For exhibit and event professionals  

Leads, Schmeads!

June 8, 2011 By Editor

Why you need a measurement program — now
eConnections speaks with Ed Jones, President of Constellation Communication Corp.

In our world of ever-decreasing budgets, upper management at more and more companies expects event and exhibit professionals to justify their participation in events and trade shows. Although many professionals have traditionally relied on the number of leads as an outcome indicator, more detailed measurement is required for a truer picture of cost vs. value, as well as a means to identify practices that directly lead to increased visibility and sales.

What are the elements of an effective measurement program? How does someone determine value based on these elements? And how can an event/exhibit professional use the program to improve the company’s bottom line — and his or her standing in the company?

To find out, eConnections spoke with Ed Jones, president of Constellation Communication Corp.

eConnections: Is a measurement program necessary?

Ed Jones: Yes, at least at some level for every event. A measurement program shows if money was invested wisely and demonstrates results for management. It’s also a very important resource to improve results at subsequent events. Measurement and improvement go hand in hand.

eConnections: Why is proving return on investment important for exhibit and event professionals?

Jones: Demonstrating ROI helps your company invest in marketing techniques that work. It supports better selection of trade shows and events. It increases internal visibility for your efforts. And for show organizers, demonstrating the success of a show for participants, exhibitors and sponsors keeps a show going.

eConnections: What are some of the areas to focus on when measuring ROI for an event?

Jones: I place value into four “baskets.” First, the ability to generate new sales. You go to a show to meet people with the potential to do business — leads. Second, protecting the business and revenue the company already has — customer relationship management and retention. This is important since the existing stream is usually more profitable than new business. Third, the ability to save the company money. For instance, at an event, the company chairman can have multiple customer meetings, saving the thousands of dollars it would cost to bring just one customer to the home office. And four, producing brand, message and product impressions. The other way to do this is through advertising. But at the show, attendees not only see your ads, banners or sponsorships, they can often see your products, meet your people and ask questions. There’s a huge amount of value through this kind of exposure.

eConnections: How do you measure the ROI for these?

Jones: For each of the four areas, choose associated activities you can track. Next, determine an estimate of value of each tracked item. Then, add these figures up for an estimated “total value” of the show. Divide this figure by your show budget, and you get a gross ROI. I call it the payback ratio.

With this information, you can demonstrate the value of your participation. Plus, you can compare one event to another, even different types of events to each other. This data is very powerful and is meaningful to upper management.

eConnections: Once someone has the figures, how does he or she put them together in a way upper management will grasp their importance?

Jones: Upper management wants to hear about the profit equation and strategic objectives. In addition to reporting impact on profitability, i.e., revenue – expense = profit, focus on management’s other concerns too. For example, how did the recent show help create the desired level of awareness for a new product in a target market? Address not only profit-related measures, but stated qualitative objectives as well.

Keep your information precise and concise. Share only as much as necessary to demonstrate value, and be ready to provide more information only when asked for it. Too much data can confuse people. The word “estimated” makes demonstration of a point more believable.

If you can discuss your estimates and ROI with others in your company before meeting with upper management, do it. For example, if you meet with the sales department to discuss sales leads, it makes your results more credible.

eConnections: How can event and exhibit professionals use these figures to guide future face-to-face efforts for their company?

Jones: Measuring ROI is the basic methodology for continuous improvement. There are other key measures that indicate how well your event performed. For the best results, also forecast results before a show. Set realistic expectations for upper management. When forecast results are compared to the real results after the show, areas that need improvement and the types of changes needed are obvious. This supports better planning and improves outcomes, and budgets can grow.

eConnections: Are there other areas that should be measured?

Jones: An important measurement is to consider the feedback of the show staff and stakeholders. Ask these people to give an in-depth review of how well the event served their purposes. Gauge their satisfaction levels to help determine how you can improve your event. Use a post-event, Web-based survey. Customer attitudes and changes in purchase intent are also important measures. You can get this information with intercept interviews at the event or through follow-up surveys after the event.

eConnections: How can effectively measuring ROI affect someone’s career?

Jones: Use your measurement data as the basis for your performance reviews. Having the numbers leaves little doubt about your accomplishments and shows how you’ve improved your company’s bottom line. It also makes it easier for your boss to represent you as a manager of profitability, not just events.

Ed Jones is a respected industry expert in field of event strategy, measurement and return on investment, with more than 30 years of experience in domestic and international events.  He heads the consulting firm Constellation Communication Corp. based in Atlanta.  Constellation ensures their clients’ events provide positive return on investment and enables them to report that value.

Constellation provides event selection, forecasting, planning, measurement and continuous improvement for all types of face-to-face communications activity. Jones’s clients include many top-tier global brands.

Editor’s note: For more information on this topic, check out Ed Jones’s Metrics & More, which will be a recurring section in this newsletter. Also, please take a few minutes to participate in our poll about your measurement efforts.


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