heartbeatsAt some point, either on paper or in your head, you’ve tried to do the math as to how valuable your event is. But even if we’ve all tried, I’d guess that less than half of us really got down to the nitty gritty to see an event’s ROI. It’s not an easy thing. Events are big and expensive, with vaguely defined goals, making it difficult to really nail down the value.

So let’s do a real ROI exercise.

Start with the cost of your meeting. In this example, it will be a sales meeting. Start with the obvious big ticket items like speaker fees and ballroom rentals, but also add in all the food and hotel rooms, the entertainment, the gifts, the event app, the lighting, the video production, the strategy meetings ahead of time, the cost of hiring planners and producers…the list goes on. Be sure to include the hourly costs of all your staff in planning this event (because that’s real money). And include the cost of all of those attendees sitting in that room not selling anything (# of attendees x daily salary x the # of days out of pocket + travel time). This is the real (read: honest) cost of your event.

Now that you know what your event costs, you need to figure out what it got you. This is where the train usually runs off the rails. What did you want your event to do? Did you want it to make your salespeople better salespeople to increase sales? Did you want to motivate employees around a common goal? Did you want to teach them something new to make them more efficient and lower operating costs? You’ll notice that something as simple as a sales meeting has a number of different possible goals. Imagine how complicated this gets for less tangible goals like creating awareness at a trade show or aligning general staff to a new strategy.

Without a pre-defined goal, you can’t have a metric to evaluate how well you achieved that goal. Most events don’t have metrics because defining a goal (read: limiting to one thing you can measure) is politically tricky. Either everyone wants to hang their vague goals on your event (Increase engagement! Enhance goodwill! Augment alignment to strategy!) or no one wants to put themselves in a position where it could be easy to calculate that the event wasn’t worth the money spent. Be brave. Even if it’s just in your head this time, pick a goal and figure out a metric you can use to measure this goal. If your event doesn’t work, you’ll know why and you’ll have the means to try and fix it. If it does, shout it form the rooftops.

Since this is a sales event, we’ll say that the goal is to increase sales. So take the total amount of sales all those people made last year. Will this event increase sales by 2%? Will you be teaching, motivating, training and supplying the salesperson enough to create a 2% increase in sales? Or 3%? How about 10%? Do you think that what you are delivering at this event will help every person who attends (different learning styles, different skill sets, different motivation levels) increase their sales by this number? Remember, this is who you want your attendees to become. You want them to become superstar salespeople (or at least better sales people), right? This is the purpose of this event.

Let’s be safe and cut that anticipated sales increase in half. This is the real world and things happen that we can’t control, so let’s be conservative here. That number (anticipated value of the event) better be bigger than the real cost. If it isn’t, you better call off the meeting. Better yet, stop arguing over which speaker you’re gonna hire and think about how you actually create better sales people. This will lead you to think about where their issues are, what their obstacles are, what their day-to-day challenges look like. Then you start to solve these problems.

Don’t fear the ROI. Use it to help you focus your event (how exactly will dancing bears create better salespeople?) to get the most out of it. Defining and evaluating your ROI keeps everyone honest, which helps to deflect scope creep, keep every aspect of the event on message and create even higher value. It also makes you look like a genius, and no one hates that!