Postmortems Matter - MMVQ Meeting venue
Manège militaire Voltigeurs de Québec Manège militaire Voltigeurs de Québec

12 February 2019

Postmortems Matter

Le Manège

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A lot of time and energy is put into designing, planning, and organizing events before they occur. Yet people often forget to take time to debrief afterwards. But the closeout phase is very important. Postmortem analysis is a tool that yields valuable insights and benefits—it’s your big chance to identify what worked and what didn’t.

Why a postmortem?

 A postmortem provides an event manager with crucial feedback, generating what’s needed to assess whether the objectives were attained. Knowing that has value, however often the event is held.

The postmortem is also an opportunity to look at your strategy and evaluate how well it worked, to identify potential for improvement. Here’s a way to break down what an evaluation looks at:

  • Products and services
  • Staff, suppliers, and participant comments
  • Tools and techniques
  • Speakers, hosts, and so forth
  • Impact
  • Return on investment

Ultimately though there’s no limit. You can include virtually anything. At the end you’ll have a kind of checklist you can use to make the process more efficient next time around.

What do you include in your postmortem?

 What worked

Take the time to look at whether objectives were attained, including your own and those of your partners and sponsors. You can also evaluate the performance of presenters, what the event achieved, the opportunities taken advantage of, and so forth. If you found a solution to a problem, make sure to note it down. Risk management should also figure in your final report.

What didn’t

There are always things in an event that don’t go as planned. Events necessarily involve an element of risk, and unforeseen circumstances are a given. The key however is to look at the rough spots not as a failure, but as an opportunity to improve. By being open and transparent, you can pinpoint the cause of problems and reduce the chances of them recurring. Talk it over with the employees involved and get their take on things.

All in all, it’s important to cover as much as possible to get a comprehensive picture of the event.

Postmortems for all!

The main reason drawing up a postmortem is recommended as an in-house exercise is to help your organization assess itself. But you can produce external postmortems too, for sponsors, partners, and funders. Such postmortems measure and show whether contractual obligations have been met. In the long term, they strengthen business relationships by showing how the event has benefited all parties. They’re also a great opportunity to work out renewal agreements with your partners.

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Where to find content to use in a postmortem

There are numerous ways to get material to put into a postmortem.

  1. Have participants complete satisfaction surveys. If you emailed your invitations, there’s no reason not to follow up by email as well.
  2. Survey your staff satisfaction as well. Take a moment to get together and nail down any problems that emerged along the way. And remember to look at things that helped as well.
  3. Monitor the media and put together a press review. This is a great way to find out what’s being said about your event online and in the media, which can be used for assessing impact. The press and social media will reveal all kinds of things.
  4. Break down your statistics. Statistical analysis provides a basis for assessing numerous issues. For instance, attendance data will tell if the rooms were the right size. You can also consider start and end times against hourly traffic. Take time to ask questions about things—it’s essential.

Last but not least, don’t be too tough on yourself. The purpose of a postmortem is to look back at the whole operation critically but constructively. That’s the best way to make sure everyone comes out satisfied—the participants, sponsors, partners, and your staff.