Are your special events really special?

Dana’s Meeting Minutes is based on the Meeting Planning Triangle. Click here for a link.


I am still exploring Event Design, one third of The Meeting Planning Triangle©, whose strength lies in having well-written objectives for your meeting.


Each of your special events should also have clearly identified objectives that is supported by current needs and participant interests, not those established 33, or even three, years ago. Additionally, planning a special event can soak up a lot of money and staff time, making it imperative that it is a worthy investment.


So, are your special events really special? Would your participants think so? Have you asked them lately? The objective of all special events should be to provide a lovely experience—which can be a challenge with so many types of participants!



Tip #1

Don’t plan a special event just because it’s what you’ve always done.

  • That is, unless you can confirm that it continues to provide that lovely participant experience.

  • Consider whether it’s the special event that is important or the reason for the special event. For example, do you have the 3.5 hour Awards Gala because everyone loves the banquet and award winner honors or is it because the association wants to recognize the honorees in a special way? If it’s the second, how else can you accomplish that?

Tip #2

Participants from multiple generations might have different preferences.

  • There are many people who really love a banquet—the atmosphere, the public recognition, the food(?), the entertainment. They are likely long-time members who would miss it if it were gone. Consider how you can honor them while also including the preferences of younger generations.

  • If your special event is not a banquet, the same thought process applies. How can you create a special experience for each person, regardless of generation? Consider a split-interest event—same destination, different ways to experience it.

Tip #3

Ensure you know the entire cost of implementing a special event.

  • Have you ever tallied the cost of planning and putting on a special event? This includes your time, site visits, printing, publicity, gifts, etc., as well as the obvious costs of f&b, rentals and entertainment.

  • For fun I did some math and came up with $144 per person for 25 hours of planning time and very conservative figures for f&b, printing, entertainment and a gift. Double that for a city-based meeting. Does your ticket price cover it? Is it a $145 experience?


Invite your participants to plan a special event.

Assuming that you are planning to rethink your meeting, ask your participants to help redesign the special event. Schedule a brainstorming session at this year’s meeting, inviting them to respond to key questions, including

  1. What do you think is the purpose of the XX event?  This could be very telling.

  2. If you had no limits on resources what would this XX Event look like? Dreaming big.

  3. If you had very limited resources what could this XX Event look like? Back to reality.

  4. What other ways could we fulfill the purpose?


Read how nonprofit consultant Joan Garry ensures the success of special events. How can you apply her ideas to your events?—How to Create a Successful Special Event


Another nonprofit consultant, Richard Male, writes about fundraising special events. Once again, what can you learn and apply?—How to Make Your Special Events Special


Information disclaimer: WANT MORE? references do not imply an endorsement for any company, product, or service.




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!

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload

Please reload

Recent Posts
Please reload

© 2018 Saal Meeting Consulting | Design by Alaina Beaird

  • Facebook - Black Circle
  • LinkedIn - Black Circle