Goal setting is the experience that gives you a “why” for your event and helps you generate a very specific plan on how to perfect your event under your specific circumstances. However, not all goals are equal when it comes to your event.
You’ve probably heard about the mind-blowing Harvard Business Study that estimated the success of MBA graduates based on their goal-setting habits. Only 3% of students had their goals written, and these 3% were the ones earning ten times more than the other 97% put together. Clearly, there are specific goal-setting rules that can set you apart, such as the habit of documenting goals. So, what are the criteria that your event’s success hinges upon? The short answer is SMART.
What is a SMART objective?
The SMART framework is a set of criteria that is used to define objectives across multiple disciplines and processes, from project management to personal development. Basically, the SMART system states that a good goal should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Let’s break it down:
Specific: You have to state very clearly what your event should achieve. Limit your objectives to a specific niche, target market, or a group of clients to achieve better results.
Measurable: This part is usually about numbers, such as dates, ROI estimation, and number of registrations—anything that can give a specific quantitative or qualitative evaluation to your event. Working with measurable results is always easier than with vague predictions.
Attainable: The problem many event organisers have is that they often live in an imaginary land, hoping for illusory things that are impossible to achieve. Setting realistic goals is an important part of success. However, it doesn’t mean you will be able to avoid all challenges. Aim for something that is challenging but still feasible in your particular conditions.
Relevant: Not only should your goals objectively reflect the interests and expectations of your target audience, but they also have to be relevant to each of the goals you set. By focusing on the big picture of your event, you’ll be able to easily spot what’s important and what can be left out.
Time-based: To be able to measure how well you perform with the set goals, you need a detailed timeline. Goals that are aligned with deadlines are easier to control. What’s more, through the management of time-based objectives, you learn to prioritize—a skill that is essential to any event professional.
How to set SMART objectives for an event
Now that you have your benchmarks, your next task would be to align the SMART framework with the goals you need to tackle at different levels of event organisation. Because there are so many of these—from financial to marketing—this challenge is anything but simple. So let’s simplify! Here is our short guide on how to quickly and efficiently establish SMART objectives for event management:
1. Ask yourself first.
You are the one carrying the weight of the event here, so there is no one who can set more targeted goals than you. To develop goals that work for your audience, first analyse whether you have all the resources you need to attain these goals. You can create a list of questions to guide your thoughts. Here are the key questions that could help you out here:
- Why are you inviting people to attend your event?
- What outcomes do you expect?
- What are the channels that you’ll use to promote the event?
- Do you have the metrics for measuring event ROI?
2. Make your goals SMART.
Next, take the list of goals that you came up with at the previous stage and verify each of them against the SMART framework. For instance, if your goal is something like “boost the conversion rates,” you should indicate where the signups should happen (e.g., the event website), how many signups you realistically expect to get, how the goal can benefit your overall situation, and by what time the goal should be achieved.
3. Establish useful connections.
As we’ve already mentioned, it’s your responsibility as the event manager to make sure things work. However, if there are people who can assist you in terms of attaining specific event goals, you should absolutely go for it. With a focus on mutual cooperation, come up with the so-called “help list” where you indicate the contacts of all people or organisations that might be of use, such as sponsors, vendors, and teams of volunteers. Reach out to those who can add value as well as generate value for themselves.
4. Ensure there’s someone who has your back.
According to the study by psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews, it’s easier to attain SMART goals if you have a supportive friend who keeps track of the progress. Even if you are a very organised person, maintaining all the criteria by yourself could be too much. In this case, go and find someone who will help you get your act together, ideally a person acquainted with the event and its main goals.
An example of SMART objectives for events
It might be useful to go through some practical examples of SMART objectives for an event first, especially if it’s your very first experience with event goal setting. Below you’ll find a SMART goal along with a detailed explanation of criteria that makes it SMART:
“Use paid ads on social media to increase the number of attendees from outside Berlin by 30%, compared to the previous year.”
Why is it SMART?
- It’s specific: You indicate what you are going to use (paid ads) and on what platform (social media).
- It’s measurable: You can calculate the number of conversions based on a geographic location.
- It’s attainable: You’ve used evidence from the previous event to determine attainability.
- It’s relevant: There is a clear indication of a specific experience that your results should be verified against (your previous event).
- It’s time-bound: Although there is no explicit deadline, it’s clear from the context that the process is bound to the moment the event starts since no more conversions can be made once an event starts.
The habit of goal-setting is useful in any context, whether it relates to your daily schedule or an important project management issue. However, for many event professionals, the challenge is to create goals that are clearly defined, attainable, and can be measured properly. With the SMART framework, you are less likely to miss an important aspect of your goal-setting experience.