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Event Planning: Defining Event Goals and Objectives

No one likes to spin their wheels or leave money on the table, which is why the first step in planning an event is defining your event goals and objectives.

Good event planning means you know up front what you’re trying to accomplish. Otherwise, why have the event in the first place? Clearly-defined goals and objectives help keep you on target throughout the event planning process. They also help you avoid wasting resources, since every decision involving time and money for your event can be related back to your guiding purpose.

Event Goals and Objectives

Think of your goals as your event’s purpose. They’re the big-picture reason your event exists in the first place, whether it be to inform, to include, to celebrate, to persuade, etc. An example: If you’re a university with the goal of wooing new incoming freshman to apply, your event purpose might be to educate potential applicants about your program offerings and campus vibe.

Your objectives are the roadmap to achieving those goals. Objectives should be written in detail, defining the narrow, measurable, and tangible results your event will produce.

What’s Not a Good Event Objective?

“Goodwill” is a term that gets thrown around a lot when it comes to event goals and objectives. Why are you hosting this big party? To create goodwill with our clients, of course!

Nope. Don’t do that. That’s taking the easy route and it won’t help you plan a great event. Does creating goodwill with clients relate to your company’s goals? Maybe, but we’re going to go out on a limb that your real goal is something along the lines of increasing sales or customer retention.

Another example of a bad objective is “giving back to the community.” That’s a fantastic idea, but not a specific one—and how would you measure whether you were successful or not? So again, you’d need to figure out how this general objective relates to your organization’s goals. Once you know that, you can begin to develop consistent messaging and specific desired outcomes related to the event.

SMART Objectives Are, Well, Smart

You’ve probably heard of SMART goals before. For the purpose of event planning, we’re going to talk about SMART objectives instead of SMART goals. Remember: event goals are our “pie in the sky” purpose for hosting the event, while our objectives are how we get there.

Event goals should be:

  • S – Specific: What outcome, by when? For example, enrolling 30% of visiting high school students for the 2016 semester by July 15th.
  • M – Measurable: How much? The hard numbers we can measure, e.g. “100 students visited our campus and 30 of them enrolled in fall classes.”
  • A – Achievable: Is it relatively likely this goal can be accomplished?
  • R – Relevant: The objective should relate back to the company’s goals. If it doesn’t, it isn’t the company’s objective anymore.
  • T – Time-bound: Can a timeline be created that defines the beginning and end of the period in which we’re measuring? There should be a start and stop point, so you can measure the change between the two.

SMART objectives that relate back to your organization’s goals will stick with you throughout your entire event planning process. Once you have buy-in from the top down, these event goals and objectives will guide your entire process from venue selection through your post-event survey questions.

When you have well-defined goals and objectives for your event, planning, promoting, and sticking to your budget all become much easier. Messaging aligned with those goals comes through loud and clear, increasing attendance and engagement.

A Loxi calendar full of events like this? That’s a beautiful thing.

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