ROI vs. ROE: why this debate is missing the bigger picture

Source: Conexo

Warning: this may hurt a bit!

During EIBTM 2011 I had the pleasure to be invited at a panel session called ‘ROI vs. ROE’, organized by the MPI’s Spanish chapter (picture on the left).

Obviously, I could say many things about why you should always use the ROI Methodology… But for now I’m just going to share with you my main takeaway of the session: the so-called ROE may be a bigger threat to the meetings industry than what I had envisioned.

First of all, let me clarify that ROE has probably got as many definitions as people that talk about it. But in this particular session, ROE meant ‘Return On Experience’, and one of the main indicators of ROE was WOM, both word of mouth and word of mouse (which is the digital version of word of mouth).

Based on the comments by some panelists and the audience, I had the impression that event planners are now really excited about social media and most importantly, social media metrics. This should be a good thing, right? Unfortunately, it is only to an extent.

I feel like some event planners think that they’ve found the Holy Grail: now they’re able to set measurable objectives (I want to get 1,000 Twitter followers!) and easily show the impact of the event (I got 35 Retweets! The event’s hashtag was mentioned 20,000 times!). As I usually hear, event experiences are intangible, hence they can’t be measured, but social media help us to make them more tangible.

Alas, I think many of them are missing the point. The impact that your event had on social media should be part of your evaluation (if that was one of your objectives), and undoubtedly WOM will increase the ROI, but it is not connected to the bottom line of the company. How many of those who clicked ‘Like’ on Facebook are your target audience? How many of them will ultimately buy your product? And the questions could go on and on.

Usually, measuring something is better than nothing, but event planners shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that just by tracking the impact of an event in social media they’re doing the best job. Because, if one thing we’ve learned after the recession, is that most meetings and events do not have a strong business case yet (ask AIG…). By measuring ROE, we risk getting distracted and not focusing on the real value of the event.

Are you finding that strong focus on ROE as well? Do you think it hinders the measurement of the real value of an event?

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