Planners can spend months if not years planning an event. When on-site, we give everything we have, sacrificing sleep, food and neglecting our health to ensure that things go perfectly and that the people counting on us are satisfied. After the event, we tend to be too exhausted to feel any lasting satisfaction and our schedules often demand that we dive headlong into the next project.
This “dive” often means we skip a valuable step in the planning process: the post-mortem. If you don’t do one, you should. If you do conduct a post-mortem, keep your system up to date and make sure it reflects the evolution of your programs.
Let’s define our terms. A post-mortem is a formal meeting that walks through and assesses all major aspects of the program. It evaluates what worked, what didn’t and what should be improved or remembered or done differently the next time. My team conducts an internal post-mortem to measure our processes and performance and to critique every event. We then hold one with the client and repeat the process, with our homework done and suggestions fleshed out.
My team is required to print post-show notes on bright pink paper and file it for the next event. It’s then impossible to lose track of the document, which serves as a constant reminder of what we need to do to build on a prior event’s success.
If you work for an organization, you still have clients; they are “‘internal” rather than “external.” Both are important and deserve your best efforts. Post-show reports let everyone capture the valuable ideas that are top of mind in the moment but can fade as other programs take precedence.
How to do it
To conduct a post-show assessment, we go through the planning process chronologically. We seek feedback on the planning calls; their length, frequency and effectiveness. We continue through the major planning components, gathering feedback on registration, food, marketing, technology, production, giveaways and more. If it was important enough to include at the event, it’s important to review it when the show is over.
As years go by, needs change, as should your planning and recap reporting strategy. We now evaluate the effectiveness of the online registration system, post-show electronic survey and use of social media, as well as the Internet bandwidth in the sleeping rooms, public spaces and meeting rooms. Ten years ago those items weren’t on our radar.
We get full reports from the venues so we can track alcohol consumption. We track not just how much was spent but what was consumed, so that we’re better prepared for future events and can decide intelligently between an open bar or just wine and beer. Other considerations: Whether to contract a flat rate, a per drink or an hourly pricing plan. Knowing this can save thousands of dollars on future programs.
Track use of ground transportation to assess whether attendees are using formal transfers or if letting them find their own way to and from the venue is more economical. We’ve found that when we arrange ground transfers, attendees often change plans and don’t tell us, decide spontaneously to rent cars or simply forget to look for their driver and take a taxi, meaning that we pay for their transportation twice.
Pay attention to consumption habits. Was breakfast well attended? Did folks attend lunch or skip it catch up on work? Did they leave before the PM break? Did they attend evening functions? The answers should inform future events.
Knowledge is power. If you take the time to collect the data, you’ll find yourself ahead of the game when planning future events for the same group.
Please share your tips for successful post-mortems in the comment space below. We thank you, and so do your fellow planners.
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