Business Meetings 411: Decision-Making Tools for Event Planners

Decision TreeFor event planning, delayed decisions can be costly. They lead to a shorter time-frame for execution and this can significantly increase errors. Poor and delayed decisions also have a huge cost in terms of wasted time, missed opportunities, the need for re-work and the level of anxiety which employees and suppliers experience. Delayed decisions can also increase the cost of events as clients must pay top dollar for venues, airfare and other supplies.

Using the right suite of tools can greatly improve a group's effectiveness in making decisions.

To generate a list of options, use some of the tools we discussed in 6 Brainstorming Tools for Event Planners. Force Field Analysis, which was discussed in this blog, is an excellent tool for identifying the barriers and support for implementation.

When the time comes to make a decision, here are a few strategies and tools that organizations can use to expedite the decision-making process.

  1. Decision Trees: Pictured at right, decision trees are a type of flowchart that provide a graphical representation of options, choices and the results of each option. They can be simple or complex, incorporating financial data or probabilities.

    Start by listing the decision on the left  or at the top (e.g. choose a supplier). Then draw an arrow and list all options. From each options continue to branch out and list choices and the outcomes or costs of each choice. Decision trees will help meeting participants quickly sort out which options are viable and those that lead to dead ends.
  2. Cost-Benefit Analysis: List all options. Identify all benefits and advantages for each option. Then, generate the associated costs and disadvantages. This approach is an excellent way of narrowing options down to those that are most viable.
  3. Priority Grids: Avoid using weighted averages as totals can blur distinctions between options. Instead, create a table. In the first column, generate a list of decision making criteria. Create a matrix and, in the second column, beside each criteria, identify which criteria are:
    • Very important
    • Important
    • Neutral
    • Unimportant
    • Very Unimportant
    Across the top, list the options under consideration. Place a check mark beside all criteria that a specific option meets. In the bottom row, total the number of ticks beside the Very Important and Important  criteria. When rating the options, shortlist those options with the highest totals.
  4. Point System: Give each meeting attendee "a point." Give attendees who are subject matter experts an extra point so that their input will carry more weight. For groups with a lot of kinesthetic or visual learners, use a flip chart with a list of options and colored dots or index cards with the options, medicine cups, plus bingo or poker chips to represent points. Once you have short-listed the options, take a break and give attendees an opportunity to "cast their vote". Analytical and structured learners can use standard ballots or a show of hands for voting.
  5. Give Everyone a Say but not a Vote: One of my former VPs used to say this and it makes sense for mission critical decisions. It also makes sense as a strategy for obtaining input from a large group. Definitely use meetings to ensure that all issues and concerns are aired and that all options are explored. (Business Meetings 411: Ensuring Balanced Participation provides some helpful tips for this exploration.) Then, give 2 or 3 senior team members the task of taking this input away, carefully considering all options and making the final decision.

Photo Credits: Vichaya Kiatying-Angsule at

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