What to do before customizing your conference management software.

Introduction 

If you’re planning an event, it’s important to set goals. Event goals give direction and help make planning decisions that contribute to the success of your event. Decisions and priority setting become easy when you evaluate every tactic against your goals for the event.

It’s important to connect your planning task list with your goals. Although necessary for an in-person event, booking a venue is not an event goal, but boosting brand awareness may be.

Setting appropriate event or conference goals requires balancing aspirations with the realities of what’s possible. While it’s never a great idea to make goals too easy to achieve, it’s also a mistake to make them beyond reasonable reach.

Before you start loading up your conference management software, review these top tips for setting the right goals for your event. 

Start with the finish 

Begin with the end and keep your attendees and sponsors in mind. What do you want your them to walk away with once your event is over? Sched research suggests that the biggest mistake event planners make is to focus on the tactics and lose sight of the attendee and their goals.

Develop a clear understanding of your event’s purpose and map how it connects to your organization’s larger goals before you begin planning your event. This can act as a great filter for the decision-making process. 

Use the SMART framework

The SMART framework is a simple but robust device for clarifying and making sense of your event’s objectives. This system also makes it easier to evaluate the success of your event down the line. Your event goals should be:

Specific 

Your event goals should leave no room for misinterpretation. If the objective is to generate revenue, define a figure. If you want to increase engagement, specify and quantify engagement indicators. For example, X number of times your event hashtag is used on social media.  

Measurable

Setting event goals is futile unless you identify metrics to measure success before planning your event. 

Examples of measures of success could be profit, ROI (return on investment), the number of new attendees, session attendance, post-event satisfaction surveys, social media engagement, or the number of repeat attendees at future events. 

Use your conference management software to measure and analyze your post-event outcomes. If you underperformed on a goal, try to decipher why. Use this information as a focus for improving your next event. These metrics should also serve as a benchmark for future event goals. 

Achievable

Make sure your event goals are realistic. If you set the bar too high, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Nothing demotivates an event team more than unrealistic expectations. Don’t forget to factor in potential roadblocks such as financial constraints. 

Relevant 

Your goals should match the ethos and purposes of both your company and attendees. Who are they? How do they behave and what do they care about?

This is also the time to address whether your goal is worth the effort and resources necessary to achieve it. If you want to generate revenue, aiming to sell X number of t-shirts might not be the best strategy if the cost of producing merchandise is higher than the payoff. 

Time-bound 

You should set a timeframe (and deadline) for achieving and measuring your goals. 

Define short-term and long-term event goals. If you’re hosting a one-off event, these may look similar. However, if you’re organizing multiple events, we advise dividing them into short-term and long-term goals.

Short-term goals are accomplishable within one month or less before your event takes place. Examples include increasing social media engagement during your event or increasing $X revenue via ticket sales. 

Long-term goals are key results that are measurable over a longer period. For instance, securing $X sponsorship for your events in X months or increasing attendance levels. 

Prioritize your event goals

Once you have established your event goals, order them by importance and use that as a guide for your decision-making and event planning process. 

While there’s nothing wrong with having multiple goals, spreading yourself too thin will minimize your chances of success. Instead, define a primary goal and establish the others as secondary goals that complement the core objective. 

Conclusion

Understanding your conference or event objectives is important for virtually every decision you will make. Decisions about budget, conference management software, registration strategies and even your speakers all are easy when the objectives and goals for an event are crystal clear.

Investing some time into this exercise at the beginning will set you up for smoother logistics and happier attendees and sponsors later on. 

It may seem like an overwhelming process, but relying on the SMART framework is a great method for overcoming doubts and getting started with setting the right goals for your next event.