After putting a lot of time and effort into an event, it can leave you exhausted and ready to forget it and move on to whatever is next on your list (including maybe that vacation you dreamed about). But an event professional’s work is never done not even when the event itself is over. Just as necessary to planning and getting all the details right for a successful event, is sitting down after the event and reviewing your results – the good, bad, and ugly. Enter the important but often overlooked – sometimes feared – post-event debrief.
Debriefing an event simply is asking yourself and your team focused questions about the event itself. Taking the time to analyze helps you get a firm understanding on what happened and how you can build upon that experience in the future.
Were our goals reached? What is the feedback from our attendees and other stakeholders? What processes worked or didn’t work? What lessons did we learn and how do we apply them to our future events?
Why the Post-Event Debrief
Even if you think you know the answers to these questions, holding a post-event debrief meeting to review the event while it is fresh in your mind is absolutely essential. Don’t view it as a negative experience. Post-event debriefs are not just about pointing out the mistakes that were made, but also about celebrating successes. The post-event debrief process helps identify how to replicate success, grow from challenges, and improve and innovate for your next events. It does not have to be hard or time consuming and it yields great results. Consider it the first planning session of your next event. You have all the knowledge from the event that just took place – what worked, what didn’t, attendee and stakeholder feedback on their experience, and how it can be improved. This is the framework to build for your future.
Honest and accurate feedback and discussion allows you as the event professional to make better business decisions about each event you do. This is the big reason for the post-event debrief.
How to Do a Post-Event Debrief Right
Just because a post-event debrief is done following your event doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for it in advance. Start early by setting your objectives for the event and communicate them to your team before the actual event. Help them prepare by letting them know what your expectations for the event are and your measurements of success. Who are your key stakeholders (partners, sponsors, attendees, exhibitors) and how the event is intended to serve them. Once at the event, have them observe and get feedback on your event processes (registration, check-in, program, food services) to see how they were successful, how they could be improved and be more efficient going forward. Encourage everyone to keep their eyes open while onsite and write down observations and ideas as they come to mind. Take their observations and comments and fold them into your post-event debrief meeting for discussion.
Scheduling a short informal debrief “download” onsite immediately after the event concludes is really effective if you can arrange it. As time passes, insights, observations and experiences begin to get fuzzy compromising your ability to act on them. A quick review on what went well, what could go better next time, obvious problems at the event provides some instant feedback to take away for the subsequent formal debrief back at the office.
It almost goes without saying that if you want attendee and stakeholder feedback for your post-event debrief, you must ask them right away. Whatever method you use to question them, whether it is through onsite poll, a mobile app, next day online survey, social media, or email, knowing and using their feedback for your next event is what will influence its success. Some survey questions will apply to all participants but be careful not to distribute a “one-size-fits-all” piece. Write questions which are very specific to the needs of each participant segment in order to get right type of feedback.
For the actual post-event debrief, you want answers from two different groups of people based on their role in your event: the back-end “behind the scenes” participants and the front-end participants, essentially the attendees. Debriefing the back-end of your event requires you to evaluate the physical planning and execution of your event and how effective and efficient it was. Aimed at your team and vendors, your questions here focus primarily on efficiency, ease of task implementation, and flow of information. The front-end analysis concentrates on attendee experience and engagement with your event. This also includes checking in with your sponsors and exhibitors. These questions are posed directly to your attendees and these other stakeholders and deal primarily with program content, satisfaction with event activities, customer service, and attendee/stakeholder experience.
Post-Event Debrief Questions
As mentioned previously, debriefing an event simply is asking yourself and your team focused questions about the event itself. As part of the back-end and front-end reviews, here are some possible post-event debrief questions to consider.
Back-End Post-Event Debrief: These are questions aimed to work out how well the event was planned and executed. Ask them of your team members, vendors, and sponsors
1) What were our original event objectives and were they achieved?
2) Were there challenges meeting those objectives and what were they? (think budgetary constraints, revenue goals, marketing performance, AV or other technology issues)
3) Were those challenges resolved and how? Do they need to be discussed further for better results next time?
4) Were team member roles and expectations clearly defined and information available to ensure individual and team success?
5) What were some of our successes? How can we replicate at our next event or make even better?
6) Did our event serve our stakeholders (sponsors, partners, board members) as intended?
7) How effective and efficient was our registration process?
Front-End Post-Event Debrief: Your front-end post-event debrief is entirely about assessing attendee experience and engagement. You want to know if their expectations were met, if they had fun, found value for their investment of time and money, and how you can make their experience even better in the future. Ways to get feedback have moved from the traditional mail-in questionnaire to getting the same information through the use of technology. Simpler. Faster. Easier. More immediate. Here are some ways to get attendee and stakeholder feedback.
Spot Polls. Onsite spot polls are fast and immediate. Attendees will have the most to say, and be the most likely to give you feedback, if you ask soon after they have interacted with some aspect of your event. And the possibilities of what information you can get from them via a poll are virtually endless – program, food, entertainment, speaker. Without the time delay of other feedback methods, the information you get from them while it is still fresh in their minds is considerably better.
Mobile Apps. Not as immediate as spot polls but certainly up there in getting fast responses, is using your mobile app. Good for a variety of purposes at your event from information sharing to networking, your mobile app also can be a platform to check-in with your attendees and get valuable feedback quickly. Again, you are tapping into their comments when they are best remembered.
Social Media. You used it to market your event, now use it for getting comments back about it. Put questions up on your social media. Surprise! It can be amazing the responses you will get by simply asking pointed questions after your event using Facebook or in a dedicated Twitter chat. Be prepared for the good, bad and ugly being out there for all to see.
Email. Still probably the most used method to get attendee feedback is the email survey. Send it out as quickly as possible after your event. Having it sitting in their email inbox when they get back to the office is best to prevent time delays making attendee and other stakeholders’ recollections fuzzy.
Final Thoughts on Post-Event Debriefs
Don’t fear the post-event debrief. Honest and accurate feedback and discussion is what you want. It allows you as the event professional to make better business decisions about each event you do. It provides the knowledge and understanding about your event to keep attendees and stakeholders happy and coming back for more. That is proof of your event success – and that’s what you want.
About Us – rsvpBOOK
rsvpBOOK is an online event registration and event management software. We help you streamline your event processes, from beginning to end, from creating your event website, to on-site resources, attendee and stakeholder feedback technology for your post-event debriefs, and final accounting reports. Use your time to take care of more demanding matters – creating an outstanding attendee experience.
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