August 01, 2000
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio August 2000 Current Issue
August 2000 Back to BasicsPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

Back to Basics

By Martha Jo Dendinger, CMP


How to evaluate the purpose of an event well before the planning process begins

Meeting managers encounter the following advice in almost every article, book and Web site about planning: “First, you have to know your meeting’s objectives.” All new planners should make that sentence their mantra, because articulating the function’s main objectives is key. Without them, the meeting has no foundation.

Too often, planners review event evaluations while scratching their heads and thinking, “So that’s what the attendees wanted to get out of the meeting.” Or the budget recap comes back with a bloated number but nothing measurable to show for all those spent dollars. These scenarios can be avoided by letting solid objectives set the agenda.

Unfortunately, creating a strong objective is one area few meeting management seminars cover. Even veteran planners forget to focus on this task in their day-to-day management. As an independent planner, one of my pet peeves is when a client’s description of the event I am hired to work on is missing this critical element. Once those objectives are ironed out, we often end up not only changing horses in midstream, but changing streams. the cornerstone

Preparing objectives helps define many areas of meeting management, including marketing, content planning and evaluation. Clear objectives should:

  • Enable potential attendees to determine if the activity is appropriate for them
  • Provide focus for the instructors in preparing material and choosing the most appropriate educational method
  • Serve as an evaluation tool to measure the success of the meeting Written objectives also help in the basic planning of an event or project. For example, the booth size, number of staff needed and appropriate preshow promotions for an exhibit depend on the number of leads desired the ultimate objective.
    Preparing objectives is not glamorous and can be tedious (which may explain why the task is not always done), but it’s not difficult either. There are two types of objectives process and outcome.

    Process objectives relate to internal operations, and effort and efficiency issues. Outcome objectives relate to the impact a meeting or event has on attendees. Outcome objectives also are known as learning, performance, instructional, educational or behavioral objectives when they are for an educational event, and especially when continuing education credit is earned for attendance.

    For well-written educational objectives, the criteria are simple: They must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-related (SMART). Learning objectives also define what the audience will be able to do after attending the meeting, not what the instructor will be presenting during the class.

    Objectives are not the same as the goal of the meeting or a description of the event. For example:
    Goal: To provide an educational opportunity for communications managers to write better copy

    Description: This six-session course focuses on the importance of good writing, the characteristics of useful marketing materials and the pitfalls of sending out badly written materials.

    Objectives: At the end of the course, the participant will be able to:

    1. Understand the importance of good writing in press releases, media kits and company reports
    2. List key elements that should appear in all company communications
    3. Prepare well-written materials that require minimal editing.

    Martha Jo Dendinger, CMP, is an independent meeting planner based in Atlanta.

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