Setting event objectives

Clear objectives are important for several reasons:

  • To ensure the event makes strategic sense
  • To ensure there is adequate resource to successfully deliver the event
  • To ensure those charged with delivering the event (not always those who’ve come up with the concept or idea) clearly understand what they are trying to achieve
  • To make the evaluation of the success of the event much simpler
  • To make decision-making during the event planning process much smoother
  • To ensure we are consistently measuring the impact of all of our activities

Setting objectives

Each event should have at least one objective in each of the following areas. These objectives should be SMART (specific, measurable, accurate, relevant and timely) if we are to measure and evaluate properly. The success of the event should be measured against them at the post-event evaluation meeting. The objectives should also be aspirational.

Who needs to be at your event to make it a success?


  • 20% of guests in attendance to be policy makers
  • 10 new prospects to be in attendance
  • ‘internals’ should make up no more than 30% of people in attendance
  • Mr X must be in attendance

What needs to be conveyed to make this event a success? How explicit does it need to be? Does everyone need to hear/see/absorb it? This will help inform the content of the event (i.e. speakers) and material produced. Examples:

  • Oxford is producing some of the most important research in many public policy fields
  • To have at least three University branded materials in each event space to ensure that the brand is promoted and there is a clear association between the event and the brand
  • To emphasise that the University is open to dialogue with the communities of Oxford, and engage with their concerns
  • Attendees should have a greater understanding of the University’s fundraising priorities

From when the invitation is first received, to when the event is completed, what sort of experience should each guest have had e.g. smooth, five star? Should the atmosphere be lively, serious, relaxed? Is the opportunity to network a key part of the success of this event? The targets set here could have a big impact on budget. You should have a mix of quantitative and qualitative targets here. Examples:

  • Only positive comments to be received by the Vice-Chancellor and key staff from guests during the reception
  • VIPs should receive the full tarmac to tarmac VIP experience
  • Inject a sense of fun into the event through music and quirky surprises

This is to help measure the impact of the event. It could include financial targets within a certain time period, new meetings set up or amount of press coverage. Examples:

  • Initial dialogue with new prospects in attendance to have commenced within one month of the event  
  • Survey to measure perceived value of event to go out to all guests within 24 hours of the event taking place
  • A minimum of three good quality articles in the Delhi/Indian press with a minimum reach of 2 million readers

At the Event Proposal stage you will have been asked to define the aim of your event, plus its strategic value, in the context of the University’s priorities and given the existing events calendar.

At the initial planning meeting with the University’s Events Office, the above objectives will be discussed and agreed. This is to ensure everyone involved in the management of the event is clear on what exactly the event is aiming to achieve, and that we are consistently measuring the impact of all of our activities. You should come to this meeting having already given considerable thought to what objectives you might have in each of the defined areas.

The Event Manager will also arrange a debrief meeting with key stakeholders for the week or two after the event. This is where we review the objectives of the event, assess its success in meeting these objectives, and highlight any areas that could be improved upon, as well as celebrating those aspects of the event that went well. This should be an impartial review of the event to enable future learnings.

See the event management service webpages for further information.