As event planners, we constantly face challenging dilemmas in designing successful events. How do we balance limited budgets with delivering attendee satisfaction? When should we play it safe versus taking risks to innovate? In my 25 years of experience in the events industry, I've learned that striving to achieve our visions and bring imaginative ideas to life is an essential part of the event planning spirit. While it may require leaving our comfort zones at times, thoughtfully pushing boundaries is often necessary and well worth it to create truly memorable, impactful experiences.

To capture the different approaches event planners take when grappling with these tensions, I developed the "Event Planning Matrix". This framework looks at two key dimensions that guide an event planner's strategy and decisions:

Event Planning Matrix.png


The drive to innovate, take risks, and exceed expectations to realize an ambitious vision, versus focusing on tried-and-true methods to dependably meet core attendee needs and client requests.


Putting attendee engagement, comfort and satisfaction at the forefront, versus prioritizing the client's stated goals, budget, and definitions of event success.

By mapping out various event planning philosophies and leadership styles within this matrix, we can frame constructive discussions on how to achieve event excellence in different scenarios.

The four quadrants represent:

Caring Comfort:

Ensuring attendee satisfaction through proven plans that engage and satisfy participants, working within clients' budgets and parameters. The focus is on convenience and avoiding risk.

Wise Satisfaction:

Aiming to optimally fulfill the client brief and achieve their event goals. Sustainable execution is prioritized over ambitious visions in order to dependably satisfy.

Empathic Design:

Proactively driving innovation to exceed attendee expectations, even if it means pushing back on client preconceptions about what's possible within their budgets. The emphasis is on the attendee experience.

Effective Innovation:

Bringing ambitious visions to life by taking calculated risks to realize the client's bigger-picture objectives in impactful ways. Attendee experience is elevated through bold, innovative event execution.

In reality, any given event lies somewhere on the spectrum between these extremes based on its unique context, objectives and constraints. Event planners may fluidly adapt their approach for different aspects of the same event. The matrix simply provides a handy framework to quickly diagnose and discuss the driving forces behind event planning decisions.

Wise event planners evaluate where a given event should fall within this matrix based on factors like the event purpose, the client's risk tolerance, and the attendee profile. An internal conference aimed at educating employees may warrant a different approach than an external product launch targeting influential media.

Often, the event planner must deftly negotiate opposing forces, such as an attendee's desire for an affordable ticket price versus the client's vision of a premium experience. By understanding these natural tensions, we can more proactively align stakeholder expectations and make informed compromises.

When used thoughtfully, frameworks like the Event Planning Matrix can help guide an event planner to land in the appropriate zone to achieve the right balance for an event's goals. It enables constructive discussions both internally within the planning team and externally with clients and stakeholders.

I look forward to refining this matrix with your comments and examples. Together, we can expand our thinking on what it takes to be visionary event planners who consistently delight clients and attendees alike.

If you enjoyed the 'Event Planner Matrix', please share the link with your network, as it might help someone who is looking for it! And motivate us to continue writing more articles :)

Dr. Esat Arber
Co-Founder of MeetingHand