Why host an event? Why attend an event? Whether it’s an education conference, a social networking reception or a days-long trade show, you’re there for a reason—or likely, several reasons. There is a lot of planning and build-up leading up to such an event, but the real work comes when it has come to a close and everyone is back at the office.
Planners, hosts and attendees must assess: was it a success? If you’ve distributed a post-event survey or follow up with an email marketing campaign encouraging feedback, some of the data is already in your lap. But there’s more to a debrief than reviewing the data.
For improved decision-making and stronger events, everyone on your team should be involved in a structured debrief. Here are the steps to make that happen:
1. Schedule your debrief when you’re scheduling everything else. Get it on the calendar so that everyone knows when it’s occurring. This also prevents the debrief from being significantly delayed, which can negatively impact the effectiveness of the meeting when too much time has passed. If it’s on the calendar, it will happen. Resist the urge to reschedule for a later date.
2. Set expectations with each member of the team when the date for the debrief is set so that each person has a clear idea of the things they should be expected to prepare for the meeting (and can be gathering that info, even mentally, during the event). It may be helpful to come up with a list of the things you want to know from attendees that won’t be reflected in your post-event survey, and then assign those items among your team.
3. Bring the post-event survey data to evaluate if your debrief occurs after the data has come in. Do the results reflect the comments and observations of your team?
4. Structure the meeting so that there is a specified flow that touches on every aspect, from registration to F&B to technology to keynotes to logistics to budget. Leave time for each member speak about anything that falls outside of these categories, too.
5. Assign a scribe that is recording what went well and what needs improvement. Assign the areas of improvement to the appropriate team members so that there are plans in place before the next event. Review these notes again before the next event if there is a large gap in time between them so that the team can be reminded of what attendees enjoyed and what they didn’t.
Attendees Should Debrief, Too
As for attendees who invested time and money in an event, a debrief is useful to determine if the event provided a worthwhile return on investment. Consider how many people from your team attended—was it enough or too many? What lessons can you apply to your job and share with your team? Should the same people or a different mix of people attend the next one? How could you have gotten more value out of the event?