We ignore the calls to “define our objectives” like we do our doctors’ advice to “eat healthier” and “get more exercise.”
There is no singular task that is more important to determining the success (i.e. true value) of your meetings than defining your objectives. I challenge anyone to suggest otherwise. You’ve probably heard this multiple times from multiple sources for multiple years (or even decades).
But the fact is that most industry professionals aren’t measuring the value of their events, and those that are, aren’t using the information gained in any meaningful way. We claim that:
We don’t know how
We don’t have the expertise
We’ve never done it before
It’s someone else’s job
It’s got nothing to do with my job of planning a successful meeting (I actually heard this from the lips of a seasoned meeting planner)
These are just some of the excuses we heard from meeting professionals interviewed as part of MPI’s Business Value of Meetings research.
Believe me: Objectives are the most critical component in the so-called Meeting Value Chain, which help you and your stakeholders understand what’s at stake when you invest time and resources in the planning and execution of meetings and events. Understanding this Meeting Value Chain not only helps you deliver a more valuable meeting experience, it also helps you be—and be perceived as—more strategic.Needs > Goals > Objectives > Activities > Outcomes > Impacts > Needs
The Meeting Value Chain ensures that the needs, goals and objectives you establish for your meetings are aligned with actual outcomes and ultimately, business impact. If you omit or remove any of these elements, you interrupt the value chain of your meeting and you won’t connect or translate a need, for example, to an outcome or impact.
Objectives represent a critical component in the chain because they serve as the link between the needs of your meeting participants and whether those needs are addressed. Objectives operationalize participant needs into something actionable and measurable. If you do not understand the Meeting Value Chain for your meeting, it won’t deliver any value. Start by asking yourself these questions.
What are the needs of my target audience?
What are their goals?
What, therefore, are the objective(s) of my meeting?
What kinds of activities will help my attendees accomplish their objectives?
What are some meeting outcomes I can expect to see and measure?
How will I determine and communicate the impact of this meeting to our business?
Defining objectives may not be easy. You may even loathe it. But remember that without them, you risk wasting your attendees’ time and your own. Don’t just plan meetings, be an Ambassador of Value. And visit MPI's business value of meetings research page for the tools you need to show your value.
This article is a supplement to the white paper Defining Your Objectives, part of MPI's Business Value of Meetings research initiative, supported by AIBTM and the MPI Foundation.
John Nawn is founder of design firm, www.theperfectmeeting.com, which focuses on optimizing the attendee learning experience. He also serves as Chief Experience Officer for the Thinkubator, a creativity and innovation lab in Chicago. John regularly blogs and tweets about Meeting Design, the future of meetings, and related topics, speaks at industry events, and writes a regular column on formal and infor