The Event Planning Process: Defining Your Goals and Learning from Success

Why Don’t Planners Define a Pre-Event Strategy?

Ok event holders (clients) and do-ers (planners) – it’s time to get real.  Whether you’re internal to an organization, independent, or part of an event agency, you know the critical part of the event planning process is determining your event strategy by defining the “why?” of the event as quickly as possible. That way, you’ll know if the event you planned delivered on its promise.

So why don’t clients and planners always do take this crucial step?  The answer is (drumroll please)… planners and clients alike often skip the challenge of determining clear and defined reasoning  in order to get a jump start the planning process. Here’s why:

  • It’s not easy. It can be very time consuming to get everyone involved to agree. 
  • Often, we assume everyone knows the answers already. When your team veers off in four different directions, it shows in the final event. 
  • We’re unsure what questions to ask, and don’t have the answers to questions about our events goals.
  • Many planners don’t think this step is necessary. They want to get things going as soon as possible. 

Six Factors That Can Help You Define Your Goals

I’m here to share with you that it isn’t as hard or time-consuming once you have a framework that will yield a result.  Planners, remember your definition of success may differ from your client’s so make sure you know what theirs is by getting answers to these questions.  Clients, embrace the inquiry from planners. That’s how to compromise on the right goals and execute your event strategy.

In addition to securing a successful outcome and well worth everyone’s time and commitment, the residual benefit is that it will turn a planner from a simple manager to a trusted advisor – which is a much ore valuable relationship for both clients and planners.

An event is as successful as its goals are clearly defined.  Event goals are defined by assessing the following:

  • Why is the event taking place? What is the event’s purpose?
  • Who will the event serve? Who is the target audience? Who are the stakeholders? This one is tricky because most events need to simultaneously serve their attendees, but also sponsors, the brand and those that invested in the event. And, let’s not forget the community of people joining in online. 
  • How will success be measured? What does success look like? Feasibility of success?
  • How are your brand goals aligned to the event?
  • What action do you want your audience to take? Do you want them to donate money to a cause? Purchase your upcoming products? Or get them to return for a future event. 
  • What’s the budget or budget range? Your events budget won’t change your goals, but it will determine if you executed them efficiently.

While the above may seem obvious, the strategic inquiry is easy to forgo for both client and planner when the event date is looming and there is pressure to deliver.  And frankly, it is sometimes easier to delve straight into the details, as it is familiar territory for planners, rather than looking at event strategy  holistically.

Building Upon Your Event Goals

This process will identify how to replicate success, grow from challenges, and innovate for future events on the back of the goals you’ve defined. Following an event,  you have all the knowledge from what just took place fresh in your mind. What worked and what didn’t work, feedback from your stakeholders and how it can be improved.  Here’s a simple framework to build upon for future events.

Start by answering the questions created at the front-end of the project during the pre-event strategy phase.  

  • Were your outlined objectives achieved? What were the successes and challenges in achieving them?
  • What went well, what didn’t go well?  Were these things in your control or out of our control?
  • Did the event strategy serve stakeholders as intended? Stakeholders are defined as internal and external (i.e. a boss, the board chairs, sponsors, exhibitors, vendors, audience and online community).
  • Were pre-determined measurements of success achieved?
  • Did the brand goals remain aligned to the event?  
  • Did the audience take the intended action? Why or why not?
  • Was the budget or budget range met?  Was that budget adequate?
  • Which aspects of the event planning process were successful? Which aspects were challenging? What adjustments do you need to make going forward?
  • Where and how could you be more efficient?

The answers to the above questions should be gathered throughout the lifecycle of the event. A post-event debrief document should be established at the front-end of the project to capture feedback throughout the event process.  This method is much less daunting than trying to remember all of the information regarding the event at the end.

During multi-day events, mini daily debriefs are important not only for making in-the-moment adjustments but also for capturing the successes and challenges of the event itself.  

Getting Feedback A.S.A.P.

In both multi-day events and single day events, getting feedback from stakeholders during the event and immediately afterward is important.  And, all too often, it’s a part of the event planning process that gets skipped over as events end. This feedback can take the form of live focus groups during the event or just after; follow up calls; app integrated surveys in situ or post-event email surveys; and lastly, through social listening and analytics.

An event is as successful as its goals are defined.  The effort of the post-event debrief simply requires three key ingredients:

  • A clear “why” on the front end.
  • Good documentation throughout.
  • An effective post-event debrief with internal and external stakeholders.

This completes the successful framework for your event planning process and provides you with a successful framework you can use for your next event.  How easy is that?! As events transform from parties to strategic investments for organizations, defining event goals is not only worthwhile but critical to your success.  Linder Events has an internal project kickoff for all new and repeat business to share research, reveal new thinking, and present new ideas, formulating questions to solidify their role as trusted adviser and, ultimately, to guarantee success.  While everyone’s questions and event planning process may differ it is essential to define the goals of every event.

While everyone’s questions and event planning process may differ it is essential to define the goals of every event. Tell us about your approach to defining your strategy and goals. Leave a comment below or, join Social Tables at any time on Twitter. 

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