Measuring the return on investment (ROI) of meetings and events has long been more of a theoretical goal than an actual priority for meeting planners and owners. That is starting to change.
"I've been around meeting planning and the ROI discussion for a long time," says Anthony Miller, chief marketing officer of Lanyon, which makes meetings and events management, travel management, and mobile attendee app software. "Everybody would nod their head and say 'Yes, we've got to do it.' But it wasn't until you got to the discussion about the venue or the destination that everybody's excitement rose. But after the economic crisis of the late 2000's, we did see the desire to really understand the ROI increase on the priority list."
That said, turning that desire into reality is easier said than done. Helping planners automate the various tasks involved in executing a meeting -- things like sourcing, budgeting, registration, and on-site engagement -- provides a great deal of the raw data planners need to really investigate and demonstrate ROI almost as a by-product, Miller adds.
"Once I know I'm gathering the information, I can go and set really clear objectives. It's a crawl, walk, run process. The crawl piece is I'm gathering data, and the walk piece is I'm going to go look at that data to understand what I'm getting. The run piece is, for my next event, I'm going to set really clear objectives because I can go measure it," Miller says. "When planners are not spending all of their time on the logistics, they're able to take the time to look at the objectives, to look at what they want to accomplish."
Of course, Lanyon's software isn't just for the planner. With the release of its Smart Event Cloud application in late July, Lanyon -- formed by joining StarCite, ACTIVE Network Business Solutions, PassKey, and GenieConnect over the last year and a half -- has improved its existing focus on an intuitive, easy-to-use interface for both the planner and the attendee.
Launched five years ago, Lanyon's first mobile attendee app has three main goals, Miller says. "No. 1 is to help manage [your] agenda while on site," he says. "No. 2 is about networking -- being able to find and connect with relevant people [such as] other attendees, speakers, and exhibitors or sponsors. No. 3 is being able to provide real-time feedback to the organizer about the event through the mobile device."
He adds: "Today, even with the exciting evolution of gamification, iBeacon [GPS-based attendee location tools], social walls -- all of those things that really help drive attendee engagement -- our research shows the greatest value attendees get from the mobile application still applies to those three things."
That value isn't just for the attendee, Miller points out. Giving the example of attendees' ability to provide real-time feedback on a speaker or session, he says the ability to learn what needs to be clarified or reinforced while everyone is still in the room offers a very direct ROI. "Real-time analytics on the attendees' experience and being able to adjust on the fly is a game-changing thing for planners, for events, and for attendees," he says.
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