Besieged by a weakened economy and a national tragedy, many planners have been left with reduced budgets. While everyone's hopeful about 2003, here's what you can do to keep production value up while budgets are down in 2002.

  • Plan with precision

    It's always key to make the most of the budget. The more input you give your producer in terms of priorities and available funds, the more efficiently you'll achieve your goals. Make sure to outline specific objectives, not lofty or ambiguous concepts.

  • Identify the takeaway

    You might decide that you want attendees to take away a sense of commitment from a meeting. Better to identify more specific goals by exploring why that commitment matters, how they can stay focused long after the meeting ends, and so on. This makes it easier to drive and shape the agenda, and helps create value relative to production, education, loyalty, and budget.

  • Determine strategy first

    A common mistake is to race ahead in an effort to solidify each agenda element. But the key is to first identify the strategy or goal behind all your program elements, then figure out the best way to accomplish your goals based on your budget.

  • Link goals to budgets

    To add value, consider each element of your program in the context of how much money you have and how important it is. For example, if leadership or turnaround issues are a high priority, you might hire a high-profile guest speaker; for those with the budget, such a presenter could be an excellent value, particularly if there's a need to impress the audience. A more modest budget might suggest using an internal speaker, developing a panel, or hiring a well-qualified but lower profile and less expensive guest speaker.



Remember, it's about linking priorities to money. Begin with an agenda that clearly outlines what each program element needs to accomplish. Then brainstorm how to execute based on the available funds.




Ken Kirsh, CMP, is president of Kirsh Productions Inc. in New York City. Contact him at (212) 262-4388 or kenkirsh@kirshproductions.com.

Setting Program Goals

Construct more precise goals for better value across the board. Here are some examples of how to create more meaningful and specific goals.

  1. General goal: State of the union Specific goal: How attendees fit into the big organizational picture and why they need to stay informed

  2. General goal: Consistency among divisions Specific goal: How consistency of branding affects attendees, budgets, and company profitability

  3. General goal: New commission structure Specific goal: How and why the new commission structure was developed and its long-term effect on attendees' income



Going Around in Circles

Fusing goals, program elements, and costs is a continuous process. Be sure the elements you choose serve your budget and objectives. Keep going around the circle until you get just the right mix. Elements can include speakers, videos, the conference host, breakouts, and so on. When organizing program elements, focus on flow and audience receptivity.