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After months of hard work and preparation your event is finally over. The last attendee has gone and finally you can put your feet up. Right? Wrong!
An event planner’s work is not done when the last attendee has left the building. In fact, the aftermath is an important part of an event life-cycle. In this article we look at some of the critical tasks to be completed after the event is over.
The completion of an event is as important as its conception. It's a time to gather feedback, evaluate what worked, measure your return on investment and create excitement for next year's event.
After the adrenalin and excitement of the event itself, taking care of the post-event details can be tiresome and if you are not careful it will drag on for weeks and even months.
To prevent post-event fatigue it is important to schedule and plan all these activities as rigorously as you do the event itself. Here are some of the most important post-event tasks and suggestions for how to plan a successful and painless event completion.
1. Send Thank You’s
Everyone likes to be appreciated. Thank you notes are a great way to acknowledge all the people who participated and it also keeps the spirit of the event alive.
The best kind of Thank You is personalised. The more thought and effort you put into this the bigger the impact. An email is nice, but a card is special and make a longer lasting impression. Include a personal note or photo and you have hit the jackpot.
Make sure you include your staff, volunteers, speakers, performers vendors and attendees in your acknowledgements. This might be a lot of people and by far the most tedious part of this task can be collecting together the contact information. Set up a good database in advance (using your registration system or CRM) and you should easily be able to export all of those details.
You can also use your marketing system and social media tools to shower acknowledgement on the attendees. The best part of this is that you can set it up in advance of your event.
2. Encourage Feedback
Feedback is critical if you are planning to host the event again and/or you want to demonstrate that you accomplished your objectives.
Most attendees are more than happy to provide feedback during your event, using either paper-based surveys or an online equivalent. Often it is useful to gather feedback on individual speakers and performers and this information is best gathered while it is fresh, i.e. immediately after a session.
While structured feedback is important, there is also great value to be found in unsolicited feedback. Social media makes it easy to tap into the conversations that your attendees are having about your event online. Set up social media monitoring so you can listen in to this feedback as it happens.
3. Engage on Social Media
Social media efforts are generally focused on the time before and during the event. There is a build up of online conversation that crescendos during the event and then abruptly stops once the event is complete.
If your event was successful you will have left people with a lot to talk about and social media is a great venue for that conversation. Keeping people engaged after the event will help you build your audience for the next year.
One of the best ways to create engagement is to share content from the event. By this point you will likely have plenty of content to share. However, the task of creating and posting that content can be daunting.
You may have tonnes of raw video footage, photographs and PowerPoint slides from your event but as long as they are an unorganised mass they are next to useless. Sometimes it can take so long to organise your content and find the highlights that by the time you have finished the information has gone stale.
You need to plan for content curation as carefully as you plan for content collection. Find people who are able to select and edit the best content and create bite-sized, share-able highlights.
Organise your content curators well in advance of your event. Have them onsite working with the raw content during the event and for a week or two afterwards so that you can post the best content while it is still fresh and relevant.
4. Balance the Budget
It's time for the numbers! Only when you balance your budget will you know if you have hit the holy grail of a positive return on investment.
While not all events are about making money, in most cases it is important to at least break even if not turn a profit.
Numbers don't lie and it can be hard to look at them with the cool detachment they deserve, especially if you don't hit your targets. But, your numbers will tell you where the gaps were and how to improve.
Perhaps you didn't meet your registration targets or raise enough sponsorship. Perhaps there were unexpected costs that you hadn't factored into your budget. Search your numbers for clues for what worked and where you can improve for next time.
When the dust has settled, the books are balanced and the feedback is collated it's time to debrief as a team. Do this as soon as you can after the event while the information is still fresh.
There are three aspects to a debrief:
i) Assess whether your event met the stated objectives.
ii) Evaluate what worked and what you can improve on for next year.
iii) Leave your team complete with what happened/didn’t happen and excited for the next event.
During your debrief, evaluate the success of your event against your stated objectives. Did you fulfil on the outcomes you set for yourself? How do you know? If you were successful what were the key ingredients in your success? If you fell short, what can you see to do differently next time?
Use the debrief to celebrate victories and look for areas of improvement. It’s important to do this in such a way that your team are left feeling empowered. Mistakes happen and the best planners are the ones who learn from those mistakes and move on.
6. Update the Website
There is something sad about visiting an event website and finding all the information on it is out of date. Your website is your primary marketing vehicle for future events and a beacon to the whole world about how great your event was.
Plan for a website update as soon as possible after the event is complete. This can include highlights from the event and some of the best content. Also, it is never too early to post information about next year, even if it simply a 'save the date' announcement.
7. Perform a Technology Review
Event technology is constantly changing and it is important to take a breath after your event and audit whether your software met your objectives and expectations.
Take the time to review all your technology and interview the staff who used it. Find out what glitches they ran into, how time consuming it was to use, whether they got good customer support and ultimately whether the technology actually worked and if it didn't, why.
Call your technology suppliers to debrief what worked and what didn't and find out what they can do to solve problems for next year. If they can't resolve issues to your satisfaction then the time to start researching replacement technology is now.
Creating and running an event is a marathon and afterwards you need time to recharge ready for the next one.
Life is busy and if you don’t plan time to recharge and relax then it won’t happen. Plan your downtime just as carefully as you plan your events, booking the time off well in advance and ideally getting away for a week or a long weekend.
If you are hosting an event in another city or country stay an extra few days to actually enjoy the place. Many event planners don't do this and end up travelling the world but hardly seeing any of it beyond the inside of an airport and conference centre. You work really hard, so make sure you enjoy the fruits of your labour.
Give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate another successful event before looking forward to next year or the next project on the horizon...
We have an extraordinary opportunity to create event communities that continue to engage long after the event itself is over. This means that an event is never really done, instead it is a springboard for the next.
Inside of this context, what we do after an event is critical. Engagement, sharing, evaluation and feedback keep us connected with our audience and give us the information we need to improve for the future.
We need to plan for our post-event activities as thoughtfully and carefully as we do the event itself so that we can make the most of this opportunity to build our audience and evolve our events.