If you’re like me, hearing the phrase “must conduct audit” is a great reason to schedule the root canal you’ve been putting off. Neither activity is something to look forward to, but both are probably necessary at some point in our adult lives. The good news: We’re not talking about tax audits. We’re talking about gathering information about the meeting or event you’ve just finished. Doing so helps your post-event follow-up and, in some cases, can determine if the program will ever happen again.
You should start this process early enough in your planning stages so that you’ve had the benefit of checkpoints and milestones along the way. For instance, most registration processes offer financial incentives for early sign-ups, but just having an incentive in place isn’t enough. You need to track those registrations to see 1.) how many people took advantage of the special offer and 2.) at what point you were officially at capacity, sold out, below your mark or losing money.
By definition, the word “audit” means a form of efficiency check. “Evaluation” usually refers to some kind of assessment. Your first critical task in conducting a program audit is to determine what would make your event successful.
Is it bringing in a certain amount of money, which is tied to attendance and/or sponsorships? Is it about publicity? Name recognition? Size and scope of exhibits? Product familiarity? Only you and your boss/client can determine what your goals are. Once you’re clear on them, you must determine how to measure whether those goals were met when all is said and done.
You’ll likely have multiple goals, which means you’ll have multiple forms of evaluation. In setting up your procedures, it’s wise to follow these guidelines:
- State your goals clearly so that your entire staff knows what’s expected.
- Determine how the outcome of each goal will be measured. Make sure you ask the right questions of the right audience in a way that encourages responses.
- Make a list of what you want to know when the event is over and work backward from there to form your questions and plan the timing. Don’t forget that how you word a question can determine whether you get subjective or objective responses.
- Be sure to include internal and external procedures in this process. Sometimes a program can be wildly successful from an attendee standpoint but a recurrent nightmare on an internal planning basis.
Our final pearl of wisdom: No matter what shape your evaluations take, be sure to gather the data in one final document. You must use the information you collected: Are there recommendations to be made? Complaints to be addressed? Numbers to crunch even further? Do any attendees, speakers, exhibitors, board members or sponsors need some honest feedback? Will your summary be easy to access and understand next year when it’s time to compare data?
Good planners wear many hats. The one you wear when mastering this skill should make you confident enough to tackle your own income tax this year — if you’ve kept good records.
What procedures do you use to audit and evaluate your events? Please share what works for you in the comment section below.