So much time and energy are often put into briefing teams before an event, that the debriefing gets forgotten. We often focus on team performance and team targets before the event but the exhibition follow-up and evaluation we do on this after the event is just as important. You need to measure the success of the event and look at how you can improve in the future.
Why it is important to have an event debrief?
Debriefing allows the opportunity to discuss and record what went well and what worked not so well. It creates a base for celebrating those successes and helps you generate new ideas for an even better event next time. Successful debriefing sessions should enable you to create a plan for similar events in the future.
Ultimately debriefing provides an opportunity to get the team together, strengthen relationships and work towards a joint goal. Teams that communicate together with aligned goals are usually more successful and higher performers.
How to debrief
There are many ways to run a debriefing session; some are more structured than others. However, successful debriefing needs to be more than a casual discussion of what went well and what didn’t. It needs to dig deeper into why things happened and what the implications of these happening were. By understanding this you know what to repeat and what to change. It’s important to overcome any failures, however hard they may be – it is easier to deal with this now than make the same mistake again!
Think about the best time for the debrief – within a couple of days of the event is best so it is fresh in people’s minds. Think how long you need it to last and the location to get the best results.
You may want to supply the debrief questions in advance so that the team can prepare or think about it before the meeting.
Objectives and Results
Remind the team of the objectives you set out before the events – these should have been agreed upon before the event. If you had measurable results – which you should have – publish them internally so you and the team can visually see where you hit or missed targets.
Then discuss what caused these results – both the positive and negative. Make sure you dig deep to find out why certain results happened and don’t just accept one answer.
For example, if you were overwhelmed with visitors, why was that – was the incentive particularly good to come to visit you, and how could you have dealt with the flow of traffic better? Or did you not hit targets because the event wasn’t busy? Ask how they could have approached the visitors that did come to the event in a more direct way. For example, could they have a better list of conversation starters or open questions?
You need to know why things happened and didn’t happen to enable you to create an actionable list for the future. The more times you ask “why” the more answers you will get which uncover the fundamental problems. You can now decide what you need to start doing, stop doing or continue doing!
After the debrief put the information gathered into a useable format for the future and distribute it to the team. Make sure you refer back to the notes when you plan your next event and make any exhibition stand or strategy changes ready for the next one.