Too often, the obvious questions are the ones that are never asked. When planning a new event or starting the planning cycle for an annual one it is important to start by asking some key questions. Some baseline information is needed to provide a framework for making decisions during the planning and execution phases.

Questions to ask include:

1. Why are we holding this event? Revenue generation, awareness building, professional development, public engagement.
2. Who is the intended audience? Members, potential members, donors, other stakeholders.
3. What is the take home message for attendees? New knowledge, expanded network, lifestyle change.
4. What financial outcomes are required? Surplus, breakeven, lost leader (seen as an investment).
5. What constitutes success? New members, new donors, increased awareness, new revenue steam.

Not only do you need the answers to these questions, you need to ensure that all stakeholders are in agreement with the answers. Solve this challenge by asking the same questions of your organization’s senior management as well as volunteer leaders to ensure you come to a unified answer. It is acceptable to have multiple goals or priorities as long as they are not in conflict with each other and everyone is aware.

Without knowing “why,” how will you know if your event was a success?

As the event manager or event chair it is also important to know who the final decision maker is. Like the five questions above, the answer is not always obvious. In the case of a volunteer committee chair leading an event together with an organization’s CEO, the question of who has the final say can become complex. Do not let this be an issue, simply ask – “who is my boss?” or “who is making the final decision”? One person needs to have final authority and everyone needs to know who that person is.

Once you have agreement on the answers the next step is to write the story of your event. For more on writing your event’s story, please see “Signature Events – A Way to Tell Your Story”. With key questions answered and your event’s story written you will be ready to create a timeline for managing your event. Please see “Creating a Timeline For Your Event” to get you started.

Good luck with your next event!