Planning events with purpose is a powerful way to bring others together, explains Lisa Gareau
In addition to holding everything and everyone in an office or organization together, your role as an administrative professional requires you to hustle even harder to plan events, your executives, internal teams, or key external stakeholders. But when trying to plan events for a business, organization, or group, frustrations and roadblocks can make the task at best unwelcome and at worst almost unbearable. Without a sense of purpose, you may feel powerless in your planning. And you’re not alone!
Planning Without Purpose
Planning events takes time, money, energy, and ongoing investment. It is a reality that in many business environments – especially through the global pandemic – organizers are attempting to plan meetings, events, and other gatherings again, this time with tightly reduced budgets and increasingly limited resources. Without an understanding of the deeper purpose, resources can feel too few and far between, leaving us frustrated and feeling that our event plans are just getting by.
Without a clear direction, we can feel lost. A lack of direction can also be why we settle for “good enough” in our planning and do what’s always been done.
Do you remember that strategic plan?
Yes, that one. Your executive, board, or leadership team spent a whole lot of effort to draft what was to become a motivating pathway forward to great success. It might be in a binder on that shelf in the boardroom or tucked away in that box in the corner waiting for the next office move. But, as we all know, a strategic plan is only as good as the steps taken to put it in motion.
Without a commitment to wrap our long-range plans in purpose, we will wander aimlessly until we land on our event date, but sadly we’ll never land the impact we desire.
You may have heard, “It takes a community to raise a child.” Likewise, it takes a community, team, or committee to help a meeting, event, or gathering become a connection point where our community, team, or committee can gather and grow. Some of us are excited to rally others around to help us plan. Some of us would rather do it alone – since we want it to be done right, of course! (Yes, I’m guilty of going it alone too!)
Engaging the team
No matter how efficient it is to put our heads down and get the job done alone, it takes the input of others to plan an event that reaches a purposeful goal. Without open, inclusive, and clear communication, plans can become stunted and a deeper, a more meaningful, purpose is nowhere to be found.
One of the most discouraging consequences of executing a purposeless plan is the damage of unexpressed feelings of disengagement from your team. When we set unclear or unrealistic deadlines for ourselves or others, overwhelm and burnout can turn a fruitful, fun experience into a futile attempt to fulfil the plans we’ve put in motion. Are those that were once ready to engage now avoiding your calls? Are you avoiding your own calls to action? These are signs that you are planning without a clear purpose.
But there’s hope. When you infuse your event planning with purpose, you can experience a new power in your planning pursuits. As someone that has been planning and promoting events for over three decades, I can confidently say that anyone can learn to clarify the purpose of an event, communicate a clear vision, and develop a workable plan to keep themselves – and the whole planning team – on track!
What Is Purpose?
We have all heard leaders talk about finding, and living, and growing in our purpose. But for busy professionals, the topic of living and working with purpose can feel irrelevant, confusing, elusive, and an exploration best suited for tomorrow.
I get it. Today you have “real” work to do. But if you are feeling powerless in your planning, if you want to create meaningful connections through the events you plan, and if you feel there must be a better way, it’s time to get your head and heart into the real work of planning events on purpose with a purpose that can be shared. We will only achieve our goal and feel a new power in our planning if we intentionally wrap our event plan in purpose.
Clarify Your Purpose
The first order of planning business is to understand your corporate community, its unique culture, and how you are perceived by the wider community that surrounds your event.
Get clear on your collective culture
You might be planning a meeting for an internal team or a group outside of your office walls. To set the foundation of your planning in purpose, take the time to revisit who you are. Your company may be characterized by innovation and taking risks. Your organization might choose kindness as a core virtue, and you carefully infuse each event with thoughtful gestures. Maybe your group – like our team here at Candy – values a playful approach to work. We are not afraid to add an element of fun to our focused support for planners. Whatever your culture, it determines the unique difference your business, organization, or group makes in the world and should be captured in the events you plan.
Get to know your event audience
Open your spreadsheet of invitees. Read the names and imagine what their world is like. What do they do in their professional role? How do they enjoy their personal time? What other expectations are pulling for their attention at work or at home? Who will happily choose to attend the event you are planning? Who will attend but will resent it as an inconvenience? What will matter to those in attendance? What will you – or others – hear as they walk the corporate hallways the next day, week, or year following your event? Knowing who will be in the room, and why they are there, can inform you and give you a powerful perspective in your planning.
Get connected to create a positive community impact
Now that you have spent time getting clear on your culture and getting to know what is motivating your event guests, it’s time to look at the potential community impact created through the meeting, event, or gathering you intend to plan. The effect of an “impact” can be positive, negative, or fall somewhere in between. If we are honest with ourselves, some events we’ve planned have come in like a meteor and have had a negative impact on those in attendance. Of course, we didn’t mean to affect our guests in this way, but when we disregard the purpose and perspective of our wider community, we may create confusion instead of connection and a crater where our community used to be! There is a positive power in wrapping our planning in purpose and doing everything we can to stay connected with our community before, during, and after our event.
Communicate Your Purpose
Second, the power of purposeful planning is strengthened when others join in the journey and adopt your vision of what’s possible.
Prepare the ground for purposeful planning
Before you can start the planning process, you must take the time to prepare the ground on which you want to plan. If you don’t, your purpose will shake, your event scope will shift, and the change will shake the confidence of your team, stakeholders, and guests. Once you’ve prepared the ground you can present the purpose to others. What elements of your purpose are you trying to communicate? Has the purpose of your event been shared before, in this way? Have you set your event on a new foundation with a new purpose? What are the non-negotiable details that need to be shared, and where? Your event’s “who,” “where,” “what,” and “how” are important details, but don’t miss communicating the “why”!
Rally event champions around a collective vision
It’s exciting when talented colleagues add their time, energy, and expertise to the planning of your event. It’s motivating when committed committee members readily communicate the purpose of your event to those in their circles. It’s energizing when your guests happily say “YES!” to your RSVP in a timely manner. But these responses don’t happen by chance. Each of these groups will need you and your ability to set a firm foundation, rally champions, and adjust your message so the event’s purpose is clearly expressed. Once you’re clear on your event purpose, communicating your plan will come with ease, and others will naturally want to be involved and share the vision!
Set your team up with a confidence-building process
The return on your investment so far is that your event purpose will naturally show up in your event plans. Your decisions will be filtered through your purposeful plan. You will feel at ease. Your team will show up engaged. And your guests will look forward to showing up – not just for you, but with you! It’s now time to strategically engage your people, create easy-to-follow processes, and set planning milestones that are meaningful to each member of your team. Regular goal-setting meetings can help your team relax into the planning and will create confidence in each decision as it’s made.
Develop a Purposeful Plan
Many times, it’s in planning the details that an administrator’s skills start to shine. Now add the power of purposeful planning, and you’ll be ready to become a strategic partner who uses events to build better connections for the broader good of your internal team, the business, your organization, or the group you serve.
Put your purpose into action by making a plan
Becoming a purposeful event planner isn’t about going higher; it’s about getting deeper into what matters. Drawing out the best in yourself, your team, and those who will be in attendance takes putting your purpose into action and setting your ideas free to make a positive impact. The framework of your event plan at this stage will be strengthened by strategically adding your purpose to each element like a load-bearing wall. Build your plan, work your plan, but be sure to check that your plan aligns with your purpose at every phase.
Evaluate your resources and energize those that can help
By now you’ve made sure your foundation is strong, but be sure to keep it flexible enough to welcome the input and ideas of others. Understanding who is on board, and what resources they can apply to the success of the event, will assure your executive and team that you can reach the results you set out to achieve. What do you need to accomplish your planning goals? Where can you go to increase your resources or enhance the resources you have? Where can you trim out what is not aligned to your purpose? Lean into your event purpose, decide what matters most, and apply your planning time and money to the areas that reinforce that purpose.
Talk through priorities but stick to your purpose
The closer you come to your event date, the more your purpose will be challenged. You will face conflicting priorities and challenges as time shortens and the number of critical tasks increases. Remember, planning events takes a community. When a community shares in both the work and the benefits of a job well done – everybody wins! When faced with challenges, find a champion to cheer you on. When your tasks seem too many to master, find committed peers who can help. Including all your stakeholders in the process will help to ensure everyone has a say and an opportunity to contribute. When they are part of the plan, they will dig deep to help and will also feel they have a hand in the wins.
Planning events with purpose is a powerful way to bring others together. Once you embrace the work of becoming a purposeful planner by clarifying your purpose, communicating your vision, and creating a workable plan, you’ll be able to apply the power of purpose to any area of your work and life. Now that’s a reason to add the power of purpose to your planning!