Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Conference Value Is Often In The Intangible

I attend a lot of business events.  To date in 2011 I have delivered 36 presentations as a keynote speaker, master of ceremonies, "The Conference Catalyst", sales trainer, or facilitator.  In addition, I regularly attend other seminars, trade shows, conventions, and networking functions.  Over the past twenty years I have easily been present at over 1000 corporate gatherings. Thus I have become a seasoned observer of the meetings business.

A Convention Industry Council study says that the economic significance of meetings on the U.S. Economy directly supports 1.7 million jobs, a $106 billion contribution to GDP, $263 billion in spending, $60 billion in labor revenue, $14.3 billion in federal tax revenue and $11.3 billion in state and local tax revenue.

Meetings matter to the whole economy, but also to individual companies and other organizations.

Companies that attend, host and sponsor meetings for the purpose of driving more revenue.  The recession and attention to short term bottom line has caused many companies to become very focused on where they are investing their money and meetings have been under the microscope.  2008, 2009, and 2010 saw declines in many meetings and a larger push to webinars and other technologies.  

However, 2011 is showing a re-birth of business conferences and other live meetings.  This does not mean the online options are going away, as it has become clear to the experts that this is not an "either / or" game.  There is room in the real world for both live and online events to thrive and grow.

While online social media and other digital tools we use to communicate are cool (and very effective for certain situations) they cannot replace the power of on-sight, face-to-face meetings.  Humans are experiential beings, and sharing these high impact conferences with other people are what make them powerful.  While you cannot measure the goodwill and the meaningful connections that occur, they are part of the real value that come from attending a conference.

I encourage companies to create plans for how to maximize a conference, and ways to track their ROI. Knowing the index of money directly invested to new sales is important, it is short sighted to ignore the "intangible".  I recently shared a taxi from the airport to a resort hotel in Bermuda.  The couple in the cab were not attending the meeting where I was speaking, but they both had experience in the meetings industry.  I have since been in touch with them, and there may be opportunities to speak for their companies in the future.  While meeting people in a taxi was never part of my plan, it may have future benefit to my business.  Had I been Skyped into to meeting to make my presentation I would never have had this (or several other) serendipitous encounter. 

You cannot plan on all the information you will learn or the people whom you will meet.  This can drive a CFO crazy, as they want to know up front the quotient for meeting participation.  But to skip attending because of the lack of a matrix to the intangible will leave your company behind the competition.  All success in life involves some risk.  When it comes to meetings, conferences, seminars, conventions, and trade shows.. I say take the leap!

The value is often in the little things that come up by surprise.  While this can be difficult measure, being educated to look for the opportunities is part of the training that all companies should provide to their outward facing employees.  If you know what to look for, you will know how to report the intangible value once it is realized.

Have A Great Day.

thom singer

Thom Singer is known as "The Conference Catalyst". He works with meeting planners and conference organizers to set the tone for a meeting. His presentations educate, inspire and motivate attendees to engage deeper in the event and make meaningful connections.  http://www.conferencecatalyst.com 


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