Guest blogger Rebecca Linder, Founder and CEO of Linder Global, teaches Event & Meeting Management Fundamentals in Washington, DC.

Okay event holders (clients) and event do-ers (planners) it is time to get real again.  Assuming you did the front-end work of defining the why  it is now time to do a thorough debrief on the back-end.  This process will identify how to replicate success, grow from challenges, and innovate for future events.

Once again this is not hard or time consuming…and it yields GREAT results.  We consider it the first planning session of the next version of the same event. You have all the knowledge from the event that just took place fresh in your mind –  what worked and what didn’t work, feedback from your stakeholders on their experience, and how it can be improved.  This is the framework to build upon for the future.

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Start by answering the questions created at the front-end of the project during the pre-event strategy phase.  Here are the big ones:

  • Were your outlined objectives achieved? What were the successes and challenges in achieving them?
  • What went well, what didn’t go well? Were these things in your control or out of our control?
  • Did the event serve stakeholders as intended? Stakeholders are defined as internal and external (i.e. a boss, the board chairs, sponsors, exhibiters, vendors, audience and online community).
  • Were pre-determined measurements of success achieved?
  • Did the brand goals remain aligned to the event?
  • Did the audience take the intended action? Why or why not?
  • Was the budget or budget range met? Was that budget adequate?
  • Which aspects of the planning process were successful? Which aspects were challenging? What adjustments do you need to make going forward?
  • Where could you be more efficient?

The reasons outlined in Part 1 regarding the resistance of planners and clients to define the “why” is also applicable to the reasons both groups don’t always do a thorough debrief.  While tempting, especially when the event is considered a success, do not fall into that trap.  Do the work.

ideas-debrief970x600The answers to the above questions should be gathered throughout the lifecycle of the event. A post-event debrief document should be established at the front-end of the project to capture feedback throughout the event process.  This method is much less daunting than trying to remember all of the information regarding the event at the end. During multi-day events, mini daily debriefs are important not only for making in-the-moment adjustments but also for capturing the successes and challenges of the event itself.

In both multi-day events and single day events, getting feedback from stakeholders during the event and immediately afterward is important.  This feedback can take the form of live focus groups during the event or just after; follow up calls; app integrated surveys in situ or post-event email surveys; and lastly, through social listening.

An event is as successful as its goals are defined.   The effort of the post-event debrief simply requires three key ingredients:

  1. A clear “why” on the front end
  2. Good documentation throughout
  3. An effective post-event debrief with internal and external stakeholders

This completes the successful lifecycle of the event and provides you with a successful framework you can use for your next event.  How easy is that?!

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