Even when an event seems to have gone off without a hitch, there are always elements that could be improved—that's where a post-event debrief with your team becomes important. Taking time to debrief an event reaps many benefits, including gaining valuable feedback, streamlining your process, enhancing the attendee experience and further cementing relationships with sponsors, vendors and staff.
1. Set a date.
A quality event debriefing starts before the event. The event manager should serve as the debriefing manager, responsible for scheduling the date and communicating it to the team early. Make it a debrief and celebration all in one. The idea of planning a mini-event after the main event may not be appealing, but it will be worth it.
2. Provide a cheat sheet.
Set your event team up for success by giving them the following four questions they’ll be asked, which come from “The Four Helpful Lists” created by Tom Paterson (download printout HERE). Giving them these on the front end is like giving them a study guide of answers that will be on a quiz. Now they can take notes throughout the event and be well-prepared for the debriefing.
> What went right? > What went wrong? > What was missing? > What was confusing?
People like to hear the results of things they’ve worked on, so begin your debriefing with a presentation of the event itself. Show a video or a slideshow of photos and share final numbers on attendees, volunteers, funds generated, etc. If you gathered feedback from attendees in the form of a poll or survey, have those tallied and share any interesting findings. Tell a few exciting or moving stories about the event or open up the floor for team members to share.
4. Get down to business.
Spend the next 45 to 90 minutes taking your team though the aforementioned four questions. Make a column for each of the four lists on a large smartboard, whiteboard or flip chart and fill up each column. If the conversation stalls, tailor the responses to different areas of the event: registration, technology, budget, revenue goals, location, marketing, food and beverage, attendee experience and engagement, speakers, content, customer service, etc.
5. Narrow it down.
Put an asterisk by topics others in the room agree with and then comb the columns for common themes. Cross out and draw arrows as needed. Now go through each column and circle issues you want to pay special attention to. The goal is to amplify the right, fix the wrong, clarify the confusing and add the missing.
6. Make an improvement plan.
Now create a fifth column and label it “Core Issues.” Each core issue will have an action item assigned to a person with a deadline. The manager will need to stay in close contact with everyone assigned an action item, staying informed of the outcomes and making sure the deadlines are met. Save the list of core issues and use them for the preplanning of next year’s event to ensure the “rights” are repeated and the other three categories are improved.