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Aligning Event Goals with Activities: prompts & a worksheet

Have you ever attended a workshop intended for “networking and new relationship-building” only to get lectured at for hours? Have you attended a training and left without a clear idea of what you learned?

As an event organizer, how can you ensure that you have clearly connected your event goals with your planned event activities?

This article, based on an interactive workshop facilitated by Dr. Beth Duckles for Event Fund grantees in May 2022, offers a start for answering this question. The post is accompanied by a worksheet to help you as you conceptualize and link your event goals and activities.

Read on for actionable steps to support you as you conceptualize your next event!

Use the instructions below and work through the downloadable worksheet (here) to better align your activities and event goals for your next workshop!

1) Find the purpose of your meeting.

Priya Parker’s The Art of Gathering (a great resource!) advises event planners to ask the following in order to make their event specific, unique and disputable.

  • Ask why you are holding this gathering until a purpose comes forward. Asking why can help you drill until you find an insight to help plan your event.
  • Ask what your gathering can do for the larger needs of the world.
  • Reverse engineer the outcome. Think of what outcome you would like to see following your event, and work backwards from there.

If you still cannot find a purpose after utilizing these strategies, maybe it’s best to hold off on that event.

2) Find your workshop goals.

When you have a purpose, it leads to goals. These goals can guide the kinds of activities you include in your event. What are some potential goals for your workshop? Below are some broad categories of goals to help you get started.

  • Creating connections between people.
  • Transferring information from experts to those attending your workshop.
  • Training workshop attendees to be able to do a certain task or skill.
  • Making decisions.
  • Community building.
  • Celebration.

3) Match activities to goals.

Now let’s look at how you can create activities to support general categories of goals. Use the goal which you have decided upon to determine what activities and infrastructure will best enable you to fulfill that goal.

  • Creating connections between people. Examples of activities that connect with this goal might include happy hours, luncheons, hackathons, virtual conferences, virtual coffee chats, and other forms of networking spaces. A social media campaign could also potentially fulfill this goal.
  • Transferring information from experts to those attending your workshop. Workshops which encompass this goal could include classroom lectures, academic conferences, office hours, mentorship programs, fireside chats, panel presentations, or infographic contests. Digital content like podcasts, Youtube videos, and other online courses can also help disseminate information.
  • Training workshop attendees to be able to do a certain task or skill. This could encompass volunteer training, mentorship training, or facilitation training. Hands-on workshops with a more collaborative framework can also be quite effective- examples include co-creation workshops, prototype collaboration, hackathons, case use, or an "un-conference" model.
  • Making decisions. Your event could aim to coordinate collective deadlines for actionables, form a set of community standards, or deliver feedback and determine your next steps going forward. This event could be limited to a small group of individuals, or could call for a broader community to gather and voice their opinions.
  • Community building. Events aiming to strengthen community ties can take a multitude of forms, including but not limited to film screenings, game nights, puzzle nights, book clubs, dances, or parties. An event can also be used as a means to bring a community together when facing adversity. This could mean holding a memorial to recognize and remember those who have passed, or organizing spaces for individuals to process difficult news, whether that be mediated through discussion (e.g. healing circles, story shares) or through a creative outlet (e.g. a poetry slam).
  • Celebration. This type of event aims to celebrate a particular person or event. Examples include birthday parties, retirement events, baby showers, wedding anniversaries, book launches, holiday parties, or awards ceremonies.

4) Consider how to make your workshop accessible.

It’s important to consider the many choices that go into organizing an event. How can you best utilize your resources to create a safe, open, and accessible workshop?

  • It’s important to share a code of conduct that explains norms in the meeting, and to model those norms to create a respectful environment
  • Consider language barriers, and invest in multilingual translation services to create an environment where people feel comfortable to speak in their first languages.
  • Similarly, consider using sign language interpreters to open up access to individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Create a space where people feel comfortable talking about science, despite different backgrounds. This will come more easily in workshops which encourage safe but informal dialogues.
  • Consider ways to create support for neurodivergent people interested in attending your event.

Ideas for virtual events…

  • Create a communal document or space (e.g. Micro board, Etherpad, Gather)
  • Leave chat functions open
  • You can use asynchronous sharing of bios in advance of the meeting so people can know in advance who is in the room
  • Plan for connection after the event is concluded; what are some ways you can maintain the community afterwards?
  • Use social media! Create an online space where individuals can continue to interact with one another- potential platforms include Slack, Twitter, Discord, WhatsApp, Google Groups, Zindi, etc
  • Make all materials available to participants- this includes any slides, recordings, or transcripts generated by and for the event
  • If voting is a necessary component of your event, make sure to use infrastructure which supports polling (e.g. slido, aha slides, menti)

Additional Resources:

Featured Image by Guido Blokker on Unsplash