With the new year in full swing, many association’s communications teams are in full swing gathering members to participate in upcoming strategic planning sessions for key events. The end game of any strategic planning session is to effectively produce a solid and comprehensive plan clearly outlining the association’s communications objectives, tactics, roles and responsibilities, timelines, and most importantly, measurable results.  

Successful strategic planning sessions are built upon three key elements: objectives, strategies and tactics. Below are some tips on how to streamline and take your association’s strategic planning sessions to the next level in 2023.  


Who Makes the Cut for Strategic Planning Sessions?

Ever heard the expression ‘too many cooks spoil the broth?’ Having too many members involved in the strategic planning can cause delays in nailing down your strategic plan. To help streamline any strategic planning session ensure to invite only those association members who have a vested interest, experience, and can add value to the planning session.  

During the actual planning session – whether in person or virtually – it’s best to appoint a ‘time keeper’ to keep everyone on track to the required task and ensure everyone stays focused and no one goes rogue!  


Set the Mood for Strategic Planning Sessions

The fastest way to get off track when in strategic planning mode is to have members half in the process. Coming to the session with cell in hand, ringer on and ready to still take calls, or be distracted by texts is a big no-no. Look at the time you set aside for the planning session as a no-phone zone so that everyone involved is focused. Less interruptions results in a mindful and productive strategic planning session that stays on track (and time!).  


Be S.M.A.R.T

Keep the S.M.A.R.T acronym in mind when in strategic planning mode for your association: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time oriented. This will help you to really dig deep and identify your top communications objectives and how to best achieve for your association.  

  • Specific – this is where the need-to-have vs. the-nice-to-have comes into play. What do you need to achieve communications-wise for the upcoming event versus the ones that would be nice to achieve but are not a deal-breaker for the association.   
  • Measurable – a conversation starter and measurable result marker proven to be successful with association when in strategic planning mode is to ask, “What are the top two-to-three communications objectives that if achieved with this event is our association’s idea of success.” This will help to clearly define measurable results for the upcoming event and when reporting back to the Board.  
  • Achievable – during the planning process its important to have hard conversations about what’s achievable within certain timeframes given budget, manpower, upcoming events, and the overall competitive landscape.  
  • Realistic – once you’ve outlined your desired measurable results and what participating members believe to be achievable, it is important to take a step back and ensure that the strategic plan for said event is realistic from a budget, timeline and manpower-standpoint.  
  • Time-Oriented – Timing is everything! Once the plan is developed and you’ve checked the boxes of all the above, then you need to map out the timing behind your strategy and tactics to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Good to have provisions (i.e., Plan B or C) in the timelines in case there are unforeseen bumps in the road. 


Roles & Responsibilities

A critical success factor to your association’s strategic planning sessions is designating roles and responsibilities and ensuring everyone clearly understands the tasks at hand. One weak link in the chain can disrupt the whole process and negatively impact your desired results.  

Strategic planning sessions are great ways to get the association excited about upcoming events and to ensure your association is putting its best foot forward and following a solid plan that will set you up for success.  

As the old adage says, it’s all in the details. Happy planning!