July 2011

“Who’s on first, What’s on second” may be the most famous classic comedy routine by Abbot and Costello, but it could also be a mantra for the questions every event organizer should be asking before they start the process of planning an event.

In order to have a successful outcome, you need to know what you want that outcome to be.  In other words “what are your goals and objectives for the event?”.  Goals and objectives come in many shapes and forms such as learning, financial, communications, organizational, to name a few.  Sit back and ask yourself what is the prime purpose of the meeting?  What is your target audience and what are their needs?  Does the event need to make money?  These simple questions will help you advance to more detailed objectives.

Most business events have some form of learning objective as their root raison d’être.  Whether it is an academic/medical/scientific conference convened to share current research or best practices, or an annual association conference to advance membership knowledge or a sales meeting to release a new product or service, one would be well served to understand the concepts of continuing education and the statement of learning objectives.  The Convention Industry Council’s Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) defines learning objectives as a “formalized statement of outcomes to be anticipated as a result of the educational process”.  Learning objectives need to be measureable, so make sure you can follow through on evaluating the success of your participants in adapting their behaviour based on the knowledge transferred.  Well crafted goals and objectives will enable you to determine your return on investment (ROI).

Corporate events most likely will have a motivational component as well, such as increasing performance by doing more with less or increasing sales.  That being said, the new normal for incentives also includes a significant component of learning and information sharing.  None of us can afford to spend valuable company time solely on a giant party (not that a special social event can’t be part of the recognition aspect of a motivational event).

Does your event have to reach an external audience or are the stakeholders all internal?  This would form the basis of determining your communications objectives which can be turned into tactics further into the planning process.

Does your event have a revenue target for the host organization or has the host organization set aside a certain budget allocation.  These goal questions will be critical when it is time to develop the event budget and will guide many decisions throughout the planning process.

While every event is different and the goals and objectives will vary, UCLA has a good check list which can help you develop your what’s, who’s, where’s and why’s.

Bud Abbot was making statements, while Lou Costello was asking questions because they weren’t clear with each other.  Make sure to learn from their confusion and clearly state and understand your event’s goals and objectives. Your stakeholders and your superiors will better understand your success if you do!

Before you write your goals and objectives, take a moment and check out the classic routine.

Phil Ecclestone, CMP


The Golden Nugget will periodically present event planning and management tips and ideas.  We believe you will find them useful whether you are planning your first event or have hundreds under your belt.  We look forward to the discussion around these golden nuggets by those with limited experience and more veteran planners.  We invite readers to submit suggestions for topics to be discussed.

Golden Planners Inc. is an Ottawa based full service bilingual event management firm which focusses on national conferences.  After more than two decades of helping clients with their event management requirements, we want to share some of the best practices and ideas we have learned along the way.

Feel free to let us know what you think about these subjects and share your knowledge through this blog.

Phil Ecclestone, CMP
Golden Planners Inc.