An excellent post recently at Event Manager Blog, 5 Principles to Make Every Minute of Your Meeting Count, hit the mark on a major planning sin I’ve often seen at events of all types and sizes: Trying to do too much. “Most meeting schedules are crammed from minute one to the last second,” wrote guest blogger Jan-Jaap In der Maur.

The root problem, he stated, is setting too many goals for the meeting. That leads to scheduling too many speakers trying to say too much in the available time, with cascading consequences. Things start running late. Q&A gets shortened. Breaks get shortened. Lunch gets shortened. Lost in the fallout is a major benefit meeting sponsors and attendees both seek: Time for interaction and networking.

Among his recommendations, Jan-Jaap says to keep a meeting focused on just one goal. I totally concur.

Before a proposed event can be approved by management, the event owner should be required to submit a plan document, much like a business plan. The document establishes what the goal is and how it will be achieved.

With a realistic goal, event planners have a track to run on in establishing the agenda and selecting the best speakers. That means:

  • Constituencies and stakeholders have a common basis in evaluating proposed content.
  • The speakers don’t waste time repeating each other’s points.
  • Sessions run on time, leaving time for discussion and summarizing key points.
  • Attendees have time to network with each other, with speakers, and with the sponsor’s team.
  • The event owner has time to maximize opportunities for attendee engagement.

A goal is the result of defining a problem or issue. In a blog last year, I suggested that the event team should prepare a written statement of how the event will solve a challenge. Then, you have a framework for developing effective tactics for pre-event promotions, session planning, and content development.

By articulating the challenge and the value proposition—at the event level and at the session level you set the stage for engaging with attendees and defining how the event’s outcomes will be measured.

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