Learning from your last event

Derek Hanna interviews Event Manager Sarah Kuswadi about post-event debriefs. How do you learn from what you did, so that the next ministry event you plan is even sharper?

Andy Stanley talks about ‘orchestrating and evaluating’.  For you as someone who orchestrates events again and again, what does that evaluation piece do for you?  What does it look like?

I set up a meeting with those in our team involved in the event to be held after the event, and we discuss what were our goals and how we went achieving them.

At the beginning of each event we work out the goals of the event and these are kept in a place that everyone can see so that we can keep coming back to them.

It’s also very helpful to get different people’s opinions who will look at the event from a different view to those organising the event.

I also email people I know will give me honest feedback so that we can improve for next time. Its also a good opportunity for me to exercise humility.

Finally, I take notes of the event and the feedback – what went well and what didn’t. It’ important to keep a record of these items so that you can implement the improvements and be ready to change not stuck in a rut for next time.

You refer to your goals a lot, for both before and after the event – how do we need to think through that?

I think about it like what they taught me in Year 7 English class, when doing a book review:

  • WHO?
  • WHAT?
  • WHEN?
  • WHERE?
  • WHY?

You need to answer these questions but in reverse order, and the most important question is the ‘Why?’.

Why – do you need this event? What is the purpose here? Is is filling a much needed gap or are there actually plenty of other events like this already?

Where – where is the location? Can you clearly articulate this so that it’s not a drama to find the room / building / street etc. Some events are in the back room of a church and it’s really important for new people that this is easy to find as possible. Could you have some one out the front directing people where to go so that they don’t get lost and lose interest?

When – when is the going to be, what date? Check that it’s not going to clash with other things such as school holidays, other events or a time-frame that just won’t work for your delegates.

What – what is the purpose? Check it again and make sure that you are thinking about it as you work through the requirements of the event. What is the budget and what are delegates going to eat?

Who – who is this event for and how are you going to let them know about it? Social media can be really great for this if you use it well.

And when it comes to your evaluation meeting, run through these again. Did you tick all the boxes? Or are there areas you can learn from?

Are there other questions you ask as you pull an event apart?

There are a whole range of things that can effect the success of an event, so here are a few, in no particular order…

Do you need to recruit some volunteers to help? Sometimes it can be really challenging to get enough volunteers. Could you give volunteers a free ticket if they arrived early to help with the set up and also assisted for registration? Get creative with ways to attract volunteers. Cathie Heard has some great thoughts about this.

Take some time to think about the feel or vibe of your event as delegates remember that.

Pray for your event and make sure that you get enough rest. I am what my friends call a loud introvert, so I love being around people and having a chat but then I really need some time to myself in order to function well the next day. So if there is a conference that we run over several days I need to look after myself with enough rest so that that I can do my job well. Have a think about that for yourself so that you continue to be welcoming and engaging.

Be ready to change things on the fly at the event, as even if you have prayed heaps about the event and sorted out your who, what when, where and why, different things to what you had planned will still happen! Speakers get delayed or venues have double-bookings or food doesn’t arrive as planned. Be adaptable. You need to be ready to think on your feet quickly and make the necessary changes.