Differentiating live communications:

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The vast majority of people I meet in the live communications and events industry are passionate about what they do. Most conference organisers proudly confess to being that ‘control freak’ that everyone expects them to be, the consummate organiser, prepared to work 18 hours a day to make sure the project is perfect and the client is super delighted.

And when it all turns our brilliantly, as it usually does, and the client is super delighted that’s the where the personal satisfaction of working in the industry comes from, the buzz of having ‘delivered’.

But is the purpose of staging a creative communications campaign simply to deliver an excellent project and a very happy client? Should we also be thinking as much about the business objectives of the campaign?

Over the last five years we have experienced the rise and rise of the procurement profession in the decision making process for marketing and communications activity. By way of response the live communications industry regularly and variously talks about demonstrating ROI and/or ROO as a means of evidencing the power and value of live marketing communications and events.

There is also the occasional survey of both client side and event management agencies to suggest that whilst ROI is a frequently and hotly debated topic, in practice an alarmingly low proportion of clients place an importance on evaluating projects and demonstrating their value to the organisation.

Possibly for this reason, but more probably because ROI is both difficult to calculate and requires a passage of time to identify benefits, there appears to be a general apathy towards effective evaluation and measurement of live communications activity. Although ask any events management company and they’ll go to great lengths to tell you how important it is to them and how rigorously they are in their evaluation processes.

It might be argued that the credit crunch followed by the economic recession and the public sector spending cuts have done little or nothing to change the demand for demonstrable return on the investment in live communications and event activity.

Alternatively it could be argued that it will be those events companies that actively support clients in identifying, capturing and valuing the proof points of live communications, demonstrating how the organisation benefits from the activity and strengthens the position of those that commission our services that will evolve to become more highly valued based on their reputation for providing demonstrably ‘added value’ service.

It is true that the live communications and events industry has its roots in the ‘glamour’ of incentive travel and the historic excesses of the annual sales conference. It is pretty unlikely that either of these ‘investments’ would be signed off today either purely from a perception point of view or more likely from a position of relevance and benefit to the organisation.

So in moving forward maybe we need to ask ourselves; what’s the relevance and what’s the benefit of the proposed communication activity. Maybe we should also be asking our clients who hopefully can explain both.

But if not, conference organisers and event management agencies should proactively be looking to help them with the answers.