Meetings Canada


Industry Insider - Justifying Incentives to Your Executives

Les Selby, CMP, CMMAs an industry professional who has managed meetings, incentive travel and special events for many years, I certainly recognize that all events should be designed to accomplish specific things for the individual or organization that is sponsoring the program.

Meetings should be designed to inform and/or motivate.  The destination, venue, program components and the agenda should all be carefully arranged to achieve the desired objectives.

Someone holds a special event to inform, motivate, entertain and recognize the audience.  Whether it is a product launch, recognition dinner, wedding or a flash mob, the participants and viewers are hopefully left with a very positive view of the presenting organization.

Incentive travel programs are slightly different.  The actual trip is designed to reward and recognize high performers, but the program that allows participants to qualify should be designed to motivate outstanding performance (often sales but sometimes also support of corporate objectives and programs) and drive corporate culture and success.

When I worked at one company, we decided to do a detailed analysis of the incentive programs the company had traditionally operated.  We recognized that our biggest program recognized top volume sales, so it actually motivated only the top 10 or 12 percent of our sales force.  Admittedly those top 12 per cent were responsible for 65 to 70 per cent of our volume, but the people who were responsible for the other 30 to 35 per cent of our business did not try any harder.

We decided to revamp our program but still have the sales results pay for the incentive.  For the top 20 per cent of our sales force, the goal to qualify for the trip was still a fixed dollar target.  For the other 80 per cent of the sales force, we set up different goals depending on their current sales level.  For example, if you were placed in the middle of the sales force, you might have to achieve a 50 per cent increase in sales over last year.  If you were in the lower 25 per cent of the sales force, you had to show a 100 per cent increase over the last sales period.

This approach allowed us to motivate a much larger group of sales people and we drove a much larger sales increase than in previous incentive programs.  Of course, not everyone achieved the goal, but the additional sales generated by those who did not qualify certainly helped pay for the travel program.

We also instituted special low cost (meaning within Canada) programs for people in their first year of sales.  This meant they were very motivated right from the start of their career and we saw a much lower turnover rate as well as higher sales achievements.

Incentive programs are meant to incent so they need to be properly designed.  If you approach those programs with the mindset that they need to drive improved performance, justifying them to your executives should be easy.

– Les Selby is the director of Meetings & Events for One10 Canada.  He has been a corporate, independent, and third party event professional for over 27 years.  Les has earned both his Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation and his Global Certification in Meeting Management (CMM). Inducted into Meeting + Incentive Travel Magazine’s Industry Hall of Fame in 2009, he is an active member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI). He served on the Toronto chapter’s Board, was the 2000-2001 chapter president, and is currently a member of the MPI Foundation Canadian Council. In 1997, Les was recognized as Planner of the Year by the MPI Toronto chapter, and received the President’s Award for 2009. He can be reached at

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