Mention the words "meeting design" or "event design" to a group of event planners and it will quickly become evident that the terms mean different things to different people.
This was evident in the over 150 comments in "How important is the design of your event?", a discussion in the Event Planning and Event Management Group on LinkedIn. Some comments immediately focused on decor, audio-visual and logistics. Others cautioned that corporate strategy, meeting objectives and return on investment (R.O.I) should shape event design.
The source of this divergent thinking is that event planners specialize in many types of events from weddings, galas and parties to conferences, meetings, and corporate events. Corporate event planners plan some social events but they are not party planners. Providing recreation and entertainment for employees is not the main raison d'etre for corporations. They exist to generate a profit and increase value for owners and shareholders. All initiatives including corporate events must be grounded in that reality.
Great decor and menus can boost the enjoyment of events, however, a primary focus on making events "fun" and making event venues look "pretty" is short-sighted. This approach ensures that corporate events will forever be perceived as a discretionary "nice to do" that gets cut whenever the economy dips.
Max Turpin, Managing Director of Conference Focus (Int'l) Pty Ltd in Sydney Area, Australia shared The ROI Institute methodology that has been endorsed by MPI and PCMA as the industry standard for measuring the effectiveness of meetings and events:
How meetings and events create value
Meetings and events create value to stakeholders by influencing the behavior of the participants. This is the only way. If the event doesn't take participants do something they would otherwise not have done, there is no value. Never. It is not possible. Thinking and feeling does not count, only physical behavior. This simple and universal fact is the fundamental principle of the ROI Methodology."
The key take-away is that the shape and design of corporate events should flow from the mission, strategy and objectives of the organization. This video goes into quite a bit of detail about the process of designing and shaping meetings and events that add value in terms of R.O.I.
Once the objectives, core messages, desired changes in the behavior of participants have been pinpointed, decisions can be made about content, target audience and the agenda. Themes, decor, audio-visual and logistics should flow from these elements.
For more discussion about corporate events and R.O.I. also read Economic Indicators Underscore Corporate Events R.O.I. Importance, Corporate Event R.O.I. Measurement: 5 Elements to Consider, Event Planning: Proving Your Value to Senior Management, and Measuring Meeting Effectiveness.
Photo Credit: Lending Memo