This week I have a very interesting assignment: I'm facilitating a continuing education workshop for training and development professionals at a Toronto university. You see, long before I became involved in event planning, I was a training and development professional. (In fact, I still have a training and development company.)
During the course of the workshop, it struck me that learning and development professionals and corporate event planners have a lot in common. Putting on an effective training workshop really is an event and professional trainers go through some of the same steps as event planners to pull everything together. Some events (e.g. conferences and business meetings) have heavy learning or educational content. Both functions also face the challenge of demonstrating their value to top management. They are at high risk for cutback whenever the economy tumbles. It also dawned on me that a lot of the content I have been covering about ensuring that training addresses a real business need is directly relevant to event planners.
What can event planners learn from trainers about proving their value to the executive suite?
- Identify key stakeholders.
- Who will pay for the event?
- Who will attend the event?
- Who will benefit from the event?
Anyone who can shape the event or derive benefit from it is a stakeholder. Key stakeholders have clout (i.e. decision-making authority and the ability to release resources and budget for the event.) Others can ensure availability of event participants. One or more of the stakeholders will be your client.
- Be clear about who is the REAL client.
It's rarely the person who calls to request a proposal.
- Schedule an initial project meeting with the client to get a clear picture of what precipitated the request for the event.
- Drill down and uncover the business need that the event is designed to address.
Pinpoint business objectives.
- Identify performance gaps and the role that the event can play in improving corporate performance.
I highly recommend the book Training for Impact: How to Link Training to Business Needs and Measure the Results by Dana Gaines Robinson and James C. Robinson. It's written for trainers but much of it is highly relevant to event planers.