It all comes down to purpose, to creating clear goals and measurable objectives for your event. The key: research and analyze the needs and interests of the event stakeholders (e.g. event sponsor, potential participants.) How do you do this?


1. Conduct an Environmental Scan:

Gather and assess already available information including:

  • History of same or similar events held by organization or competitors
  • Advancements in an industry segment
  • Legislative or regulatory changes


Google your heart out!

2. Research information about the potential event attendees

“Mine the gold” from the audience.

The information can be gathered through:

One-on-one interviews

  • Reach out to potential delegates through LinkedIn or directly through their organization. Ask them for 10-15 minutes of their time to interview them about potential topics and speakers for the conference. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Majority of people are pleased to help.


  • Could be administered to all or a random sub-section of a large database of potential participants – if such database is available (from previous events, for example)

Focus groups 

  • Typically 10-12 people, representative of the target audience
  • It can be done in person or by conference call
  • Facilitating a focus group could be tricky so some experience is preferable. Prepare your game-plan including all the questions you are going to address in advance.

Educational programming committees:

  • Commonly used to establish direction for programs offered at associations
  • Usually a voluntary group with a vested interest in program content
  • Balance committee recommendations with information gained from the research
  • Many associations (particularly medical) require field professionals on the committee to qualify for credit from a national or local organization
  • Not the same as focus group, but very similar in regard to the administration of the group. One of the main differences is that the participants in the programming committee most of the time have more executive power to make decisions about the even than focus groups members who are invited sometimes only to make suggestions about potential agenda for the event

Whether you are conducting a one-on-one interview, a focus group or facilitating an educational programming committee meeting, ask the participants questions about:

  • Their background: education, industry experience, trade publications followed
  • What past events have they attended and what future events are they planning on attending?
  • What dates do they have available for future education?
  • What are some of the issues they encounter in their day-to-day job?
  • What topics and speakers would they like to see featured at the event?
  • What is their opinion of past events (educational content, format, speakers, networking, location, etc.)
  • What are some suggestions for event improvements?
Tip: Offer incentives to encourage participation in the interviews, surveys, focus group or planning committee such as a complimentary registration to the event (or part of the event.)


Know your audience: who they are and what their educational needs entail! Engage with potential attendees through different methods.

3. Develop measurable objectives and overall goals of the event

After needs and interests of potential participants are identified, it’s time to develop measurable objectives and overall goals for the event, which will also be the basis for program design.

Objectives state what the participants will have learned by the end of the event. Goals are broader statements and they state the purpose of attending the event in a general way. Goals could be referred as “statement of purpose.”

When writing objectives include what participants will learn or what skills they will develop: e.g. “By the end of this session, participants will be able to establish new protocols for emergency planning and preparedness in their organization.”

For more information on writing educational objectives for medical conferences, refer to: Quick Tips for Writing Goals and Objectives for University of Toronto

Share the goals and objectives with all stakeholders involved in the event (staff, committees, sponsors, venue, suppliers, vendors, speakers, participants, etc.) and use them in the marketing of the event.


Invest the time at the beginning of the process and carefully describe the goals and objectives. You will be surprised with the payoff.

Spark Conferences: We are a conference production company specialized in the management of conferences for the health care sector. Connect with us. We love to talk. 416-844-1615.