Proving meeting and event ROI is so 2016.

Though it’s still a critical measurement tool for meeting planners to prove the value of their events, early 2016 does mark the beginning of an effort to move beyond the core concept of ROI measurement and into a approach more in tune with the world of marketing.

Launched at IMEX America in October during her Smart Monday keynote, veteran planner and educator Janet Sperstad delivered an impassioned address about the Purposeful Meeting concept and the resulting white paper that details how planners can make their meetings more relevant to their attendees and less a tedious business exercise for everyone involved.


“We’ve moved beyond traditional ROI, of how we measure it, and now look at how we’re impacting behavior and experience in the moment—event marketers get this,” said Sperstad, program director of Meeting and Event Management at Wisconsin’s Madison College. “ROI is in here, but we don’t really don’t talk about it in terms of stakeholder objectives and learning outcomes. We’re bringing in different ideas that look at ROI in a new way, moving beyond the traditional format. ROI has been so much about cost savings and measuring. This is about creating meaningful and lasting experiences. I can’t say everyone would agree, or get it, but viscerally we know about the value of experiences. We don’t crave data in the world, we crave meaning.”

The undertaking began a little more than 18 months ago with a survey of meeting professionals and is a dual effort of Sperstad and Dr. Amanda Cecil, associate professor and chair of Indiana University’s School of Physical Education and Tourism Management, in its Department of Tourism, Conventions and Event Management, and was funded by IMEX Group and PSAV.

The core of Purposeful Meetings centers on five key areas:

  • Behavioral Science: Exploring how the human brain works when we are in a social setting and looking at how events are catalysts for creativity and an incubator of ideas.
  • Health & Wellbeing: Nutrition beyond food to nutrition for the mind, body and performance.
  • Event Design: Discussing new research on how the brain processes information, the built and natural environment, and the effect on human performance and the importance of “white space.”
  • CSR, Legacy and Positive Impact: How positive actions when intentionally woven into a meeting can provide new levels of meaning and connection.
  • Technology: Technology as a tool, not a solution, to accelerating connection and trust between people, and as a way to turbocharge ideation, creativity and creative problem solving.

“This is shifting the lens of event management and focusing on human performance,” Sperstad said. “It’s shifting the conversation from logistics to how attendees feel and think in the experience, and explores how we as event professionals can leverage and impact human behavior, their insight, and drive deeper meaning and inspire creativity, because that’s problem solving. People go to meetings and events to learn from each other and experts. How can we focus on that ‘aha’ moment and not just delivery of education?”

The Purposeful Meetings White Paper, which provides in-depth descriptions of the concept along with Practical Tips, is available at