Two weeks ago, I wrote about our upcoming annual meeting. We were about to host over 4,000 people for a multiple day event. Because I had our upcoming meeting on my mind, I also wrote several posts about the value and power of events. Today, I’ll address the question I’ve received numerous times over the last few days: How do you know if your event was successful?
First, let me answer the question directly - we're still working to determine the success of our event. A cursory look would reveal an event that ran smoothly. However, our evaluation can’t stop there. If we’re going to invest in events, big or small, we need more rigor to determine their success. Here are a few thoughts on how you might evaluate your next event…
1. Consider your objectives
Every event should have pre-determined, clearly-stated objectives. These are why you conducted the event in the first place. These objectives are your primary success criteria. They are established by the client - usually defined as whoever is paying for the event. Did you meet the client’s objectives? Don’t be distracted by any of the other voices listed below. They are secondary measures of success.
2. Ask the audience
The audience is critically important. The event was conducted for them. They will always be a great source of ideas for improving future events. Just remember, the event objectives are primary. Here’s an example - if your goal is to communicate clearly an upcoming reorganization and the audience doesn’t like the idea, you may meet the objective for the event and not score well on the audience evaluations.
3. Talk to your vendors
When evaluating an event, I like to take a look at both the process and outcomes. Points one and two above are about outcomes. Talking to your vendors will allow you to understand what worked and what didn’t concerning the process. It is possible you enjoyed great outcomes and still have opportunities to improve your process.
4. Ask your staff
Those closest to the work are often the most informed about the work. What did your team think about the process and the outcome? What suggestions do they have to improve future events? The only caution I’ll offer here is to avoid producer’s logic. Always maintain a customer focus when evaluating events. Just because your staff may have critical feedback on the process or outcome, always listen to the client and customers first – it is their event.
It’s important to evaluate every event. As I shared recently, events are a strategic bet. Leaders conduct them because they expect a return. From a stewardship perspective, you must know if you hit the mark or not. If you met your objectives, celebrate. If you didn’t, don’t beat yourself up. Begin immediately to capture key learnings to incorporate into your future events. Always learn from the past - just don’t live there.[GLS_Shield]