When talk results in changed behaviour

Have you ever participated in a meeting, where you felt inspired at the time, but did not manage to follow up on the subject, until you had blissfully forgotten all about it? Or have you ever presented a message that was clearly received by the audience – but also cleared out instantly without inducing any change?

Several organisations throw meetings with the agenda of introducing new products or activities, advance customer service, improve the company culture, inspire productivity, increase innovation etc. At a majority of these meetings, the importance of the subject is discussed; solutions are found and decisions made with the prospect of natural performance improvement and a scoop in the following quarterly financial report. However, as often as meetings are held, just as often we settle for lenient ambitions in regard to meeting effectiveness, and thus compromise the justification of the used time spend for meetings.


Is ROI applicable to meetings?

At Format, we use the ROI (Return On Investment) concept in our work with meetings, making these a visible value contributor to the long-term communication strategy of the organisation in order to justify the use of necessary recourses. The ROI concept is especially useful in our work, as it forces us to keep focus on the objectives of the meeting and look beyond the mere intentions and emotional implications, which are often reflected in the evaluation. Instead, we follow the changed behaviour that creates tangible results and progress for the organisation. We cannot drive a sustainable organisation by being inspired, but only through value creating actions, which the inspiration leads to. Thereby, the actions become vital for the post-meeting Return manifested when advanced customer service leads to new customer relations or increased sales, when efficiency improvements show a decrease in costs with the same amount of income, when organisational values result in innovation, employee wellbeing and empowerment leading to increased market share, stronger market position and productivity.

The investment includes the salary of the internal hours spent on development and coordination, the use of facilities, requisites, materials, travel expenditures and costs related to external partners. Not only does the meeting investment include the work hours of organisers and participants, but it should also include the potential loss in earnings resulted by the participants’ presence at the meeting.

Therefore, the calculation of ROI requires – beyond a mapping of investments – a determination of the derivative effects in terms of increased value for the organisation and thus, a conversion of communicative- and HR initiatives into economical terms. This conversion includes an intermediate calculation, which predicts new patterns of actions and thereby realisation of new behaviour. The new behaviour creates the long-term value addition that the ROI concept visualizes. The exercise is educational and valuable for organisations; it challenges the Danish meeting culture and often requires significant changes in the use of resources, than most organisations can handle.


Behavioural change as objective 

Detection of meetings’ ROI will often include a certain amount of predictions and be affected by ‘noise’ from other initiatives – conditions that contribute to hollowing an otherwise solid concept and thus minimize the justification of the concept. While working with meetings and the demonstration of meetings’ value, we focus on changing the organisational behaviour of the target audience – the exact behaviour that results in value addition. Behavioural change demands that employees dismiss the inadequate patterns of action and learn new ones – which in itself is a meaningful ambition that commands strong focus on the need, point of departure and results that provide the reason and objectives for the meeting. Behaviour is a concept, which creates broad understanding within organisations and connects easily to the economic outcome that is often the ultimate ambition for communicative initiatives as well as meetings.

Behaviour is a rehearsed and natural way to perform, react and navigate as an individual in an organisation. It is a fundamental term for our continuous work with meetings, since they only ensure an effect when a change has occurred in actions. The conversion to action is the difference a meeting has encouraged, which is evident when comparing before  and after situations. It could be an employee who remembers to report in time or a service staff who provides exceptional care for a customer. These concrete actions manifests changed priorities and values held by the single individual, and these actions creates a positive mark on the organisations’ bottom-line.

Meetings are essential tools for creating a positive change in behaviour. It is rich media in its purest form, since one can see and hear the reactions of other participants and feel the physical environment on site. All together measurements, which other forms of communication only wish to come near. Consequently, the physical meeting potentially contains a significant impression and a strong relation between sender and receiver. When used correctly, meetings can change the participants’ view – and thereby behaviour – in the long run.