This is a guest post by Howard Givner, Executive Director, Event Leadership Institute.

If event planning is part of your job, at some point you should be prepared for this scenario…

Your boss walks over to you and asks, “Why exactly are we doing this event?  It looks like we spent X on it, and I need to understand what we got out of it, and if that justifies the spend.”

Let me tell you, if you’re not prepared to answer those questions, and most planners are not, that’s a scary situation. We’re talking hide-under-the-table time.

So now what?

What every event planner should know

When the topic of ROI (return on investment) comes up, people generally assume they’ll need to do some math and shy away from the whole discussion.  And, in truth, most planners should not be expected to calculate what the actual return on investment is from a given event.

All planners can, and should, however, be able to answer the following questions:

  1. Did this event achieve our goals?
  2. If so, was it the most cost-effective way to achieve those goals?
  3. Could we have spent the money differently to achieve better results?
  4. If not, can the event be structured differently to better achieve them?

Those questions form the crux of any ROI discussion, and there is no excuse for event planners to not be able to seriously engage in it.

Every great event planner plans ahead

Once you get your arms around the concept of the “need to know” items that might come up,  there are several key points to be mindful of.

  1. Event goals must be defined BEFORE the event. Too often I see clients create goals retroactively to justify the event.
  2. Don’t be afraid to suggest spending MORE money on the event, if you can make the case that it will significantly improve the event’s ability to achieve your goals.
  3. Likewise, in order to be taken seriously, you must be prepared to advocate cancelling the event if it is not the most cost-effective way to achieve those goals.

Finally, a word about measurement.  Eventually, much of the ROI discussion will flow into how you measure the results of an event, and whether it achieves the goals in question. This is usually where ROI discussions go to die, because many events are almost impossible to measure.

The one thing I want to leave you with is that it’s OK if you can’t figure out how to measure your event. Simply having the discussion based on the questions and points above will take you further than the vast majority of planners in terms of being able to justify (or not justify) the time and money spent on your event.

For additional tips on this topic, you can watch the following clip of the Event Leadership Institute’s video class on ROI  or visit our website to watch the complete video.