ROI…What It Is And Why You Should Care

For those of you who may not know, ROI stands for return on investment. It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot in the corporate/investment world. The simple definition is “what am I going to get back if I make this investment”.

Basically, when an individual or company is looking to make an investment in a new business, product, initiative, etc., return on investment is a key question they have to answer. The reasoning is they want to try and make sure this is the most productive use of their time, resources and dollars. Otherwise they will look at investing elsewhere.

Now you may be asking, what does ROI have to do with me and my planning of Christian meetings and retreats? I believe it has a lot to do with it, but not in the traditional business sense. Whether they realize it or not, most of your potential attendees will run an ROI calculation in their head before deciding whether or not to sign up to attend.

I’m pretty sure they’re not thinking in quite those technical of terms, but rest assured they are trying to figure out if going to your retreat is a good use of their limited time, resources and/or money.

“Will I be encouraged? Will this event stretch/grow me spiritually? Will I make some new Christian friends? Will I have fun?”

These are just a few of the questions going through their minds before they decide to attend or not. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how the retreat you’re planning is going to address these types of questions. If you can’t answer yes to most, if not all of these personal return on investment questions, chances are pretty good folks will look to make that personal investment somewhere else.

What can you do to improve the return on your attendees investment of their time, resources and dollars? The success of your next event could depend on your answer.

When Do You Pull The Plug?

If you’ve ever planned a retreat or event, you’ve probably lost a little sleep worrying whether or not people were going to sign up. The closer the event gets, the more the anxiety can build up, especially if registration is going slowly. At some point you may even have to deal with the question of whether or not to cancel the event.

One of the many things that separate Christian conference and retreat centers from local hotels is that we also plan events. As a result, we too have to deal with the dreaded question, when do you pull the plug and cancel the event?

Recently I had the opportunity to discuss this question with a good friend, Aaron Ziebarth. Aaron is the executive director for Joy El Ministries, a Christian camp and retreat center located in Greencastle, PA. Since Joy El plans many of their own events (in addition to hosting outside groups), I asked Aaron if he wouldn’t mind sharing some of his experience with the readers of our blog.

MSM – Have you noticed any changes in the reservation patterns for your events at Joy El? If so, what’s changed?

Aaron – We have seen people registering much closer to the event. In 2010, every one of our programmed events was at about 50% of our goal two weeks prior to the event. Under the old way of thinking that would have been a sign I needed to cancel the event. Instead we took it as an opportunity to do last minute marketing through email and social media. The end result was that every event came in with attendance above our goal.

MSM – Are the groups you are hosting experiencing similar reservation patterns?

Aaron – Absolutely! Their participants are waiting until the last minute to register. Unfortunately, since our average group only plans 1-2 events/year, they haven’t developed the same awareness. This results in a lot of stress for the leaders, thinking they may need to cancel the event. Therefore we make an extra effort to communicate these reservation patterns to them.

MSM – When you have an event not booking at the rate you expect, what steps do you take to try and increase your reservations?

Aaron– Great question. I believe it’s an issue of value. Despite the economy, I believe people are still doing what they value most. So, our team reassesses the value this event will provide and we make efforts to communicate this value to potential participants. We do this through social media (primarily our Facebook page) and direct email marketing. On occasion we will also call those who have attended this event, or a similar event, in the past.

MSM – What are the key factors you consider before making the decision to cancel an event?

Aaron – Consideration needs to be given to direct costs and what has already been spent. What is the cancellation agreement with the speaker and worship band? Can we at least cover our expenses if we go ahead and hold the event? As a rule of thumb, we will do everything possible to keep the event going.

MSM – What advice would you give to the meeting planner trying to decide whether or not to pull the plug on their event?

Aaron – Don’t give up if registrations seem low. Communicate the value and benefits of the event to potential participants. Keep promoting through the beginning of the event. Pray hard. Remember, the bottom line is the promise of life change. Do everything possible so your life changing event can take place.

Our thanks go out to Aaron and his team.

What about you? Was this insight helpful? How do you go about making the call to pull the plug on an event?

Is There Still Value In Face-to-Face Meetings?

Since the economic downturn began in 2008, many organizations have struggled with justifying the expenses associated with holding, or attending conferences. I can certainly understand this as we’ve wrestled with these same issues. “Can I afford to bring my remotely located staff together for a retreat? Can I afford to attend that training? Can I afford to attend my association’s annual conference? Can I afford NOT to do any of these things?”

Tough questions for tough economic times. Fortunately we are starting to see some studies validating the value of face to face meetings. This past summer, Forbes released a study entitled “Business Meetings: The Case for Face to Face“. The study surveyed over 750 businesses and asked whether or not web conferences, video conferences and other virtual meetings can really take the place of face to face meetings.

For those of us who plan, or host conferences, the results are encouraging. 80% said they preferred face to face meetings over virtual meetings! Here are the top 3 reasons they gave for their preference:

  1. Helps to build stronger, more meaningful relationships
  2. Allows them to read body language and facial expressions
  3. Greater social interaction

Also in the survey, the executives were asked which specific business actions or outcomes were best served through face to face interaction. As you might expect, they listed some pretty important actions:

  • Persuasion (91%)
  • Leadership (87%)
  • Engagement (87%)
  • Inspiration (85%)
  • Decision Making (82%)
  • Accountability (79%)
  • Brainstorming (73%)
  • Strategy (73%)

While this study focused on business executives, I think the findings are still applicable to the world of Christian meetings and retreats. At the end of the day, people still prefer personal interaction over looking and talking to someone on a computer screen. The question for us is, what are we doing to foster and maximize the value of that personal interaction?