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Event Planning: Defining Event Goals and Objectives

No one likes to spin their wheels or leave money on the table, which is why the first step in planning an event is defining your event goals and objectives. Here at The Events Calendar,...

No one likes to spin their wheels or leave money on the table, which is why the first step in planning an event is defining your event goals and objectives. Here at The Events Calendar, we help power millions (!) of events for our users each year, so we know a thing or two about the art of planning, promoting, and executing events. The most successful ones—and the ones that sell the most tickets—have one thing in common: They’re clear on their event goals and objectives.

Starting to Define Event Goals & Objectives

Before you begin crafting your specific goals and objectives, spend some time considering your purpose. Your purpose is the big-picture objective that should guide all of your business decisions - maybe your purpose is to advocate for a certain group of people, or to promote a particular political agenda, or to bring educational opportunities to your community.

Event goals are where you start to get more specific. The best goals support your purpose. For example, if you work at a university admissions department and your goal is wooing prospective applicants, your purpose might be to educate potential applicants about your program offerings and campus vibe.

Finally, your objectives create the roadmap to achieving your goals. Objectives are more specific than goals, and they should be written in detail to define the narrow, measurable, and tangible results you hope your event will produce. For example, if your goal is to reach potential university applicants, your objective could be to distribute 200 campus information flyers or to collect 50 email addresses from interested students.

Plus, if you have specific goals and objectives, it’ll be easier to determine which event metrics are most important for measuring success.

Common Event Goals and Objectives

Whether you run a music venue or a house of worship, there are some common event goals and objectives that apply to events across industries. Here are a few examples to help get your wheels turning as you consider how to define your own goals and objectives:

Goal: Sell tickets. Pretty straightforward! Objective: Set a target number of tickets that you hope to sell. Be realistic, but don’t make it too easy to achieve. Use ticket sale data from past events to come up with a feasible number.

Goal: Increase awareness of your brand/business. Objective: There are lots of ways to measure awareness. One is to keep track of how often people share or mention your event on social media. Keep tabs on posts from the event by searching posts at your event location or by encouraging attendees to use a hashtag for your event. Aim for a certain number of attendee posts at your next event.

Goal: Increase registration. Objective: Did 20 people register for your last event? This time, aim to get at least 30 people registered.

Goal: Increase registration among previous attendees and/or new attendees. Objective: Sometimes, your goal is to bring people back to your events; other times, the idea is to attract a new audience. Decide on your ideal ratio of old-to-new attendees and set this as your objective.

What’s Not a Good Event Goal?

“Goodwill” is a term that gets thrown around a lot when it comes to event goals and objectives. Why are we hosting this party? To create goodwill with our clients, of course!

Nope. Don’t do that. That kind of vague, nebulous goal won’t help you plan a great event. Instead, get specific: A better goal could be something along the lines of increasing sales or customer retention.

Another too-broad goal is “giving back to the community.” That’s a fantastic sentiment, but you need to determine how it relates to your organization’s goals. Would a philanthropic gesture improve your brand awareness, for example? Once you connect the idea back to your purpose and goals, you can begin to think about “giving back to the community” in terms of a measurable objective, like “raise $500 for the food pantry.”

S.M.A.R.T. Objectives Are, Well…Smart

You may have heard of S.M.A.R.T. goals. For the purpose of event planning, we’re going to talk about S.M.A.R.T. objectives instead of S.M.A.R.T. goals. Remember: Our event goals are our reasons for hosting an event. Our objectives are how we get there.

Event objectives should be:

S - Specific: What outcome are you aiming for? What’s the deadline? A specific objective could be “enrolling 30% of visiting high school students for the fall semester by July 15.”

M - Measurable: You should measure your objectives with numerical data whenever possible. For example: “100 students visited our campus, and 30 of those students enrolled in fall classes.”

A - Achievable: You want to create objectives that are within reach. Be realistic: “Enroll 600 new students in one day” might not be achievable. Set objectives that motivate you to succeed, but don’t set objectives that are impossible to achieve.

R - Relevant: The objective should relate back to your company’s goals. If it doesn’t, it’s not worth pursuing.

T - Time-bound: Objectives should be time-bound, meaning they have a defined start and end date so you can measure whether you met your goal during the allotted time. Creating S.M.A.R.T. objectives that relate back to your organization’s purpose and goals will keep you on track throughout your entire event planning process, from venue selection to post-event survey questions.

When you have well-defined goals and objectives for your event, it becomes easier to plan events, promote them, and stick to your budget. And when you’re aligned on your goals, it comes through in our messaging, which means you’ll communicate more clearly with attendees. Clear, compelling communication can even increase attendee interest, RSVPs, and ticket sales. And that, my friend, is what it’s all about.

Event Planning: Defining Event Goals and Objectives A picture is worth a thousand words. Image source: The Events Calendar