I remember planning my first major event, a golf outing, at a new job and worrying about how successful it would be. I had that nagging feeling that something was off, but didn’t want to think too much about it because the board of directors and staff were so excited about the event. This was baffling to me, as the event had lost money and been poorly attended for the past five years. They all seemed to feel, however, that my fresh perspective and previous event planning success would make this event prosperous and well regarded for the first time.
The event failed again, even after I executed my arguably outstanding meeting planning skills to present this special initiative with so much presumed potential. But the event didn’t fail because it was poorly planned or poorly executed, and certainly not because the organization’s leadership and staff weren’t 100 percent supportive of it. It failed because the event’s purpose, focus, and program didn’t line up with the organization’s mission, something the board and staff had been ignoring for years.
The organization’s membership had not ignored it. Members were not interested in attending this golf outing, as there were over fifty golf outings offered in the immediate area each year that were bigger and better than ours. What members did need, I later learned, were substantive events and activities that focused on the organization’s actual mission, which was to promote local business concerns like expanding commercial development and attracting and retaining a talented workforce.
Over the previous ten years, despite having a large membership base and strong revenues, the organization’s board had decided to move toward presenting new “fun” activities like golf outings and social networking events. In fact, they believed that these events would help them, individually, build more clients, and thought members would like that too. They also thought that presenting special events like these would be a great way to raise more money, when in reality, many organizations consistently lose money on such events, diminishing their assets over time.1 As a result, a membership exodus led to low event attendance and reduced revenues, and contributed to the organization’s diminished reputation in the community.
Now more than ever before, most organizations and businesses are tenaciously focused on their thoughtfully prepared missions.2 And according to Rachel Nielsen, CMP, founder of Advanced Events, an organization’s meeting planner must play a strong leadership role to ensure that the purpose and focus of the organization’s events align with its mission, as well as with the goals and objectives that support that mission.3
Here are the things meeting planners must consider as they prepare for events:
- Have you reviewed and do you understand the organization’s mission and its related goals and objectives? Your CEO can help guide you.
- Have you determined event goals and objectives that will help the organization achieve its goals and objectives?
- How will you enhance the quality of the event’s program to ensure success?
- Are the issues to be covered relevant and intriguing to your mission?
- Will the speakers help you accomplish your event goals and objectives?
- What are the event’s challenges and how will you address them?
- Do your team members understand the organization’s and the event’s missions, goals, and objectives?
- How will you measure the program’s effectiveness to ensure you are impacting your audience in ways that best serve the organization?
Nielsen recommends that meeting planners use the following tools to ensure successful mission-driven events:
- Elements in the planning process that ensure you address goals and objectives.
- Steps for prioritizing program enhancements as essential and for addressing them.
- Plans for handling individuals or situations that challenge your mission-focused event.
- Methods for keeping all team members engaged in the process from beginning to end.