What should happen after a big event?
The guests are gone, the decorations are back in storage, the venue has been cleaned, and the team members are all at home in a work-induced fog trying to catch up on lost sleep. The event was successfully completed…so, what happens now? Do you forget what just happened and move on to the next one? That’s the easiest thing to do, after all there’s lots of work to be done – no time to rest, right?! However, what happens to all those lessons learned along the way? Do they get lost forever and you end up repeating the same mistakes? It doesn’t have to be that way. Take time for a post-event review to help your team make the next event even better.
A post-event review meeting is part celebration and part lessons learned discussion. You’ll need the full team at the meeting with one person designated to lead the meeting and another designated to take notes.
Here’s how the meeting should go:
1. Celebrate first! The team just spent months planning and preparing to put on a great event for your organization. They worked hard (and probably long hours) to pull it off and they’ve earned the right to celebrate. Bring in bagels or go out for lunch and let the first part of the meeting be time to relax and relish the joy of a completed, successful event. Let the team know how much you appreciated their efforts and give specifics on what you loved about the event.
2. What went well? Kick-off the lessons learned portion of the meeting by asking the team what they liked about the event. What went well that should be repeated for future events? Was the planning process organized and information communicated well? Did the day-of the event run smoothly? Did you have enough volunteers and did they know exactly what they needed to do? Keep going for about half the time allotted for the meeting or until the team is out of comments (whichever happens first).
3. Set the ground rules. Before you ask what didn’t go well, you need to make sure the team knows how to handle this part of the meeting. This isn’t about assigning blame or pointing out shortcomings; this is about making the team and the event better. Ground rules include:
a. Comments should not be directed at a specific person (Susie should have done this part differently…), but at the process or results. For example: The room seemed a bit cramped for the number of guests we had in attendance. We might want to consider a different venue or selling fewer tickets next time.
b. Don’t take comments personally. This can be hard to do, but remember that the goal is to help everyone improve. If a comment is about part of the event that you were responsible for, trust that the person making the observation isn’t calling you out. He/she is just trying to make the next event even better.
c. Comments about problems should be paired with possible solutions. Don’t just say that the room was too crowded; suggest ways to fix the issue. You don’t have to provide a detailed analysis here – general suggestions should be sufficient.
4. What improvements could be made? After you’ve set the ground rules, ask what the team could have done differently and/or what didn’t go well for this event. Keep taking notes during this part of the meeting and continue the discussion until you’re about 5 minutes prior to the designated finish time.
5. Wrap-up. Once you’re near the end of your meeting time, summarize the key points made during the discussion. Afterwards, clean up the notes and email them out to the participants within one business day. Retain the notes in a location that will be easy to find when you start planning the next event. Bring out the notes at the first planning meeting to remind the team of what was successful and what improvements can be made.
The team is probably exhausted after a large event, so meeting to discuss it may not sound too interesting. However, if you combine this with a celebration and use it as a chance to learn from what you just accomplished this can be a very useful and fun time.
Have you ever conducted a post-event review? If so, what did you learn and how did you apply that information for the next event?