Over the past decades, conservation has transitioned from focusing primarily on ecological or biodiversity-oriented goals to increasing consideration of goals related to human well-being (e.g., social, economic, political). Multi-objective planning can support analysis of these new conservation contexts but remains logistically and technically challenging because of the inherent complexity of conservation problems. Within a multi-objective conservation planning process, an often-overlooked element is the pre-planning stage. This is where the need for planning is assessed, appropriate planning tools are selected, the level of planning investment determined, and a horizon scan of potential ‘disabling conditions' is undertaken to ensurethe societal context is supportive. Explicit pre-planning prior to making a decision about whether or not a planning effort should go ahead would better align project risks with approach, level of investment, and potential conservation rewards. It might also result in fewer shelved conservation plans.