Examining the ROI of great event design

A question came up on Twitter recently, “what is the ROI of great event design?” This to me is what is considered a beautiful question in that it does not have an easy answer, but does incite thought and discussion. Please add your comments below!
Examining the ROI of great event design
Return on Investment (ROI) is a critical factor which plays into strategic meeting management (SMM), participation in trade shows, who we buy from, and ultimately what we buy, including the events we choose to attend. Early market researcher Louis Cheskin noted customers’ perception of products and services are directly related to their aesthetic design and called this “sensation transference.” Responsible for marketing Imperial margarine, Ford Mustang and creating the Marlboro Man among others, this is an innovator we can still learn from.

Like any first impression, the response to great design is unconscious, personal and immediate, and we contextualize the design to determine our perception of the value and quality of the event, product or service. Therefore it follows the ROI of great design (when related to meetings and events) will be attributed to every detail beginning with the design of the logo, and including the website, invitation, email correspondence, mobile app, through to the onsite look and feel of each touchpoint through the event spaces. From overall environment through signage to staging to the way content is delivered, great design encompasses every aspect of a meeting or event, and the ROI will include more attendance, greater opportunities for meaningful and serendipitous connections, great learning, and most importantly, conversations that lead to guests collaborating and yes, returning the next year.

For a trade show experience, a great design will begin with the layout of the show floor on the macro level. On the micro or booth level, it begins with identifying how you will use the allocated space, and designing an inviting space where guests want to stop and linger, and where it is comfortable enough for a discussion that a relationship can be opened or deepened, and where your brand is exemplified through the look and feel of the space. The ROI of course is ultimately measured by sales, but these will be easier to get to when you have consistency with the brand message and deliver on positive emotional engagement at the show.

Meetings benefit from thoughtful design across many levels, from the venue selected through website and registration experience to how the content delivery is made relevant. On-site we may find beige rooms set with theatre seating capped by black drape and two screens might meet the most basic objectives of delivering content, but it rarely creates a “wow” brand impression. Imagine instead if you create a space with mixed seating including tables for discussion and note taking, use lighting and projections to share your story, centrepieces and table linens that add interest through texture and colour and bazowie! You can set the stage for something memorable.

There are hundreds of studies over the past few decades in a number of countries showing an ROI of up to 400 per cent due to improved designs. All the research leads to one statement, “Good design is good business,” attributed to Thomas Watson, former IBM President but showcased in brand after successful brand. Take a look at the websites and meeting designs of the best known events, including yours, and those whose participants you are also trying to attract. Look at the ease of use, the colours used, the overall attractiveness with a critical eye, and engage design professionals to see what incremental improvements can be made, and measure how it impacts your ROI.

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