Buyers like to talk about objectives and outcomes from their events, and where possible be able to measure and evaluate these. But these are not always quantitative results.
Paul Revel, editor of the UK title Buying Business Travel , has recently made a keynote speech at the first MICE-in-the-bag B2B insider gathering in London. Addressing the audience about this theme, he recalled the feature he’d written about ultra-distinctive, memorable, hi-end events. This feature had been prompted by attending the launch in Holland of a superyacht ice-breaker, which hosts corporate charters in the Antarctic.
The feature asked what buyers are looking for in terms of return on investment when they book so-called ‘big-ticket’ events?
Here’s what one of them had said: «Where companies are trying to accelerate or sustain difficult sales targets – this is an easily quantifiable ROI, and is frequently attributed to a campaign’s success».
«Staff retention and company culture is another big factor – this is typically seen under the banner of ‘return on objectives’. This is harder to quantify but no less impactful».
Another events director says: «Buyers are looking for quantitative and qualitative results from their investment. They want to measure the return in terms of sales or PR coverage, but there are also the less measurable benefits such as strong long-term relationships, networking and cross referrals».
Here’s another commentator: «High-end, spectacular events should have a hearts and minds objective, rewarding high performers with priceless memories and encouraging other colleagues’ aspirations».
Another event manager cites goals including increasing brand awareness, enhancing market positioning, rewarding ‘loyal brand evangelists’ and trade partner incentives.
Other areas of focus for corporate MICE buyers at the moment include wellbeing and productivity. This is part of a wider, traveller-centric approach to business travel and meetings. This approach looks beyond the basic cost of travel and events, to a wider value in terms of productivity and performance, and talent recruitment and retention.
In meetings and events this tends to mean looking at nutrition and healthy menus: protein, wholegrains, fresh vegetables, so-called superfoods – and less pastry and sugar, which can lead to lack of energy and sleepiness in afternoon sessions.
Natural light is also very popular at the moment. And including physical activity into the programme, rather than just sitting down. Walking and talking – meetings while on foot, have been popularised by the likes of Barack Obama and Richard Branson.
A case study about a large event for the Royal College of Nursing featured a health and wellbeing programme. This included cycling to sessions, pedometer challenges on Twitter, breathing techniques and meditation classes, Yoga and lunchtime football.
More and more people are talking about the experience – focussing on the experience is part of the consumer-driven approach we’re seeing in business travel and events. Overall, the focus for some buyers is on the overall value of an event, rather than just its cost: they are looking at what the whole event delivers – whether that’s incentivising and enhancing performance and sales, loyalty, bonding, building and maintaining relationships, awareness, creativity…
And, as with travel generally, where there is less scope for significant discounts, for example with air fares or hotel rates, buyers are looking for added value – additions to the package that will enhance the experience for their delegates.