The Event Brief: What, why, when, and where
The first step when planning any event is to develop a clear direction with goals, objectives and particulars around the size, spend, desired venue, and theme. This isn’t just for corporate events! I urge all my clients to go through this exercise for every event they plan, even social events. An event brief covers these bases and is a great tool help materialize your vision.
A brief is a commonly used tool in marketing and design as it helps to communicate the purpose, goals and vision of a particular project. The event briefing process accomplishes the same thing. This is the first step of the planning process and it forces you to really think through all aspects of the event: why you are hosting it, what your goals are and what success really looks like. Once you and your team are on the same page you can get to the fun part, creating a memorable experience for everyone involved!
When developing your event brief, get your internal stakeholders together for a formal brainstorming session. This usually includes the executive sponsor or person requesting the event, project or event manager, and senior team members who might be helping to execute on the plan. This shouldn’t include everyone who will contribute to the event. A good rule of thumb is to include those who will be making big decisions later on like vendor or site selection.
A solid event brief should, at a minimum, address the following:
Why are you hosting this event? Specifically, what are you trying to accomplish? There can and oftentimes should be multiple objectives for one event. Even if you think this is an obvious answer, work together with your team to answer it. Brainstorm. You might all have very different, yet valuable, ideas.
Some possible examples for a public facing corporate event: brand recognition, meet new clients/make sales, deepen existing relationships, launch a new product, grow mailing list. Some examples for internal events: train employees on new strategy or messaging, reinforce previous training, recognize and reward employees, team-building, collaborate with colleagues based in different regions
The specific things you want to accomplish. Typically there should be a goal, or desired outcome that aligns to each objective. Your goals should always be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound). Metrics used to measure performance towards goal become your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
For example, if your objective for the event is to grow your mailing list a corresponding goal could be: Add 250 individuals to our mailing list by the final day of the trade show.
This is SMART because it is specific and measurable by calling out 250 individuals. We will assume that this is referring to a trade show with 2,500 attendees. Adding a little less than 10% of the total number of attendees to your email list is certainly an achievable and realistic goal. It is time bound because the deadline listed is the final day of the show.
Read more about Objectives and Goals here.
When do you want to host the event? Are your dates flexible or would you consider alternate dates? How long will the event last? Is this a single day, half day or multi-day event?
What resources are you able to dedicate to the planning and execution of the event? Who is the overall Event Manager or Lead and who will be on the event team? What will each person do? Will you engage with a 3rd party to handle some aspects like logistics or day of coordination? It is important to be honest about workload and capacity of existing team members. What resources do you need to free up to utilize between now and then? For example, if you want this 100 person event to happen in 3 months you need to buckle down now and assign resources to the project.
Tone and Environment
What vibe are you looking to create? Fun? Inspiring? Warm? Connected? Professional? Exciting? What should attendees at the event feel when they are there? How do you want people to remember the event?
This is a very important number. Your budget informs everything! It will determine where you can host your event, which speakers you can engage, your decor and entertainment options. It is really important to get a sense of what you can spend before you choose a host city or start sourcing meeting venues.
Are you already using an event brief in your planning process? Are you using something like it but calling it something else? Let me know in the comments!