Meeting Metrics

A Darwinian View of Life and Death in the Meeting Industry

“Survival of the Deserving”

Harsh Environment:

The collapsing global economy is battering the meeting and event industry. Corporate leaders are postponing or eliminating any expense for which a strong business case cannot be made or is not affordable. Most leading economists predict it will take years for equity markets and the global economy to recover. A tsunami-scale ripple effect is being felt in the meetings industry.

Large numbers of meetings and meeting planner jobs are being cut.

Many off-site larger meetings are under scrutiny by CEOs and CFOs as candidates for down-sizing or elimination. The M&C October issue states that 14% of planners say they’ve cancelled meetings due to the economy. A number of meeting planners in major companies cited recently that half or more of their meetings have already been cut from next year’s schedule.

Survival Threats

Meeting professionals and event managers’ are under enormous pressure to justify their meeting expenditures – and their jobs .Heads of corporate and association meeting and event departments are downsizing staffs as the number of meetings shrink. A strong business case has to be made to maintain meeting planners on the payroll when outsourcing is available.

Job security and company survival are fast becoming job one.

The toll on jobs throughout the meeting industry is beginning to be felt in many key sectors; airlines, hotels, conference centers, training and production companies, exhibit companies and a whole host of specialty suppliers. They are facing shrinking sales and difficult times. A frightening number of these businesses may not survive in the months ahead.

Associations will also be hard-pressed to maintain meeting registration revenue levels and membership revenue levels as members’ budgets become more restricted. Professional and Trade Association may be forced to curtail some member services and events as their revenues shrink.

Cost justifications for large corporate meetings are being required and reviewed at the highest levels in companies today.

Our Survival Challenge

Identify, Preserve and Protect Meetings and Meeting Professionals that Deserve to Survive

Survival Strategy:

Learn from Darwin. Adapt. Develop new abilities to succeed in this environment.

Here are step-by-step measures to achive this:

A. Think both Short-term Survival and Long-term Health

B. Adopt a New Strategic Mindset:

“Meetings that Deliver Real Value - Measurable Results/Positive ROI Deserve to Survive”

Understand and accept the new reality. In these difficult economic times, and probably forever after, any expenditure for a large meeting will have to be justified with a strong business case – specific, measurable, value-driven business objectives, a rationalized budget and an assessment plan

C. Change C-level perceptions of Meetings from an Expense to a Valuable Investment

Corporate leaders need to understand and view meetings as justifiable investments that deliver measurable value to improve organizational performance.

The meeting Industry should band together in common cause to communicate and promote the value of meetings to corporate leaders and meeting owners. Promote meetings as professional communication events for which a strong business case can be made, that deliver real value - measurable results, business impacts and ROI that drive organizational performance.

Meeting industry leaders – associations such as MPI, PCMA, etc. and major corporate meeting and event sponsors including hotels, airlines, credit card companies, etc.- should form an industry consortium and become highly visible, vocal advocates – everyone participates, supports and carries the messages.

D. Set new standards for Meeting Value and Effectiveness

Raise the level of expected value from meetings – the efficacy of a meeting.

Adopt and standardize on a meeting value chain* approach that drives design, implementation and measurement of meeting results, one that will insure high-value, effective meetings with outcomes that produce strong meeting business cases

E. Train, Develop and Certify Meeting Professionals with Results Measurement Skill Sets

1. Teach meeting professionals a process for developing measurable, results-driven meetings that deliver business impacts and financial results

2. Teach meeting professions how to measure meeting results and ROI

F. Elevate the professional image of Meetings and Meeting Professionals

Make meetings more effective by recommending, supporting and providing the development of meetings that deliver measurable results.

*MeetingMetrics Value Chain available at

Start Surviving Today – Action Steps:

1. Recent Meetings - identify and preserve meetings which are indispensible – that can be proven to deliver high value, measurable results including ROI.
  1. Measure the largest, most expensive, most important meetings that have taken place during the past 4-6 months using an ROI Snapshot Survey or other ROI measurement process to determine a meeting’s business impacts and ROI.
  2. Analyze and decide whether or not a business case can be made that those meetings deserve to be repeated in the future.
2. Eliminate meetings that have performed poorly from being repeated or redesign them to deliver significantly greater value.

3. Future Planned Meetings - design meetings to insure they deliver the highest value at the lowest cost. Build a solid, fact-based meeting design that insures delivery of real business value and a measurable ROI whenever possible
  1. Measure pre-meeting values to define the essential value chain that the meeting must produce.
  2. Build a business case for the investment
  3. Design the meeting to achieve outcome values
  4. Measure post-meeting - levels 1-3 results within a couple of weeks and levels 4-5 (business impacts and ROI) results within 3-6 months.
4. Establish value standards and tracking of meeting effectiveness over time – with industry benchmarks developed and made available to all.

A Strategy to Boost Association Meeting Attendance and Revenues in 2009:

To assist their members to make a strong business case for attending annual association meetings in 2009, a demonstration of the ROI generated by individual attendees of the 2008 annual association meeting would be a strong investment justification to attend again in 2009.

With a modest investment in a post-meeting ROI survey, information about an individual member’s ROI produced from the annual meeting could be provided to individual attendee members as well as reporting and promoting member attendees’ overall ROI averages to stimulate annual meeting attendance in 2009.

A Golden Lining - Renewal

There is a golden lining in this economic calamity for meeting makers who are willing to seize this moment as an opportunity to raise their game. By improving the effectiveness and value of their meetings with measurable business impacts and ROI, they can change the way they and their meetings are perceived and respected by C-level leadership.

We can come through this difficult time having transformed meetings into indispensible communication events respected for having a professional development process that produces credible, measured business results – and an industry dedicated to professional meeting results standards and clarity of contribution equal to any other professional-level endeavor in business.

©2008 Ira Kerns, Managing Director, MeetingMetricsSM
Contact Ira at 212-426-2333 (direct)