Whenever we plan an event, an in-depth meeting, a social gathering, or virtual experience Reach Partners will always argue for the same thing. Every time.
This thing is the most important detail for every planned interaction. It is the life blood of our work and what drives us to do better every day. Most importantly it’s the power, the energy that fuels the work at hand.
How do you tap into this energy? How do you make it work for you? Draw the right audience? Craft the right marketing activities? Align stakeholders? Create value?
You start by defining purpose.
Defining purpose is the foundational step before planning any activity or event. You need to understand the “why” before defining the “how.” In other words, you need to establish why you’re doing what you’re doing before you examine the budget, before booking a virtual meeting platform or venue, before selecting a date.
Why is your activity’s why so important? It provides focus and clarity. Purpose drives a competitive edge.
In The Secrets of Facilitation, Michael Wilkinson defines 5 Ps that should be considered before working on any presentation, meeting, or conference. Purpose is the first – followed by product, participants, probable issues, and process.
When you understand the purpose, you can determine the details that will give shape and depth to your purpose – the audience, clients, customers, or employees; the skills, information, and content needed. Purpose is a tool to make effective decisions. It orientates the direction in which you wish your event to go.
Asking why is hard work. We’re lazy. We’re uninspired. We don’t have time. It feels like a luxury. We worry whether it will actually make a difference. After all, we’ve done this [fill in the blank] gathering before, so we don’t need to define purpose.
This attitude comes from a scarcity mindset that simply doesn’t serve.
Why are we hosting happy hour? What are we calling this virtual meeting? Why is it worthwhile to celebrate a community of women? Why are we looking forward to launching this thingamajig?
In The Art of Gathering author Priya Parker offers a few suggestions on how to decide why we’re really gathering. She recommends that we should start by zooming out. Identify what larger world or universal needs will be addressed or solved.
Reach Partners used this tool when helping a local group plan for a community activity. We examined the group’s values and principles and then identified the universal human need to deepen a sense of belonging. That principle shaped the kinds of events that were appropriate.
Parker’s second recommendation is to drill down. Ask why are we meeting, then ask again, and again, and again until the real nugget of purpose shines through.
We used this approach when working with a tech company to determine the purpose of a corporate event. They needed to generate more leads, but we guided them to dig deeper. After many questions, we established that the event’s purpose was to demonstrate the team’s marketplace knowledge and expertise. The event would showcase various service offerings and deepen client relationships. In the end, this purpose provided more value to the company’s would-be clients.
Thirdly, Parker recommends that we identify outcomes. List what will be different after the event, what outcomes are desired.
Reach Partners used this approach when a client planned an event for farmers and agricultural producers. The client wanted these key partners to get answers to questions they had after a challenging harvest. With this in mind, we recognized that we needed to replace one of the breakout sessions with a speaker focused on a more timely topic.
When defining purpose, always question your intentions and be specific. What do you want to accomplish? What is meaningful? Who are you serving? How will the world or those in attendance be improved? What action items, ideas, infinitives need to linger long, and how long, after the last person leaves the room?
When you uncover those answers, write a purpose statement for the event. This purpose statement will serve as the basis for marketing the activity; it will be the basis for the objectives you require of speakers and other content creators, and will determine who should be in the room and who should stay home. It will establish where and when the event should take place.
Purpose drives everything.