What does a successful event post-mortem look like?
An event post-mortem or debrief is not just about ticking boxes – it should be detailed, honest and, above all, useful. People sigh when they see this type of meeting ping into their calendars – after all, we like to look forwards, not back – but spending an hour going over an event really helps to streamline the next one.
Emily Hill is an event and delivery manager at EE, helping to run internal conferences, roadshows and, most recently, a sales incentive trip to Las Vegas. She thinks it’s incredibly important to hold a post-implementation review (PIR), saying, “There’s always learnings from delivering events. We think about how to do it better next time, document what worked and what didn’t work, and get feedback to make sure the event hit the mark with delegates and presenters.”
Not everything in the debrief will be positive, but it’s also about celebrating wins, giving people a sense of achievement and boosting team morale. So how should you plan this vital meeting?
1. Who to invite
Identify the key people who were involved in the event, and decide how many of them you need to hear from in the meeting – this will depend on the size and scale of your event and your KPIs. If you’re casting your net wide, consider catering staff, check-in staff, security, IT, etc. – or ask these people for written feedback, which you can share in the debrief. Emily says: “We usually invite internal comms, the project delivery team, event agency reps, presenters and some delegate reps if possible.”
2. Start with the structure
Ideally, hold the debrief meeting a few days, or at the most a week, after the event, so everything is fresh in people’s minds. Set an agenda, appoint a meeting chair and someone to take minutes. As Emily says: “It’s critical to get everything written down – event planners are always onto the next event and often juggling to the max, so it’s easy to forget everything.” Make expectations clear – no finger-pointing, be constructive, stay on subject.
3. The overview
The basics of the meeting should include: did each element of the event fulfil its objectives? What went well and not so well? Did it come in on budget? How can you improve next time? Emily says: “We look at delegates’ experiences, how effective our communications were, the feedback and the value for money/ROI. It’s notoriously difficult to show ROI, so all the other measures become even more important to show success.”
4. The nitty-gritty
Depending on your event, you might need to get into more granular detail. For instance, did expert talks overrun, did the delegates like the food, was there any waste, was the venue flexible enough?
5. Data, data, data
“We always look at event data,” says Emily. “Were there no-shows? What was the NPS (net promoter score) from the feedback? What did people do with their time at the event? Did they tweet/use socials to share info about the event? It’s also always good to get in-the-moment feedback from delegates before they leave the event – it increases the quantity of feedback gathered.”
These days, event technology is better than ever at pinpointing specific issues. For instance, Cvent’s Engagement Scoring Tool allows event planners to track attendee satisfaction, session registration, exhibitor interaction and a host of other measures. And all your stakeholders can see the data in real time via Cvent’s Access Portal.
At the end of the meeting, thank everyone for their hard work and reflect on the positives, so that people leave feeling happy and motivated. Notes should be circulated afterwards, highlighting any actions that need to be taken and who is responsible for this. Now it’s time to use this knowledge to start planning the next event.
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