Taking time to debrief an event reaps many benefits, even when it seems to have gone off without a hitch. There are always things that could be improved. Debriefing allows for gaining valuable feedback, streamlining your process, enhancing the attendee experience and further cementing relationships with sponsors, vendors and staff.
Step 1: Set the 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.
Step 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:
> What went right?
> What was wrong?
> What was missing?
> What was confusing?
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.
Step 3: Begin
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.
Step 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.
Step 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.
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.
Kelly Russell is a writer and speaker. She earned a master’s degree in leadership from Denver Seminary and currently serves on the management team of Mission Church in Ventura, California. Connect with her at kellyshayrussell.com.