Elling Hamso, one of the greatest experts on measuring the ROI of meetings and events, in 2005 started Event ROI Institute. He is a member of the jury of European Best Event Awards (EuBEA), Middle East Best Event Awards, Eventex Awards and national event awards in several European countries. He has received numerous awards and recognitions; in 2015, for example, he was awarded the Event designer of the Year by Meeting Design Institute.
Which are the new concepts for creating unforgettable events?
There isn’t much new under the sun, but we are slowly learning from the cognitive and social sciences how important it is for learning that events are in fact unforgettable. How the feel-good dopamine improves long term memory, for example. How participant involvement and excitement is almost a prerequisite for learning. I see fewer deaths by bullet points these days, but many congresses and conferences are still crime scenes.
How important, as a strategic tool, are events?
What does it mean to be ‘strategic’? Playing a role in something bigger perhaps. Few events create much value in a vacuum. I see leading companies positioning events more as a component in a bigger campaign, than just one-night-stands. Events are potentially strategic tools if we understand the wider context in which they contribute to value.
How would you define the added value of events?
The added value is very much in the context of a bigger strategy or campaign. But we need to be clear on value, before we talk about added value. Value for whom? It is rarely the objective of an event to create an unforgettable experience for its participants. That’s a means to an end, not the end. Who are the stakeholders, who pays, who is looking for value in return to improve profits or succeed in fulfilling the organisation’s mission? There is never value to participants or other stakeholders unless the event experience leads to a change in participant behaviour. Participants may have had an unforgettable time, but if they go back to their offices and do nothing different, there is no value to anybody, except the enjoyment in the moment. Then the event becomes an item for consumption, not stakeholder investment.
How to measure the added value of events?
Measurement is easy. The hard part is setting relevant and detailed measurable objectives. When you have those, magic happens, because now you are able to design the event to meet those specific objectives. You need to check that you have the right people in the room, those who can potentially change their behaviour to provide stakeholder value. You need to measure the quality of the physical and emotional learning environment, your instructional design, did it work, did participants learn and remember your information, did you change their attitudes, did they do what you needed them to do in order to provide business value to stakeholders.
Where do you see changes coming in the event industry?
I think we will see a lot more multi-hub hybrid meetings. We have the technology, it’s cheap and reliable and as the Fresh 2018 conference in Copenhagen, Basel, London and Johannesburg demonstrated a few weeks ago, we are getting close to understanding how to apply the technology. It is not the same as a single venue meeting, it is not the best option for every meeting, but for some it is even better.
What is the ROI Methodology about?
It is about meeting design, mainly the beginning and the end of the process, setting detailed and measurable objectives (at six levels) and proving the value by measuring the results. But to set good and relevant objectives, you also need to understand experience design, how people learn and change behaviour. It is a theory, or model, as well as a practical toolkit for improving event ROI to stakeholders.