engagement will be further supported.
Never underestimate the importance of this step, as poor topic selection and sequencing will result in a disjointed program, a loss of audience engagement and reduced ROI.
2. Speaker Assignment
Selecting who will be addressing your participants is often the most important set of decisions impacting the ROI of your event. Each speaker has various characteristics that will impact the energy, flow and effectiveness including:
- Area of expertise
- Area of passion
- Energy level
- Presentation skill level
- Creativity and theatrical ability
- Ability to motivate vs. train
Caution: Don’t make the mistake of assigning topics solely based on job title or role within the organization versus who is going to be most effective.
As part of your speaker selection process, you may consider hiring external speakers to add content expertise to your event. While this expertise is valuable, it can create additional risk. Through awareness and mitigation of three primary risks associated with hiring external speakers you should protect your ROI.
Keynote Speaker Risk #1 – Inconsistent Messaging
In step 1 above, you defined intent and desired result. A quality external speaker should always begin their discussions with you by learning your intent and objectives. Depending on the situation the external speaker will also offer to mold their message to your intent.
In the early stages of working with a potential keynote speaker make sure:
- They understand your intent and audience
- You receive a detailed outline of their content
Keynote Speaker Risk #2 – Lack of Control
You might assume that since you are paying for a speaker that you have control over the delivery of the message. However, when you put them on stage, they are in control.
To avoid issues during your event, make sure you discuss particulars related to:
- Information or stories that are not desirable or appropriate
- Reference to external organizations or resources
- Sale or promotion of products or services
High quality professional speakers should pose minimal risks to your event but your job is to make sure nothing unexpected is said from the stage.
Keynote Speaker Risk #3 – Upstaging Your Staff
Corporate executives are typically involved in presenting the majority of the information that is critical for your audience to hear. These executives are qualified in their field, but they do not possess the experience and skills of your external speaker.
Your external speaker will deliver their specialized content as a polished, powerful and dynamic presentation. The quality of the presentation inadvertently upstages your executives, highlighting the skill level difference and diminishing the value of the message delivered by your own team.
You can mitigate the “Upstaging Risk” by creatively scheduling your external speakers to minimize comparisons and by following the rest of the Event Presentation Life Cycle Process to improve the quality of all other presentations.
3. Speaker Coaching
Regardless of the skill level of the speakers you are putting in front of your audience, formalized speech and presentation coaching will help ensure clear, consistent messaging. By supporting your speakers with a professional speaking coach who is intimately aware of your intent and objectives, you will create an environment that helps prepare each speaker for maximum effectiveness and impact.
Your event speaking coach will work with each speaker focusing on:
- Intent of the talk
- The key point of the talk
- Stories to be used
- Wording and transitions
- Creating an engaging opening
- Crafting a powerful close and transition to the next speaker
- Determining staging and presentation elements
By combining structured coaching with a defined and monitored practice and rehearsal plan, you equip your speakers for maximum impact.
4. Objective Assessment
When it comes to presentation effectiveness, a common mistake made by executives is to rely on anecdotal feedback from staff and coworkers instead of objective feedback. The use of a structured and objective assessment tool will provide a baseline for ongoing speaker development and a baseline for continual improvement.
A formalized, objective assessment should be based around three main categories including:
- Vocal Delivery
- Presentation style and engagement
The objective results, combined with subjective feedback like audience engagement and survey results provide a framework for an action plan for future improvement.
5. Coaching Review
The final step in the Event Presentation Life Cycle is the Coaching Review. Your corporate speakers should receive feedback from an expert trained in reviewing presentations incorporating the objective assessment, subjective feedback, and a review of audio or video of the event when available.
The review should focus on the following items:
- Content delivery
- Message effectiveness
- Presentation style
The coaching review and the action plan are then used as the basis for coaching the presentations for the next event.
Through this defined process, not only will you improve your current event, but you will lay the foundation and establish the process for continual Event ROI improvement.
Mark A. Vickers is a Certified Professional Coach, and Certified World Class Speaking Coach. Mark is a communications consultant focused on helping you and your organization improve performance through improved communication and speaking skills. He is known as a creative author and speaker, and for creating the Communications Challenge, an objective way to measure communication effectiveness.