So you’ve been asked to organise an event for your organisation? Before you can do anything else, and get down to any planning at all, you need to decide on scope and specifications. There are a number of crucial questions that you need to answer as you work through the process of making decisions on these issues.
Do you have a budget?
Your budget will define important decisions like your venue, format, and the number of participants. A big budget will give you a lot of scope. If you are working on a very tight budget, however, you may need to be very creative with the type of event, and optimise your budget at best. However large your budget, though, ultimately you still have to work within it. It is therefore worth going very carefully through the rest of these questions to ensure that you can do so and still meet your objectives. If you have a complete mismatch between budget and needs, you may need to negotiate one or other again. Alternatively, it may be useful to explore options for event sponsorship. However, be aware that this is not necessarily an easy answer.
Why are you thinking of holding an event?
You need to consider why you are holding an event rather than using another marketing or communications activity instead. The answer to this lies in what you actually want to achieve from the activity. In other words, you need to be absolutely clear about your objectives, and also the measures that you will use to assess whether you have been successful. Once you have agreed your objectives and measures with your senior managers, then you can consider whether an event is really the best way to achieve them. There are multiple layers to this question, and it pays to explore them all thoroughly, with senior managers involved. Events are expensive, and it is best not to be committed without good reason. Challenging the person who asked you to organise an event may be difficult, but not as hard as explaining why the event has not delivered the desired results.
What is the main message of the event?
You need to be absolutely clear on the main message of the event. This will drive the content that you want to share and explore, and therefore both your programme and your speakers. This means knowing what topics you want to cover, and how much time you want or need to give to each. It is also worth thinking about what sort of interactions you want between your participants. All these things affect the format and design of the event, so are worth getting straight early on. It is also worth ensuring that you have senior management buy-in to these issues, as they are so fundamental.
Who is your target audience?
This question is well worth unpacking a little. The real issue is who you want to have at your event. This means thinking about what type of delegates you want in terms of demographics, business and job types. Do you want to attract a particular group, such as CIOs or CEOs, or would you like a much broader audience to improve networking opportunities? Is there a strong industry focus, or are you looking for a little ‘cross-pollination’? Do you want a large audience, or would you rather have a few key decision-makers? All these questions are worth considering, because they affect how you publicise the event, and also whether you consider making it invitation-only.
What format will be best?
Once you have considered all these questions, the final question to answer is about the format of your event. Be prepared to think broadly about options. It may well be that the large-scale two-day formal pay-to-attend conference that you had envisaged, with invited speakers and breakout sessions, is actually not the best way to meet your objectives. Instead, you may be better off with a series of shorter events, or a much smaller event with invited participants, or even a webinar or two. It may actually be the case that your objectives can be best met by doing something completely different: developing and publishing a white paper, for example, or using and hosting MeetUps. It is therefore worth going back to the beginning of the questions again one last time, and asking yourself ‘Do I really need to hold an event?’.