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Getting ROI from your company event

Are you one of those employees who absolutely refuse to attend company events because you think that they are a grand waste of your time? Not only that, but you think that after spending eight grueling and tormented hours each day in the same space with your boss and work-mates, (fighting over chairs, quotas of paper clips, staplers and such delights) it will be more than adding insult to injury to actually voluntarily spend more of your time in their company.

Or, are you one of those executives who have to sign off on the expense of these events and you think that they are a monumental waste of the company’s money. Why, has the marketing department budgeted so much money on food for so many guests, is your plaintive cry? If you had it your way, several buckets of the good ole’ fried or barbequed bird and some kool aide wash would be just the ticket. A press conference? Will the company be paying to rent venue, chairs and hire a caterer? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just send (by e-mail) a news release? Long service awards? “Dem lucky.”

I could write several pages on the arguments I have lost (some on the verge of tears) and won with the Accounts department of past employers over the efficacy of events. Somewhere in the back of my mind is a proposal for all CFOs, auditors, accountants and the numerically-inclined to do a crash course in marketing and communications so that they can appreciate the need for a suitable events budget and see the ROI of properly managed events.

Nevertheless, I can fully appreciate the reticence of some of these cheque-signers who I am certain have seen their fair share of company events gone awry. I am sure that they have looked on awe-struck at badly planned affairs that just eat up company funds that could otherwise have been spent elsewhere and which give absolutely no ROI. Worse yet, some events turn out to be great public relations disasters requiring more money to be thrown in that direction.

Since we are on the subject of disasters, let me say a word to some of our great and wise event-planners who do the end-of-year media ‘appreciation’ bashment. In my opinion it should be to show just that, appreciation and gratitude for their support of your company’s work. Not pander to the lowest common denominator. Before you write me off as an ole fogey and dinosaur, the truth is that sometimes being truly Jamaican, we take things a tad too far. I have senior friends in media houses who flatly refuse to attend some companies’ events (or they just make a cameo appearance) for deathly fear of what the entertainment fare will be as we marketers and planners vie for attendance via the ‘outrageousness’ factor.

Bear in mind that these media representatives (your invitees) are the people who permit the favourable publication or broadcast of information about your company throughout the rest of the year. Don’t let the last image you have is of them fleeing your event’s venue with disgust, pain, panic and fright written on their faces. Regardless of how many expensive give-aways, you well, gave away.

So, to answer the question posed by befuddled accountants worldwide, why spend on an event? Events are one of the most powerful tool used my communicators to provide the physical connection between your company and the people they want to reach. And there are many reasons for having events depending on what you want to achieve: help to establish a brand, create awareness about a product or service, generate support for a cause, build and maintain positive relationships (see, previous paragraphs about media appreciation).

Expense-wise, events can run the gamut. You should always, always build a budget. Perhaps your product is complex and/new and you want to familiarize the public with it, a site visit by the media and your other stakeholders might do the trick. It is comparatively low-budget but for so many reasons it has to be managed properly. Woe betide you if one of our press friends sidle up to a disgruntled employee, planning his/her exit strategy and they become instant, Best Friends Forever.

There are other events like product launches, trade shows, forums, seminars; conferences, workshops, virtual tours, web forums, on-line events, long service awards etc. To make sure that your company gets its ROI from these events, it is a good idea to set your objectives from Day 1 and state what you want the function to achieve. And guys, be realistic. You are not going to end world hunger/child abuse/save the iguanas or heal the world/Jamaica of any other sin that has beset us from the dawn of civilization, with a CD launch. Neither are you ever always going to re-coup every single penny you put up for each and every event.

It is always good to have an appealing theme as well. I know it is an alluring idea and there are definitely immense possibilities for cute costumes, but I would advise financial organizations to eschew the pirate theme with all the subliminal suggestions behind the historical role of buccaneers. Plus, I do believe our Robert Nesta had a song of the same name, about pirates, I mean. Think About it.


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