At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in January, a respected group of forward-looking leaders, including Richard Branson and Arianna Huffington, led a discussion and unveiling of 5-key findings from new research by EY and Said Business School, University of Oxford.
The reason for the research – ‘current global realities have changed the game. Today, corporate capacity for innovation and transformation is a critical imperative to survive – and to thrive. This is transformation beyond better products and services. It is the ability to do business in fundamentally different ways attuned to these new realities.’
The 5-transformation trends introduced support the need for organisations to leverage and sustain ‘innovation and growth’ by thinking about their purpose in a different way.
One of the best business books I have read about defining purpose is Simon Sinek’s Start With Why. Sinek’s The Golden Circle is brilliant:
• Why is the purpose that drive decisions
• How is the actions taken to realise the purpose
• What is the result of the actions taken
Every leader, who wants to innovate and drive sustainable business growth, needs to make a fundamental change to how they view and leverage their event portfolio purpose. If not done then the organisation has made a bad investment and needs to stop doing events. Full Stop!
Key mistakes organisations make with their event portfolio.
Mistake #1: Unclear event purpose. Too often an organisation’s event portfolio (no matter its size) lacks a clear and defined purpose. Or it’s too narrow. Furthermore, too much focus is placed on travel and hospitality cost containment. When the question of ‘why events?’ are muddled, results are difficult to achieve. It’s no wonder many leaders argue that the ROI of an event portfolio is just too difficult to access and assess.
New Perspective: Navigate the event portfolio purpose. As a species humans navigate their lives according to their own purpose. We can have a professional and a personal purpose.
The Peregrine Agency’s purpose, as a professional example, is to transform misconceptions. It’s why The Peregrine Agency exists. And it’s why I write blogs like this one.
Defining a purpose is not easy. Think about it. How would you answer the question why do you exist? Yet organisations must do it if they are to achieve optimal success. And the only way for it to get done is to take the time to probe and sense for answers to questions like why events? Why this event? How do events contribute to our organisation’s performance? To transformation? To growth? If it doesn’t, then invest the time and keep asking why until you land on the purpose.
Tip: The event portfolio purpose is not an objective or a result.
Mistake #2: The destructive practice of short-termism. Just like investing in retirement is a long-term commitment, the same applies to an event portfolio. Yet even though organisations hold the same events regularly the life span of an event is a short-termism practice.
Event success is measured according to transactions garnered. How many participants attended? How many leads generated? How many site visits? Any attempts to leverage event results usually take place during the event and within 2 weeks post-event. Though sometimes they’re referred to when setting event objectives the next time the event is held. This is an industrial age practice. It is not effective in the long-term and when trying to navigate uncertainty in a digital and knowledge economy.
New Perspective: Re-frame mind-sets and short-termism. One would think we would have made some significant reforms to the short-term transaction practice after the 2008 Great Recession. The reason we haven’t is because short-termism is imbedded in organisations’ DNA. It’s how the media reports on and the market measures the organisation’s success/value and how the leader’s performance is evaluated.
To shift the practice to long-term there has to be a fundamental change to the way events are viewed and leveraged. We must forgo short-term gratification and focus on re-framing mind-sets and short-term practice. When events are part of a long-term and broader marketing and business development strategy, it garners a greater impact.
Mistake #3: More than cost analysis and satisfaction surveys. The whole thinking and approach to determining event success is flawed. Why? A few common misconceptions about evaluating event success are that an increase in event attendance, attendee satisfaction and contained event costs alone determines whether or not an event is successful. Don’t get me wrong, ‘transactional hard results’ is useful information to know but this alone should not be the guidepost to evaluate impact on business performance. If the metrics used is only to measure transactions, then the focus is too narrow and money is being left on the table.
New Perspective: Unleash and harness stakeholder engagement. Here’s the thing. Events are an enabler. When used as part of the marketing and business development strategy events enable the creation of ‘soft results’, like engagement and knowledge, the deeper the engagement the greater the impact. Yet rarely is event engagement leveraged effectively and linked back to business performance and growth. This is astonishing considering the low employee engagement worldwide.
One of the 5-key findings from the research presented in Davos is ‘Business professionals recognise the importance of an integrated, human purpose driving core functions like strategy, business models and talent management, but they acknowledge there is a gap between this recognition and the policy and practice in their organisations’.
Hmmm…sounds like a perfect job for events, don’t you think?