Guest Posts

Event Post Mortem Meetings: How to Assess The Success Of Any Event

Grace Lau at Dialpad

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Whether you’re in retail or software, events are a great way to engage your target audience and build real connections. 91% of companies assess the success of their events based on attendee satisfaction before anything else. Each one is a big opportunity to connect with clients.

But making those events run smoothly is a skill: you need input from everywhere from event marketing, to design, to sales, to logistics. If you’re not constantly trying to build those muscles and run great events, your competitors will outpace you.

There are many ways to make sure the whole company is learning from experiences, but one of the simplest and most powerful is the post-mortem meeting. So whether you’re meeting in person or gathering around the online whiteboard, let’s go over the best practices for running a post-mortem meeting after your event.

What is an event post-mortem meeting, and why are they important?

Whether it's in-person or in web-based video conferencing, post-mortem meetings are a great opportunity to celebrate success, reflect on failures, and review processes to ensure things run more smoothly in the future. 

Post-mortem sessions go by a variety of names. Some you might have heard include:

  • Project debrief.
  • Retrospective.
  • Project recap.
  • Wrap-up meeting.
  • “Lessons learned” meeting.

These all have different origins, from project management theory to standard military practice, and slightly different processes. There’s no one-size-fits-all process for post-mortem meetings, and you should review the review process itself to make sure you’re getting the most out of it.

How to run your post-mortem meeting

Before you hold your post-mortem meeting, you should confirm that every aspect of the project has been squared away and that everything has been signed off.

To see what you did well, you should have clear KPIs or other measures of success set before the event begins. That might be “sales made”, “meetings booked”. If your priority is networking at events you could measure “new customers added to CRM”. Once your event is over, you’ll be able to focus on these key data points.

Among other meeting best practices, make sure everyone is aware of the meeting time and agenda well in advance. Maybe you should make it standard to hold the meeting the next Monday after the meeting, or the very next day everyone is in the office. Holding the meeting as soon as is reasonable means it’s fresh in everyone’s minds.

One aspect of engaging standup meetings is keeping to an agenda. By preparing a structure and sticking to it, such as "what got done yesterday, what's on today, any blockers", you can keep everyone on track and keep the meeting moving along quickly.

Most importantly, attendees should feel upbeat and eager to talk about everything that transpired. Even if the event was a disappointment, the point of processes like this is to create a learning mindset in the whole company culture. You’ll be setting yourself up for success if everyone is willing to see things positively and to discuss the things that even they could have done better.

Everyone who was involved with the event should either be invited to the meeting or kept in the loop via recordings, transcripts, or summary emails. If you’re selling software and the designer responsible for the graphics hears that customers were confused about a feature, they can make a pull-up banner for the next event that highlights it.

Assessing the success of your event

Your post-mortem meetings can be a repeatable, documented process that’s being formally reviewed all the time. Whether you’re doing that, or you think something more informal works, there are a few steps to running these meetings you can pick up here.

1. Send some quick questions

If there’s a lull between the end of the project and the post-mortem meeting, it's sensible to send a questionnaire to your team to get some early takeaways on how the project went. You could send a recurring email in gmail that is timed to be sent out when each project ends. The contents might be as simple as:

  • List three aspects of the project that went well.
  • What three things could have gone better?
  • Any recommendations for how we could improve?

2. Set an agenda

The next step is to develop an agenda, based on early findings from the event, and distribute it to the team prior to the meeting, whether that's over email or more specific web-based proposal software.

3. Assign roles

Assign a moderator and note-taker for the meeting. These should be two different team members; a team member doing both at once will be too busy to contribute.

It's a good idea to record a virtual meeting so that participants can look back on it and you have a point of reference when you're reviewing your meeting minutes. Any good business video conferencing software can do this automatically to make life easier for the note-takers, reviewers, and any stakeholders who weren't able to attend.

4. Host the meeting

Setting ground rules for the meeting's conduct before it begins is crucial, especially if this is a new process you’re introducing. In a big company, this helps you run meetings the same way across different branches, with different teams. Typically, the moderator steers the discussion with the important items on the agenda. Questions to discuss at every meeting might include:

  • Do you think this event was a success? Why? Why not?
  • What feedback have you had from customers?
  • Did you feel like we’d prepared adequately?
  • Did we have a good strategy for this event? Should we do it this way again?
  • What would you do differently if you could? What do you wish we’d done differently?

These types of open-ended questions can help you identify areas of your process that you haven’t developed as much as you should, as well as highlight the strengths you should double down on. Make sure you get input from everyone in the process from planning, to logistics, to the event on the day, and everyone responsible for following up from the meeting.

5. Send a recap to the team

Send a summary of the key points to your team after the meeting. Include any action items you identified at the discussion, and offer some initial ideas on what your team can anticipate working on the following project.

You should be coming out of these meetings with a list of clear action items, and any news going out to the rest of the company should come with timelines for when they can expect those action items to be acted on.

Tips and best practices

Running a post-mortem meeting is a skill in itself, and it could take you a few attempts before you get the hang of it. Here are some ideas to help these meetings be more productive:

  • Start implementing the changes discussed in the meeting as soon as it’s over.

    Examine the meeting minutes and use them to build an action plan. That should include a list of action items, with clear owners, and some kind of ranking of their priorities.
  • Include some kind of table to keep track of each action item's progress.

    The average lead time for completing these items could be a useful KPI.
  • Communicate the lessons learned to other teams outside the project, maybe even in branch offices, and implementing those changes.

    Keep the tone of the meeting constructive and optimistic. If the team is discussing a lot that went wrong, try to steer things back to what went well where appropriate. While your action items should have clear owners, keep in mind that the event is a team effort with shared responsibility.

    Keep in mind that this is a broad conversation, not a lecture. No one person should be dominating the meeting, even if they’re a project manager. Everyone on the ground at the event will have valuable insights to share, and identifying those will help you find solutions.

If you’re in-person, exclude laptops from the room for everyone but the person taking notes. Attendees will be more able to concentrate on the discussion if there are fewer distractions in the meeting, and this added focus will help you keep the meeting short and to the point.

Keeping these meetings focused will help you get more enthusiastic buy-in from teams who have other work to be doing. You can think about establishing a similar guideline for mobiles if that becomes an issue.

Learning from post-mortem meetings

Reflection, learning, and development are all critical parts of the project management cycle. Whether the event was successful or if there were aspects that could be improved, a well-run post-mortem meeting process is key to making sure your company is constantly improving.

Author Bio
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad.
Dialpad Meetings is an AI-powered cloud communication platform for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Grace has also written for other domains such as Bizmanualz and MultiBriefs Exclusive. Here is her LinkedIn.

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