In a business meeting several years ago, a colleague of mine asked, “What does success look like?” This question has resonated with me ever since. I use it as a sounding board to gauge whether I create that program, build this campaign or run an event. In this age of “Big Data” and “real-time computing,” the process to evaluate success has become a whole lot easier. But the question that helps me remains the same “What Does Success Look Like?” and I owe it all to the planning of an event.
Let me explain…
Years ago, I was looking after a partner for a high-tech company and I was helping with their customer event. Simon was a sought after presales guru. You know the type, almost annoyingly versed in every aspect of the product. As the account manager, it was my job to secure Simon as the star presenter.
Events are a great activity for generating business and our partners were encouraged and supported to do as many as possible. So, I arranged a meeting with the partner and Simon at our swanky headquarters to discuss the logistics over a couple of lattes and a macchiato.
At this point, I am feeling really good. The partner is happy because I delivered Simon and Simon actually showed up. We start off by discussing the logistics; what room to use, the agenda, how many sessions, etc. As we agree on the finer points of this event, Simon drops the bombshell. He asks THE question that should always be, but is very rarely asked, “if we run this event what does success look like?”
You could hear a pin drop. And then the back pedaling questions spewed forth: “What do you mean?” “Can you please clarify?” “I don’t understand the question!”
Suddenly the whole situation had changed. No longer are we having a nice friendly chat about the great event, the resources we will no doubt consume as a consequence, and how good everyone will feel about being part of it. Now we are under the proverbial spotlight entering into the realms of accountability. We are accepting that if we apply a measure, we can articulate our success, or on the flip side, heaven forbid, our failure!!!!
Interestingly, the more we focus on measuring success, the more relevant the quality of our research becomes. Today with the advent of “Big Data” and “real-time” computing,” it’s like adding a microscope to our toolkit. We can evaluate the data in detail to support our decision to run an event, or even support a decision not to run one if it won’t be successful.
It’s all about technology engineering success.
During that meeting, I thought to myself, “Thank you Simon,” as clarity forms in the room. Mentally everyone leans forward, eyes focused, on the edge of their seats. And we all get very serious, very, very quickly. You see, that one simple question raised the game.
One question was all it took. One simple, but very powerful question, to dramatically change the whole dynamics of the meeting and to ensure we focus on being productive.
From that day forward, I have used this question in every single business meeting and it has made a huge impact on my professional career and every project I have been involved in.
It could do the same for you; just try it, what have you got to lose!