Budgeting

How CFOs Should Gauge the Value of Attending In-Person Events

With events and conferences back in full swing, how are executives judging whether they're worth the investment?
How CFOs Should Gauge the Value of Attending In-Person Events
Photo: Caiaimage/Martin Barraud

Cities are being flocked with representatives from companies across corporate finance and beyond, as the weeks between Labor Day and Thanksgiving tend to host industry events that can draw thousands. As salespersons, marketers, public relations teams, and journalists share cocktails and ideas in casinos and banquet halls nationwide, executives tell CFO that these kinds of events are just as valuable and rewarding to them as they are to their employees. 

Networking and Closing Deals

Rich Veldran, CFO of GoTo, spoke about networking being “the major selling point” of events. The value comes not only from building personal connections but by leveraging these opportunities to create strategic business partnerships. “There are many synergies across the companies that show up at these events,” said Veldran. “Who’s to say that the next best integration for your product or the next biggest resale opportunities for your company can’t be identified through a conversation you had networking at a big conference.”

  Rich Veldran

Although closing deals at events themselves may have been a challenge in the past, Veldran believes that with everything technology can offer a company’s event showcase, closing a deal on-site isn’t  limited to the best talking sales representative anymore. “With the technology today, prospects can receive full product demos to truly understand the user experience right at your booth. You can even digitally sign a contract on your phone, making on-site transactions easy and very plausible.”

With the technology today, prospects can receive full product demos to truly understand the user experience right at your booth. — Rich Veldran, CFO, GoTo

Veldran stressed the importance of executives allocating funds toward event marketing. Having a presence at a large-scale event is pivotal for a company looking to grow, he said. An event is an opportunity to build both brand and product awareness and gives a company looking to pitch its product the opportunity to do so on a large scale.

“The conversations and discussions that take place at an event turn into qualified leads for sales teams to explore, [and] this builds a pipeline and creates a channel to introduce new products and services to future and current customers,” Veldran said.

Gauging the Value

As event admission prices can be the most expensive part of a business trip, executives come from different schools of thought regarding how they deem an event to be worthwhile for themselves or their teams. 

According to David Roitblat, CEO of Better Accounting Solutions, the question of an event’s value also should take into consideration the kinds of employees that a company sends to the event. In corporate finance, Roitblat said, the maximum value of an event can be extracted when it isn’t treated like a social gathering. 

  David Roitblat

“For us, the employees chosen to represent Better Accounting Solutions at these events are those that will gain the most value and offer the highest return for our business,” Roitblat said. “We don’t see these events as a chance for a paid vacation, but as an opportunity for team members to connect and work with other people and businesses in the same industry. We feel justified in spending the cost of entry, knowing it will pay dividends down the line.”

Generally, you will need to spend money to get into the same room as the leaders of your industry. — David Roitblat, CEO of Better Accounting Solutions

According to the accounting firm CEO, gauging the true value of event attendance also requires setting realistic expectations of what can be accomplished by having a presence. “There is definitely a price tag to consider when the opportunity to attend an industry event comes along,” said Roitblat. 

He hinted that allocating money to events is a way to not only compete with the best but to join them. “Generally, you will need to spend money to get into the same room as the leaders of your industry,” said Roitblat. 

Boosting Morale 

For some companies, events are about more than developing sales leads and closing deals. Events can boost the morale of salespeople, whether it’s giving them the chance to strut their skills by creating sticky interpersonal connections with prospects or decompressing with cocktails and golf in a city far from home. In addition, the camaraderie that can develop between team members at events can pay major dividends for an organization. Rocky Gor, the founder of financial marketplace CAPX, believes events have more holistic value than they do for moving the needle on sales or revenue. 

  Rocky Gor

Sending salespeople to conferences can be considered a perk of the job, said Gor. People like going to nice hotels, after-conference parties, golf games, and networking events. “Firms often use conferences to host clients and prospects, so this can be considered a valuable stage of the sales funnel. Conferences are [also] a good source of competitive intelligence.”

While Gor doesn’t totally dismiss events as revenue producers, he admits that acquiring business at them is difficult. According to him, events in financial services just don’t pay the same dividends when it comes to sales leads as events in other industries might.

“In all of my years attending financial conferences, I never found any new business that way,” Gor said. “Sure, conferences expanded my network, and I kept up with new contacts, but they never produced any new business. So, for our industry, I wouldn’t rely on conferences for direct business generation.”

Sending employees on expensive junkets is a nice perk to offer for companies looking to reduce employee churn. — Rocky Gor, founder of CAPX

Gor said that events also get sales representatives and executives to mingle in new places post-pandemic. According to him, sending employees to events is another tool executives are using to keep employees from leaving for a better job offer.

“Business travel was dead for 18 months, so people are looking for any excuse they can get to travel to Vegas, Miami, New York, the Caribbean,” he said. “Sending employees on expensive junkets is a nice perk to offer for companies looking to reduce employee churn, which has been at the top of many executives’ minds during the Great Resignation.”