Blueprint for Successful Meetings: Begin With the End in Mind

In our series to help travel advisors profit from the burgeoning meetings market, let’s begin with step 1 of the 9 steps that this series will cover in the coming months.

The first step is always to understand the goals and objectives of the meeting. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small board retreat or a several thousand attendee conference or trade show. As the meeting planner or out-sourced specialist contracted to assist, you must understand the purpose and expected outcomes of any meeting or event in order to plan. The most important step in planning an exciting event is to develop clear goals and measurable objectives.

Before confusion sets in, let's go through the questions that may already be running through your mind.

Where do the goals and objectives come from? Goals are usually determined by the senior management or board of directors of the company.

What are goals? Simply stated, they are long range plans of action for the company or organization. For example, a company's goal may be they want to increase trade show attendance by 10 percent in 2013 and by 15 percent in 2015.

What are objectives? Objectives are the steps or actions that must be taken to achieve the goal. Using the same example from above, the goal of the current meeting or event may be to increase the attendance by 10 percent. In order to achieve this goal, the objectives might be to market to a new demographic such as college students, find a new location for the event that would be more enticing, and find new types of vendors for the trade show.

But more than just objectives, you need to have SMART objectives. Applying the definition from Meeting Professionals International’s Planning Guide Manual, a SMART objective is:  Specific – to increase attendance, Measurable – to increase attendance by 10 percent, Achievable – to increase by 10 percent not 50 percent, Relevant – objective relates to increasing attendance and Timely – to increase attendance 10 percent by 2013.

Should I ask what areas or tasks they need of me before I inquire about goals and objectives? No! Understand the scope of the event first. You need to know if you can help them and you may find other areas that you can help with that the client didn’t realize could be out-sourced.

If you find yourself working with an inexperienced planner who doesn’t know the goals or objectives, just asking questions about the goals and objectives could help them plan a smoother event and give you an opportunity to find other ways to contribute. The more you can contribute, the higher your fees and company revenues.

The success of the meeting results from the expected outcomes having been met to the satisfaction of the client. And your success and reputation depends on how well you met the objectives you were responsible for. Begin with the end in mind and watch your success and revenues grow.

Marla Harr
Meeting & Event Management Consultant

Visit to search and secure your next meeting or to learn more about this venue-search specialist, which provides industry-standard tools in a free, user-friendly format. If you arrange meetings for non-profit associations, visit, which services their unique needs and provides a way for these planners to obtain non-profit or best available rates. MeetingsIn also donates five percent of any fees MeetingsIn receives as a result of sourcing a nonprofit or association meeting through either back to their organization or to a charity of the buyer's choice.

Marla Harr, a contributing writer for MeetingsIn, LLC, is a consultant and trainer for Business Etiquette International ( She can be reached at [email protected] .

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