The Meeting Planning Triangle

February 3, 2017

 Welcome to Dana’s Meeting Minutes! Every other week I will share Three Tips and One Awesome Idea for Innovative Association Planners. Wow!


Each blog will stand alone, but will also build on the previous blogs. I will give you actionable ideas that will make your job easier, impress your stakeholders, and/or make your participants say, “I love that!”


Most installments will be short and concise. I will provide links to additional resources, including other planners’ great ideas, just in case you want to learn more about a topic.


I’ll start by introducing you to THE MEETING PLANNING TRIANGLE©, a simple way to plan new and critique existing association meetings. Link to .pdf.


Its strength is centered on your meeting’s well-written objectives that will guide decision-making in three key areas: 1. Target Audience 2. Meeting Design and 3. Participant Experience.


Objectives are the foundation for your meeting and provide guidance and instruction for planning it. Planning without objectives is like building without blueprints. You have no directions to follow! I’ll share tips about objectives next time.



This is the basic structure of your meeting: where you’re having it, when you’re having it, and what you’re doing once you’re there. For example, your meeting is in Chicago (location); starting on a Thursday, ending on a Sunday in the spring (timing); and includes breakout sessions, special events, and exhibits (SOE). Of course the schedule of events (SOE) will be very detailed; just go with this for the example.



Planning a participant experience is based on the understanding that how a participant feels about being at your meeting influences how s/he rates his/her return on investment (ROI) and desire to return in the future.


All meeting aspects will fall under one of the three areas. The areas where they merge is where you fine-tune your planning. If you stick with me, you will gather tips about all aspects.


You may notice one major missing aspect—the budget. It is not a focus area because it influences each area in its own way. I will remind you to remember your budget as you consider my tips and awesome ideas in each blog.




Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, has been planning meetings for associations for more than 30 years. She recently decided that coaching meeting planners is now more fun than proofing BEOs, counting coffee cups and writing scripts. If you think a bit of coaching could improve your meeting, send a message via her website!

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