Before you start planning any kind of event, the first thing to do is define your event goals and objectives. Many planners dive right into planning without even considering this crucial bit of information.
Don’t make this mistake! Setting event goals and objectives will actually make planning your event much easier.
What are event goals and objectives?
The terms “goals” and “objectives” are often used interchangeably. However, they each have distinct meanings:
- Goals are usually specific and measurable.
- Objectives are the strategies and steps that you use to reach your goals.
Use these tips to set event goals so you can maximize the event’s impact:
Step 1: Identify the Event Goals
When determining the goals behind the event, you are simply documenting the purpose of the event. Why is the event taking place?
Here are some key questions to consider when you are setting and defining event goals and objectives:
- Why are you having this event?
- Why are you inviting attendees to your event?
- What are the key things you want an attendee to walk away with?
- How will you specifically measure your success?
Keep the big picture in mind
The right event goals should align with the brand’s overall marketing as well as the company’s mission statement. For event planners, remembering the big picture can be really helpful since their minds are normally focused on a million little tasks and deadlines.
Define key performance goals
Understanding the “why” is important — but you also need to quantify your goal.
When working with performance goals, focus on what you can control. For example, you can’t really control how many of your attendees choose to return for next year’s conference. But you can assess the number of sales made before, during, and after the conference. And how many qualified leads you obtained. And how many of those leads your team followed up with in the months after. The list can go on and on.
It may seem obvious, but when decision-makers look to measure the success of the event, they may suggest things that are simply out of your control. That’s why the way you phrase your goals can be so important when communicating expectations to your higher-ups.
20 measurable KPIs to use for event goals
Regardless of your objective, one or more of these main event KPIs should be a great fit for your needs:
- Cost per customer acquisition
- Total number of qualified leads acquired at the event
- Sponsors highly rank their satisfaction with the event
- Individual promo code tracking link performance
- Gross revenue
- Total number of registrations
- Social media mentions using designated event hashtag on each platform
- The majority of attendees polling highly satisfied with event speakers
- Number of total active community members after event (compared to total number before the event)
- Numerical results from attendee satisfaction surveys
- Number of total event check-ins compared to registrations as a percentage
- Net Promoter Score
- Event community engagement online as measured by social media interactions OR specified activity on event app
- Live event app polling
- Social media posts, likes, and shares pertaining to the event
- Ticket sales and individual ticket type performance
- Cost to revenue ratio
- Individual sponsor page engagement on the event website
- Number of repeat attendees (for recurring events)
- Total new customers acquired
Event software is especially helpful for measuring these KPIs, so make sure you have a reliable platform ready to go ahead of time with all the features needed to capture your chosen data.
Step 2: Make your goals “smart”
When setting goals, I love to work with SMART goals, which are:
For instance, saying you want to “host the best marketing conference ever” is not very specific or measurable. A goal to “plan a week-long country music festival by the end of the month” is time-based and specific, but it’s probably not attainable or realistic.
It’s great to reach for the stars when setting your goals, but think realistically of what you can actually achieve. Usually, I like to write down lots of ideas for the goal first. Then, I narrow the list and combine the ideas to come up with one solid goal.
If you’re not sure what these “smart” goals should look out, check out the examples later in this post.
Step 3: Develop an Event Strategy
The next step is thinking through your event strategy. Once you know your event goal — and you’re confident and passionate about those goals — it’s time to figure out how you’re going to reach them.
When thinking strategy, I like to think of it from two perspectives:
- From the perspective of you, the planner
- From the perspective of your attendee
How will both the planning team and the attendee help realize the goals? Start to ask yourself questions like:
- What educational measures (i.e. speakers, panelists) do you need to put in place to accomplish this goal?
- Will you need speakers or any educational content to reach your goal?
- If it’s a social event, what is your social goal for your attendees and how will you encourage this interaction?
- What entertainment is needed to reach the social satisfaction you require for this event?
(These are just a few of the questions that you should ask yourself. For a more detailed goal plan, check out my Goal Planning Worksheet.)
You may find that your strategy might involve some mini-goals. Mini-goals and milestones are what you might need to set to get your ultimate goal — that is OK.
As you brainstorm, map out your plan. This plan can be an outline, a project plan, or another document. It should highlight the goal you set and detail the actions you’ll take to reach those goals.
Step 4: Make Connections
No two events are exactly the same, but all focus on creating connections in one way or another. Maybe attendees connect with each other, with content, or with an idea.
You need to think about how to create those connections. For instance, if the goal of the event is to teach attendees, you need to think about what attendees are learning, why they’re learning it, and how you want to teach them.
With these answers, you can start to build out the essential items like speakers and content.
Finally, make sure that your goals are transparent to your attendees so that they are assisting you with accomplishing your vision along the way.
4 Smart Event Objectives Examples
Real-world examples can help you see what’s possible. A few notes about these examples:
- Most published case studies showcase outstanding events. They’re probably not the norm. When setting goals, it’s best to assume that you’ll be the one to follow the rule, not be an exception to it.
- In these examples, the event was successful and they also moved the business forward.
About the event
Seattle GeekWire Magazine hosts an annual gathering of tech enthusiasts, investors, and entrepreneurs that attracts more than 600 attendees each year. Their one day only event is jam-packed with speakers, startup demos, and networking. Because they are one of the few industry events of its kind, networking is the #1 priority for most attendees.
Find a solution that helps attendees network with one another while also measuring event effectiveness.
- Specific: The goal was to find and implement a solution for this issue.
- Measurable: Thanks to linked software, they could track the relative success of the solution.
- Attainable: There are plenty of options available for helping attendees network — they just had to pick the right one.
- Realistic: Limiting their goal to a single solution helped keep this realistic.
- Time-based: Their deadline would have to have been far out enough that they could find, purchase, and test it before the event
With this in mind, event planners wanted to find a unique way to enhance attendee experience that was both on brand and enjoyable for attendees.
Which is why they came up with smart event badges that allowed users to scan each other’s badges to acquire virtual business cards along with a number of other cool features.
And because their solution was inherently linked to data-gathering software, they were able to track participation and other event KPIs at the same time.
Maison & Objet
About the event
MAISON&OBJET, an event geared toward lifestyle-related professionals, hosts four main events every year and has an international audience.
Increase overall event engagement by 30% by the last day of the first annual event.
- Specific – They could have chosen a specific facet of event engagement but because they were focused on the big picture for all their yearly events, this unifying goal checks out.
- Measurable: Their mobile event app made it possible to measure community engagement over time.
- Attainable: Not only did they reach their goal, but they also surpassed it, reaching an increase of 350%.
- Realistic: By keeping expectations low (starting at 30%), they were able to skyrocket past their original goal. If they had decided to increase their goal by 500% (to reach a competing sales or marketing objective) the event would have been considered a failure.
- Time-bound: With a specific date in mind, this event becomes completely SMART.
To encourage event engagement and more engagement in future events, the planners decided to focus on bringing people together both on and offline.
Their solution: a mobile event app that gathers the community together before, during, and after each iteration.
About the event
One of Marketing360’s clients was concerned about getting more people to register for their upcoming event.
Because the agency had done a similar event the year before, they knew how many conversions they previously achieved and decided to choose a modest (but realistic) goal.
Achieve 5% more event ticketing website visitor conversions than the previous year.
- Specific: The brand knew what they wanted to do down to the exact percentage and how they wanted to go about doing it.
- Measurable: Because their goal involved their website, it was easy to look at analytics and track their progress.
- Attainable: For website conversion, a single-digit goal is considered modest. If your event website factors into your goal setting, keep your numbers low to start out.
- Realistic: By hiring a third-party marketer to oversee the changes, the client knew the results were nearly guaranteed. Especially when they took the marketer’s other client successes on similar projects into consideration.
- Time-based: Ticket sales for events end at a specific date and time so those parameters determined the timing of this goal.
Through an enhanced design and strategically placed conversion tools, they ended up with a total of 6.84% more conversions.
About the event
One of the biggest goals for a client of Maritz Travel was to streamline their entire event production and marketing. Sounds like a common (and generic) goal — but they turned it into something much more strategic.
Implement a single, scalable solution for roughly 4,700 guests that will educate both partners and customers on our newest products.
- Specific: They need only one product to help them with one objective.
- Measurable: Customer education is tough to measure, but because they used event management software, they were able to capture data on each attendee’s activities and booth interactions.
- Attainable: Finding the right event tech solution is tough, but certainly possible.
- Realistic: Most solutions of this kind deal with more than their projected number of guests, so anything they chose could certainly handle their 4,700 attendees.
- Time-based: Because the solution was to be used at the event, the event date itself was the given timeline.
Event objectives affect everything else, too
I am passionate about event goals and objectives because I believe that when you figure them out for your event, all other planning seems to just be pieces to the puzzle. Your event budget, theme, speakers, and entertainment will all have a place and will ultimately have commonality with your goal.
Need a resource to help you with event goal-setting? Check out my Goal Planning Worksheet to help you get started with event objectives and goals examples, plus other tips for planning for your event.