Achieving True Return on Investment After the Event - 2006-05-11

Meeting planners get a fraction of the results they are capable of because they neglect an area of results pivotal to the success of their clients. That area: "Level II results."

These differ from Level I results, which are linked to the meeting itself: the results coming from good administration, logistics, location, speakers, events, educational programs, et cetera.

Level II results are different in that they are achieved after the meeting is over. They're about continuing the celebration, the learning, and the networking once the attendees are back on the job. Moreover, Level II results are about having your participants use what they learned at the meeting to actually get increased results back on the job. That's the key: achieving more results than they would have achieved if they had not participated in the meeting.

Here are four ways you can achieve Level II results:

1. Target the right results. Too often, when planners and upper management first get together to discuss an upcoming meeting, they tend to focus on identifying a theme and then discuss objectives. That sequence should be reversed: Results discussions must precede thematic discussions.

Here are questions that should be discussed at this early stage to ensure the meeting will achieve the right results at the right time for the right reasons:

-What results do the meetings intend to achieve?

-Why are those particular results being targeted?

-Do the key people associated with the meeting agree that those are the right results?

-If they don't, how do you get that agreement—or should you change the results?

-If they do, how can you measure and validate those results?

-How can the meeting get increases in the targeted results?

-How can those increases be lasting?

2. Get the right speakers. Even the best motivational speakers can be counterproductive when it comes to Level II results. That's because many motivational speakers, consciously or unconsciously, separate motivation and results.

Sure, meetings are great opportunities to have the participants be motivated in fresh ways, but motivated people can still be useless to an organization. To become useful, their motivation must impel them to undertake sustained behavior that achieves the hard, measured results the organization needs.

When hiring speakers, talk to them about both levels of results. Here are questions you can ask potential speakers:

-Do you understand what Level II results are?

-Are you willing to partner with my clients and me in achieving those results?

-What specific ways can you help our participants achieve Level II results?

-How can you help ensure that the Level II results we achieve will last?

3. Institute the right action plans. Action plans target specific results—the results you initially identified with your organization's upper management that need to be achieved. These action plans must detail the actions the meeting participants will take to get increases in results in their respective areas. Action plans, which can be developed by individuals or teams, provide guidance, commitment, and focus.

Questions you can ask your leadership concerning action plans are:

-What are the results you want to link your action plans to?

-Who selects and validates the action plans?

-Should there be a segment of the meeting devoted to developing and implementing action plans?

-Who will be coordinating the monitoring and evaluation of the action plans?

-How will senior leadership of the organization be kept abreast of the content and direction of the action plans?

-How will the action plans be translated into increases in hard, measured results?

4. Develop the right evaluation and monitoring systems. Such systems must be agreed upon by the key leaders of the meeting and must have clear accountability and specific milestones and timelines.

Questions you can ask your clients regarding the evaluation and monitoring systems are:

-Can you define success in terms of the results you hope to achieve?

-How do you measure that success and communicate what you have measured to other people in your organization?

-Who is accountable for instituting evaluation and monitoring systems and maintaining them?

-What are the specific milestones you want to use as your action plans unfold?

-What are the rewards and penalties for realizing or failing to realize the action plans?