Julia Rutherford Silvers, CSEP

Certified Special Events Professional

Event Management Authority

Like angels and elephants dancing on the head of a pin, our dreams and responsibilities may have no limits, but must be balanced according to the music of the moment.









Return on Objectives (ROO)

27 October 2007


Goals and objectives must be established during the initiation phase of an event project in order to design an event that will deliver the desired outcomes, as well as the ability to measure the achievement of those objectives, known as Return on Objectives or ROO. ROO is an alternative to Return on Investment (ROI) when evaluating the success of the event, although both may be used in some cases depending on the event sponsor or host.


Jo Angela Maniaci, CMP of Special Events Planning, LLC in St. Paul, MN, focuses on the ROO using a 40/40/20 marketing plan model when conducting a needs assessment with clients, which she finds especially useful for first time events. This model recognizes that a marketing plan is reliant on determining the product, its market, and the tactics that will be used to reach the target market.

The 40/40/20 model, typical in direct marketing, suggests that 40% of the plan's success will be dependant upon product definition, 40% on target market definition, and 20% on the methods used to promote the product to the target market.


Maniaci uses these as categories to facilitate brainstorming sessions during which the typical needs assessment questions are considered (the 5 W’s). The 40/40/20 model helps participants see the interrelationship between these categories, as well as see the event as a product.


Maniaci notes:

When I work with a planning committee, I use a white board (or, in a pinch, a flip chart). This allows me to add many pieces that come up [and] helps bring the committee along as they see more and more of their input added to the product they will take with them through the planning process. Once this model is developed, then I can add the pieces to the timeline.


Working through this process helps build attendees and exhibitors, especially as the committee starts to think of the primary/secondary/tertiary markets to tap/reach out to. My truest joy is when I use it with a committee for a first time event, then use it again for next year’s event. The committee builds each year on the previous results, identifying additional markets to tap, speakers, themes, locations, etc.


As with the EMBOK, all areas influence each other. So, if you have one weak area in the matrix, the other two falter. You can have the best conference agenda, speakers, locations, and targeted attendees. Add to that a beautiful brochure. But, if you don’t reach your potential attendees because of poor mailing lists (snail mail or electronic mail), you can kiss the ROI goodbye. Concomitantly, you can have a great part one [product definition] and some of part three (a beautiful brochure), but if you don’t know who your markets are, then you certainly won’t reach them.

Objectives need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-related) in order to be properly evaluated. Just as the 40/40/20 model may be used to define the product, target market and marketing tactics, it may also be used to define the desired results in quantitative and qualitative terms, as well as to devise evaluation methods for measuring the return. As the What, Where, When, Who and How are being considered, the SMART facets of the objectives should be identified, analyzed, and clearly specified, as well as prioritized . This will lead to a robust and effective ROO Evaluation.

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