For event planners, the planning process is dedicated to ensure the success of an association annual conference or event – however, an event planner’s work isn’t over after the closing remarks. It is now time to build on your experience. If you are planning a recurring event, this post-event feedback is critical.

You might think that everything went well (the AV was flawless, attendance was high, the food was great, exhibitors seemed happy) but even though you might feel good about the event, you need to find out if everyone involved feels the same way. In order to keep everyone happy including attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, association board members, and your client, you must get their feedback.

Association Conference Attendees, Sponsors, and Exhibitors

After most events, event planners send out a survey to attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors. These are your key players as you need attendees and you need supporters. Send out a survey via email as soon as the conference is over. It could even be pre-scheduled to be sent by email during the closing remarks.

For information on what to include in a survey, see Evaluating the Conference Experience: How to Get Useable Feedback From Your Delegates.

The Association Conference Planning Committee or Association Executives

Next, you need to know how your client feels. Whether you are working with a planning committee or simply communicating with the association executives, meet with them and have a discussion. The first debrief meeting should take place on-site, on the last day of the conference (if possible). Even just a 30-minute discussion is enough. For every hour that goes by after the conference, a bit of insight drifts away. At this point you would ask a few, simple questions such as: What went well? What could have gone better? What should be discussed at the official debrief meeting? Be sure to take notes as they will be important for your final report!

Your Team

Get your own team’s feedback. Any person in your office who took part in the planning or execution of your conference should be included in the debrief. This type of discussion is important to maintain quality team work and communication. Also, they may have noticed something that you didn’t or have a different perspective.

Set up this team meeting in the office, as some of your team members may not have been on-site. From this meeting you may collect feedback related to the event experience, but your goal should be to discuss productivity, information management, tasks, office communications, and task implementation.

Make sure to keep things positive. A debrief meeting isn’t set up to discuss all the things that went wrong during the planning and execution. Take the time to praise your team for a job well done and discuss aspects that went well and why. “There was no line-up at registration. All our sessions started on time. We sold 10 more exhibitor booths than last year. Now how can we build on this. Why did these things go so well this year?”

The In-Depth Debrief Session

Once you have received attendee, sponsor, and exhibitor feedback and you’ve met with your team, it’s time to meet with the client. This should be done within 30 days of the event. Three or more days before your meeting, send the gathered feedback to the client for review.

This last debrief meeting is an event planner’s opportunity to discuss the feedback and build on it. You should also look at financials and if this is a recurring event, set some goals and objectives for next year’s conference. How can we make it better?

Questions To Ask

  • What were our event objectives and did we meet them?
  • Did we encounter problems related to: registration, audio-visual, revenue goals, marketing, attendance, food and beverage? How can we solve these issues?
  • What were our successes at the conference? How can we ensure that this happens again?
  • What can we improve on for future events?

Even the most well run events should be debriefed. A post-event debrief is the best way to make sure your client is happy, your attendees keep attending and your sponsors and exhibitors keep supporting.