Assessing Sales Conferences

Speaker at sales conference

With sales training budgets under constant review, some companies are looking at using large conference style events as a cheaper way to provide their sales team with internal training. As with any training investment the question that must be asked after the conference is “Was it worth the time and money?”

Sales conferences typically involve a series of entertaining talks by people from both within and outside the organisation. Often delivered in a large auditorium where the participants are seated in rows in so called "theatre" style, they can be fun to attend but do they really deliver the sales training you need?

Whatever tool you use to assess the effectiveness of your sales conferences in training your sales people, the principal significant questions that you will need to answer following the event are:

  1. To what extent did the conference meet the identified training needs?
  2. What specifically did your sales people learn, or be usefully reminded of?
  3. What commitment have they made about implementing the new ideas on their return to work?

For a sales conference to provide a good ROI, your sales people should be able to remember and relay the material that they have learnt at the conference. One way that some companies attempt to assess the effectiveness of their conferences is by asking their sales people to write a report about the conference they have just attended - roughly entitled “How did I benefit from attending the conference?” This makes the sales person pay attention and take notes during the various talks, provided they have been forewarned by their sales manager that a report is required.

To be a useful tool, the report should be completed within 14 days of attendance and should not be just a verbatim copy of the speeches and lectures attended. Rather it should be a summary of the core issues that were discussed and the lessons learnt.

Other companies use questionnaires to gauge the effectiveness of their conferences. Typically the questions asked include:

Which part of the conference did you learn a lot from and why?
Which part of the conference did you not like and why?
Was anything lacking in the conference or the venue?
What specific aspects of the conference should be improved for the next time?

Such surveys of conference participants can be vary informative. However, you will get more candid answers if the questionnaire is anonymous. By evaluating the questionnaires, you will be able to use these as the basis for a critical assessment of your conference and its effectiveness.

Some companies send a report to conference participants, which contains a summary of the points covered at the conference and a series of questions at the end, relating to the content of the conference and the sales training it covered. They then offer a prize for those who answer the questions correctly and send the answers back. If you decide to use this method, then be aware that typically only 60% of the conference participants will respond!