Purpose, Transformation And Sustainable Growth Through Events

Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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? 

A Come-To-Jesus Moment

WOW…what a huge opportunity, Bill McDermott, CEO SAP, created for Business Events 2.0 (BE2.0)! In this 5 minute video McDermott challenged CEOs’ perceptions about BE2.0 and encouraged the business world and event community to think about events in a whole new way. From:

• Costs to investment.
• Transactions to transformation.
• Efficiency to effectiveness.
• Travel components to a leader’s investment in organisational growth.

I couldn’t agree with McDermott more. In fact, BE2.0 as a leadership and business enabler has been my mantra for 15+ years. Ask anyone who has heard me, over the years, rave about opportunities to engage CEOs, and rant when folks failed to capitalised on the opportunity to its fullest potential. And if you’ve missed any of my sermons on this topic, check out my CEO’s BFF blog and other posts on our site.

Here’s what has me stoked about what McDermott said.

For the first time in my 25+ years, as an Engagement and Event Strategist, a forward-looking CEO, unequivocally confirms that BE2.0 drive business value. In a nutshell SAP’s event portfolio is enlisted in the process of creating the right growth strategy and market-creating opportunities McDermott exacts.

This folks IS a game-changer on many levels. After meandering and searching for an identity and purpose for two decades, BE2.0 have an opportunity to move beyond travel and be seen and used as a leadership tool for the purpose of driving business growth.

While McDermott is cognisant of the travel components used to design an efficient and effective event, he is focused on the results (outputs) BE2.0 create. In other words the travel components contribute to the ‘event pageantry and movement’ and are not the reason BE2.0 are important to McDermott and most CEOs.

This is a small shift and a significant one at the same time to change the conversation and elevate it to where a CEO will say, ‘okay I’m listening…now tell me more’. The more, at this stage, has little to do with travel components and everything to do with how BE2.0 can unleash and harvest, the collective knowledge at any event, to move the organization forward more rapidly, at a lower cost with less risk and uncertainty.

Can you see why I’m stoked?

 

Value Is Not A One Size Fits All Proposition

Every so often I pick up an event trade publication to see what’s going on. (Side bar: I left the Meeting & Event Community (Community) in 2006 to co-evolve a Value Creation Framework for c-level executives. We are now introducing the Butterfly Edge© Framework to corporations and planning organisations.) Recently on one such occasion I read Meetings + Incentive Travel (M&IT), a Canadian trade publication, announced its ‘2014 editorial agenda will include a good, hard look at questions about value.’  For the record my intention here is not to single out M⁢ proving event value is frequently covered by all trade publications.

Reading this got me asking my own questions.  For instance, why hasn’t the Community figured this out already? Value Creation, value validation, ROI and ROE, whatever you want to call it, has been a HUGE white elephant in the Community’s room for decades. One would think the Community would have figured out its value proposition by now. Could one of the reason it hasn’t, be the result of what we don’t know can’t hurt us kind of thinking.

images5TQ75HFYIt has always been my belief the Community has no interest to take a good hard look at itself and how it fits into the changes taking place around it. Why?  In a nutshell it’s not in the best interest of its key stakeholders. For a decade I’ve written (extensively) right here in this blog, in MacLean’s and Canadian Business and in my M&IT columns (The Last Word, Open Channel and The Provocateur) about emergent opportunities and changes the Community faces.

So why (in 2014) is the Community talking about proving value…again?

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How To Prospect And Learn What Matters The Most To Grow Business

The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force of our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity. – Captain Jean-Luc Picard, US Enterprise, 24th Century.

Let’s be honest. The 21st century is built on making money first and lots of it. To hear business leaders say something so radical today and follow through with it is probably not going to happen. It’s only after we’ve acquired enough wealth (whatever that may look like) do we consider doing something drastically different like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates et al are doing. Hmmm…did they pinch the idea from Captain Picard?

Problem

What if the thinking that got us here can’t get us to where the world is going to go next? In my last post I wrote about how preconceived notions and strongly held beliefs is an impediment to the co-evolution of business, to the next level of sustainable growth, in today’s complex and uncertain market.

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CEO’s BFF

Mention Business Events 2.0 to a CEO and watch his eyes glaze over. There aren’t any statistics (I could find) that tell us if c-level executives:

  • link the richer source of knowledge (from Business Events 2.0) back to business strategy to grow business;
  • continuously assess the value Business Events 2.0 (BE2.0) create against business goals; and
  • are involved in the decision-making of BE2.0 relevant to pulling forward-looking business knowledge.

If there were stats on this I’d wager the percentage would be in the low single digits. Continue reading

Wrapping Up 2013!

When we stopped publishing Open Channel (our monthly resource for today’s forward-looking leaders and organisations) in December 2012 we set out to co-evolve and inspire purposeful and (even more) meaningful conversations on a more interactive platform. The Peregrine Agency Blog (yes, this blog) is that platform.

Our purpose then, now and forward-looking remains unchanged:

 ‘Everything we do we believe is about your need and perspective as Leaders. We believe in co-evolving richer intelligence; value creation; and growing your business. We believe purposeful and richer source of knowledge, enabled by business event portfolios, aligns your organization with its top priories and drives targeted measurable business results.’

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