Return on Time

By Claire Smith

Return on Time

By Claire Smith, Vice President - Sales & Marketing, Vancouver Convention Centre

In our fast paced, 24-7 world, our most valuable asset is TIME. There is never enough of it and we have to make wise decisions on how to use it.

How does this valuable asset factor in our industry? With demands at home and at work extending around the clock, we are all trying to juggle a multitude of priorities and often view time away from the office as a loss of productivity. We are never really able to catch up on the work we leave behind and when we do leave, we are bringing along our virtual office to stay connected on the road. A decision to attend a three-day event with travel on either end can significantly impact our work and family life and our ability to succeed at both.

In the past 10 years we have worked hard to validate our industry, adding rigor around measurements to try to quantify holding an event – from return on investment to economic impact. While these less than perfect formulas remain important, are we focusing on the wrong value? It is not merely about money when we choose to attend an event. With so many less expensive ways to access content and community, surely money is not the primary driver.

What value do we place on our time and can we quantify it? I would say we can, when we also examine the softer, less tangle values of attending an event such as the following: gaining a great new idea and bringing it back to the office to share with the team; meeting a like-minded person who becomes a life-long friend and sounding board; or making a business connection that creates opportunities in the future. I look at my close circle of industry friends and confidents and I can trace many of them back to a conversation at an industry conference session or introduction made at a networking event. These are the people with whom I choose to do business, share ideas and solve problems.

Are we going to be inspired, are we going to have fun, are we going to be around people who make us think differently? All of these benefits are also hugely important but may be difficult to measure. We want to feel like we are a part of a community and time is well spent if we are nurturing our sense of belonging and contributing to the greater success of our industry or organization.

We also need to consider the outcomes that are precipitated as part of the conference. Do our return on investment and economic impact models factor in big achievements, such as advancement in cancer research, incremental improvement in climate change, or advocacy for women and children’s rights in the third world? When the International AIDS Society met in Vancouver for their 8th International Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in 2015, they brought together researchers, clinicians, community leaders and public health experts from around the world and announced a goal ”to end AIDS globally by 2030”. A bold statement but the entire conference focused on strategies that would make this goal achievable.

When we meet face-to-face, incredible things happen, big and small. In our quest to be recognized as a serious profession, we have leaned too heavily on metrics and measurability to help us quantify our impact. We may be losing focus on the real reason we host meetings and conferences and why people choose to attend.

We need to get much better at telling the story of real outcomes of the events we host. When we evoke emotion by sharing results, we start to build a strong case on why someone might invest their most precious asset, TIME, to attend an event.

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