Letters to the Editor

Hooray for May

I wanted to let everyone who contributed to the May issue of SM know that it was well worth the read. I read it from cover to cover and found it to be one of your best issues ever. The articles were both informative and interesting. As a planner of international meetings, I found your articles especially valuable. Two of the cities your author visited and wrote about for the cover story are now being considered for future meeting locations for our groups.

Thank you for the great reading.

April Horner

Conference Coordinator

Galaxy Scientific Corp.

Egg Harbor, NJ

Another Take on ROI

Regarding the April cover story, "The Fifth Element": It appears that a lot of time and money was spent figuring out how to apply return on investment to meetings. The problem is, ROI can't be applied to a meeting, period, unless the meeting was a business venture specifically designed to make money.

There are two main reasons ROI should not be the focus of meetings. First, ROI is a quantitative calculation of income versus expenses (and a variety of quantitative derivatives), and planners aren't in charge of the income portion unless they're charging for the meeting. As soon as you include a qualitative element into the equation, you invalidate a quantitative calculation. It is as ridiculous as trying to calculate the ROI of a single sales appointment versus the entire organizational process of selling.

Second, and more importantly, ROI is about risk reduction, and the last time I checked, meetings are about spending money for the future, and there is always risk in the future! There are no guarantees that a meeting will pay off, ever. Could the salespeople have learned new skills somewhere else? Probably. Would everyone have done well without recognizing a team for a job well done with an award ceremony? Possibly. Would the customer have bought anyway? Maybe. Did the company grow stronger by hearing the boss's vision? Who knows?

Meetings are an investment in people, and that's the best investment you can make. It's also the riskiest; people may quit, or even die! A meeting should be based on what serves the group best based on what you want to accomplish, and that is something that cannot be measured quantitatively.

I agree meetings should involve people beforehand: the executives, the board, the attendees; and that the meeting needs to have a strategic purpose. I also agree that getting feedback is critical, because the contribution meetings make to an organization is hugely complex (though you create boundaries on feedback the minute you send a questionnaire form).

The most important part of a meeting has always been what you can't quantify. The focus should be on making sure the meeting contributes to the strategic plan of the organization. Will it generate new ideas? How will you capture those ideas? How will you break barriers and get people from different areas to share with one another? These are the things that should be watched, considered, and measured. And ROI doesn't apply!

One last thought: Has anyone been able to calculate the value of allowing people to enjoy each other's company and enthusiasm?

Jeffrey Hansler

President, Oxford Company

Huntington Beach, CA

Nobody Likes Strikes

In response to the recent news item (April 2005) on boycotts of hotels involved in labor disputes: I believe that most planners would want to know about a work stoppage. Because when I contract with a venue, I am expecting a trained workforce that is familiar with the facilities and its procedures, and the specific demands of the meetings scheduled to come. I don't want to have my meeting at a particular facility if I have to deal with temporary workers, picket lines, and the other inconveniences that come with disputes.

Moving meetings from facilities having strikes or subject to work stoppages is the professional thing to do.

Frank Llewellyn

Executive Director

Democratic Socialists of America

New York, NY