The word “budget.” It’s a kill-joy-type word. It always seems like your budget gets in the way of things. But budgets are essential, and a reality for pretty much every person, business, etc. When it comes to meeting budgets, it can sometimes be challenging to justify spending money on a professional meeting and event company. Well, an article in Forbes, helps to debunk this dilemma and prove the value of hiring a professional team. If you can’t wait to see the bottom-line difference, scroll all the way down. But come back to read the validation! Let’s review the five areas that might suffer the most if you skimp on a professional meeting and event design team.
1. You might not realize that everything speaks
Face-to-face experiences leave a lot of room for judgement. That can be advantageous, or a serious challenge. When it comes to your messaging, it’s important to have a clear theme that ties back to the meeting objective and is pulled through and unified with all program communication. Even the look and feel of the space – the feeling it evokes in the participants – should support this message.
According to the fictional scenarios in the Forbes article, one 500-person national sales meeting is planned by a professional team (and costs a bit more) while the other is planned by internal team members that have many other responsibilities too. Let’s look at the scenarios and the messaging they convey – emphasis ours.
Scenario #1: “The event is perfect. The staging is gorgeous, the content is world-class, the food and drinks are just right. The 500 sales people are charged up, and know their company is rock solid and has the highest standards. The tone for excellence is set, with inspiring and practical speakers. The little things – from the pacing of the agenda to the quality of appetizers to the small gifts in each hotel room – create an emotional experience that is second to none.”
Scenario #2: “The [internal] team was stretched way too thin on other projects, and didn’t have the experience to double-check the sight lines or request redundant AV equipment. The venue choice and mediocre staging signaled the company doesn’t demand the best. The schedule that started late and ran long communicated the message that details and commitments don’t matter. The boring speakers and sub-par content (which saved a few pennies), made the audience want to nap instead of leap forward. The haphazard nature of the event left the audience off kilter, feeling pressure to save the company or perhaps find a new job, instead of being fired up for growth.”
While this might just seem like a good meeting versus a bad meeting… it’s so much more. The messaging in both scenarios will transcend the meeting and seep into the daily work of the meeting participants. Reinforcing strong messaging, a mantra even, will set your company up for success.
2. You don’t understand your audience
According to Ruud Janssen, founder of the Event Canvas, “Finding the right approach to bridging the gap between the entry behavior and exit behavior of each stakeholder is the hard part and requires skill and experience. If the value of an event is determined by the amount, and ways in which, it changes behavior; then it’s imperative to know how to articulate what behavior you want to change.”
The tricky part here is that most of us are not behavioral scientists. So, many meeting owners struggle with defining the entry and exit behaviors. “Tools like Empathy Mapping are critical to empower teams to become successful at their event designs. By applying this proven method, teams can define, measure, and analyze the behavior changes and hence purposefully design for the desired outcome,” said Janssen.
Empathy mapping is a familiar topic for most marketers because it’s like a persona. It’s a collaborative tool used to help you dig into the minds of different audience types so that you can more appropriately understand their needs and wants. This will allow a meeting designer to create an experience that will meet, and hopefully exceed, the expectations of the participant and make their time attending worthwhile.
3. You fall short of creating an experience that changes behavior
The whole point of bringing people together at a meeting is to change behavior. It might be to make the participants more informed so they become better at their jobs, reach a sales quota, or exceed customer satisfaction ratings. Maybe it’s to celebrate accomplishments to motivate your team. In a broad sense, it’s easy to explain why you are meeting, but to fulfill that goal, a more detailed and actionable plan is necessary. Without a strategy behind all your content: how it’s presented and understanding how it will be received; it will be more difficult to quantify the behavior change.
In addition to accurately defining what behavior change looks like, the actual creation of an experience that will be effective, memorable and unlike any other is no easy feat. An ideal experience exists at the intersection of six key components, which can be seen in Creative Group’s i|xperience® model. You’ll have created the ideal experience once you are able to: inspire the audience to shape the event themselves by being actively involved; facilitate their absorption of knowledge; and immerse them in a multi-sensory and extraordinary environment. All resulting in reaching the goal by changing the needed behaviors.
inspiration – Create an engaging story that inspires and achieves the desired goals.
intrigue – Lock-in and entertain your audience.
influence – Change behavior by educating and motivating action.
impression – Touch all five senses to fully engage participants.
interruption – Transport participants away from the daily grind.
immersion – Actively involve participants through interaction.
The six elements seen above, inspiration, intrigue, influence, impression, interruption and immersion work in concert to create more engaging experiences for participants. And more engaging experiences produce a higher return on your investment.
4. You’re not innovating
“Many event owners and their teams are insecure of the actual performance of their event. Are we innovative? Are we delivering enough to each stakeholder? Do our stakeholders get real value out of the event? How do I know when the balance is positive? When should my event grow? Experienced Event Design teams are capable of coding and decoding event success and can pinpoint exactly where innovation is happening (or not),” said Janssen.
Innovative. Call it a buzzword if you want, but what company wants to become antiquated? While not every business can be the Google of their industry, they can take calculated risks, especially when it comes to meetings and events. With live audiences, and if you ask for feedback in productive ways, you’ll be able to receive actionable insights directly from your target audience. And audience members love giving feedback. They want to feel like their opinion matters and if they can help you co-create your product, meeting, or service, they’ll have even more stake in seeing it through.
“We work with many different industries, so it’s exciting to see something that works well for one group and be able to apply it successfully for another,” said Janet Traphagen, president of Creative Group. “Recreating the same annual meeting each year won’t inspire your audience, but brainstorming with experts that have seen what works and what doesn’t will help you bring a fresh perspective and creative ideas back to your team.”
5. Bottom Line: You think you’re saving money; but the big picture says you’re losing it.
Remember those scenarios we outlined back at point 1? Well, here are the outcomes:
Scenario #1 Outcome: “The sales team returns, motivated and armed for battle, and crushes their $500 million sales goal, returning $100 million in profits and beating Wall Street’s expectations, thereby growing the stock price by 15%. The precision execution, combined with a professional and thoughtful vision, achieved the desired outcome. And some.”
Scenario #2 Outcome: “The sales team performed significantly worse after the meeting for a number of reasons. Turnover increased, costing valuable time and money. Closing rates fell since the team was neither equipped nor motivated for success. Breakout ideas were few and far between and the lackluster meeting set the tone for a lackluster year. The sales team missed their target by 10%, driving only $450 million in sales. However, the cost structure remained intact so that the drop fell right to the bottom-line. Instead of $100 million in profit, earnings took a dive to only $50 million. Further, the analysts were brutal when they heard the miss. A stock sell-off ensued, and the share price fell 8%.”
*Please note meetings fees have no connection with Creative Group pricing. Fees noted, are taken from Forbes.com subscriber, Josh Linkner. Actual costs may vary.
While this example is fictional and a little extreme, it’s not far off from what can happen, especially when dealing with a sales organization that’s constantly pressured to perform. If you look at the cost breakdown, the internal planning team saved a decent amount of money, but because the meeting was not as effective as it could be, it played a factor in the low performance of the sales team.
The success or shortcomings of a meeting can’t be contained to the happenings of those specific days. The legacy of the event will leave a lasting impression – for better or for worse. It’s important to remember the long-term value a professional team brings to creating impactful experiences instead of focusing on the up-front costs.