The Golden Circle

December 9, 2011 by Speakers' Spotlight

Why event planners should ‘start with why’

by Martin Perelmuter, President and Co-founder

Over the past two years, our busiest speaker has been Simon Sinek, who came to prominence in 2009, following the publication of his book, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, and a TED Talk he delivered on this topic that went viral. (It’s one of the 10 most-watched TED Talks of all time, and is rapidly approaching 3 million views.)

Start With Why is based on a very powerful, yet simple concept that offers an unconventional perspective that explains why some people and organizations are more innovative, more profitable, command greater loyalties from customers and employees alike and, most importantly, are able to repeat their success over and over. These are not the one hit wonders. These are the ones who change the course of industries or even society.

The concept is simply this – it doesn’t matter what you do, it matters why you do it. Citing examples ranging from Apple and Harley Davidson to Martin Luther King, Simon convincingly argues that the one thing these and other successful organizations and leaders have in common is that they answer the why questions before the who, what, when, where and how questions. This basic distinction permeates everything they do. For their companies and organizations, this can be seen in everything from their corporate culture to their marketing, and their overall strategic direction, vision and purpose.

The simplicity of this idea is what makes it so powerful, as it can easily be applied to virtually any company or organization, big or small, local or global, for-profit or non-profit… and yet it’s incredibly rare. Most organizations jump right to the other questions and describe who they are, what they do, how they do it, etc., and only consider the why question as an afterthought (if at all).

After reading Start With Why, I started thinking about how this applies to the event industry, and decided to try it out on a few clients. Before jumping into the who, what, where, when or how questions such as:

  • Who is in the audience / who are the speakers you are interested in?
  • What type of event is it / what are the topics you are interested in?
  • Where is the event taking place?
  • When is the event taking place / when is the speaker needed in the program?
  • how much is your budget?
  • etc.


I decided to ask why the event is taking place in the first place. Incredibly (but perhaps not surprisingly), not one person I asked had considered this question. As a result, it made them stop and think, and led to a discussion about their event on a deeper / less superficial level, which gave me some insights that were extremely helpful in recommending the right speaker.

We are all facing time constraints at work (not to mention home), and as a result the natural thing to do is jump right into the who, what, where, when and how questions. These are also easier questions to answer, as they require less thought, reflection and understanding. However, at your next meeting with a client or your team, I’d strongly encourage you to start with why.

Years ago, I heard a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, who once said that “he (or she) who has a why can endure any how.” And while I don’t normally take business advice from crazy German philosophers (dead or alive), it’s the best management advice I’ve ever received.

Original post can be found here.