by Matt Alderton | July 10, 2018
Meeting planners are not marketing professionals. But they should act like them, according to American Express Meetings & Events (Amex M&E), which last week published a new report in which it says meeting planners must borrow practices from brand marketers if they wish to captivate the next generation of attendees.

Titled "Focus on the Why: How Branding Principles Can Guide Your Event Design," the new report makes the case that meeting planning should evolve from a tactical exercise to a strategic one.

"The meeting planner's role continues to shift well beyond meeting logistics, and is increasingly focused on delivering a quality experience for attendees. New demands to deliver on complex meeting plans, leverage technology innovations and find unique venues require that meeting planners think outside the box and think strategically to deliver an exciting and engaging experience," reads the report, which continues: "It is sometimes easy for planners to get wrapped up in the 'what' of the event -- planning the perfect evening function, selecting just the right menu or creating a high-energy general session. While this part of the planning is essential, it is also important to take a step back from the details to first understand the 'why' that will guide all the event design decisions."

Simply put: Amex M&E says meeting planners should take the same outcomes-based approach to event design that marketers take to branding.

"In branding exercises, marketing professionals often work to define and communicate their brand's essence -- the brand promise, the brand mantra -- the 'one thing' that communicates the emotional and functional attributes of the brand," the report explains. "We can think about event design in much the same way. The first step for any event should be establishing the desired outcomes for the organization as well as for the participants. Most simply: Why are you having this event? Defining your event's why -- the 'one thing' that it should accomplish and how it should make your attendees feel -- will serve as your guide post through every aspect of the event planning process."

Amex M&E goes on to offer three steps planners can take to identify their meeting's "why." First is deciding what specific outcomes you want the meeting to produce -- for example, enhanced customer loyalty, improved product knowledge or increased sales. Second is deciding how you want your attendees to feel at your meeting -- for example, curious, powerful, thankful or trusted. Finally, you should design the functional elements that will help you achieve your desired outcomes and emotions -- including everything from event invitations and registration to staging and production to breakouts and speakers.

Concludes the report: "While these steps to uncover the 'why' of your event may seem straightforward, remember that any type of shift in thinking takes practice. Event professionals are often on very tight timelines with an overwhelming number of details to manage, so adding work upfront may feel impossible at first. Consider starting with a few key events to find out what process works best for your organization. Ultimately, approaching your events more strategically will yield a better experience for your participants and better outcomes for your business."