Successful event planners make a point of learning from every event, so they can make the next ones even better. One of the most effective ways to do that is to host a post-event meeting with vendors, speakers, entertainers, and staff to talk about what went well and what needs improvement.
These meetings are invaluable. You can use what you learn to build on this year’s success and avoid or remedy what didn’t work so well to avoid repeating history.
So, what does this post-event meeting look like, when do you host it, and who should be there?
When Should You Host the Post-Event Meeting?
Wait until a few days or so after the event, so everyone has time to digest how it went without forgetting too much detail. Encourage people to jot down notes and bring those to the meeting, so nothing slips away. If you can meet in person, that’s great. If not, a phone or video conference works fine, too. If someone is unable to participate, be sure to solicit their input separately.
Who Should Be There?
Your debriefing team will vary depending on the event itself. You don’t need everyone who participated in putting on the event, but you do want everyone responsible for some key component of your event, especially if it was a complex production such as a festival, charity auction, sports or multi-stage performance event.
Many of these people, but not necessarily all of them, will be members of your event steering committee (if you had one). If it was a company event, the group should also include department heads who were involved in or directly affected by the event.
Try to include “chiefs” or a rep from:
- AV team
- Catering, or other food and beverage
- Commercial vendors
Pro tip: Invite your sponsors to a separate follow-up meeting to get their input. The more you can do to add value for them, the more likely they’ll re-up for next time — or want to sponsor more of your events.
What to Discuss
Create an agenda that will keep your team focused. Otherwise, you’ll get sidetracked by nitty-gritty details and you’ll be there for days. Ask each participant to share their top two things that went really well and their top two things that were opportunities to do something better. You might want to create a form for them to fill out and submit prior to the meeting, but you needn’t be that formal.
You can be flexible if there’s a good reason — one aspect of the event might need more discussion than another. But limiting the number of comments will bring out the most important information while respecting everyone’s time. For items that need improvement, brainstorm ideas on how to do that next time.
For example, say you experienced some communication issues with your venue about the timeline for load in. If you made a note of that during your post-meeting, you would know to clarify and lock down the timeline with your venue next time around, to avoid the same miscommunication.
And ask the group one more question: was anything missing that you should add to the event in the future?
Use What You Learn!
Record the feedback and share it with everyone. If you need extra time to pull together desired changes/improvements, get started now, so you don’t get caught short later. Then, prior to the first meeting for your next event, review your feedback again. Make it the first topic of discussion as you begin your planning process.
The point is not to criticize but to critique. One reason you’re all together again is to celebrate this year’s success. So, do that as you discuss how to make the next event truly flawless. And remember, the lessons you learn from each debriefing session are transferrable to other events, not just this one. Successful event planning is an ongoing process that never stops improving.