Dear Event Doctor:

We recently completed one of our key events of the year, and all went well. Still, we feel we should conduct a postmortem to determine whether things could have gone better. What is the best way to organize a post-event review and what factors should be considered?

—Reviewing the Tape

Dear Reviewing:

No event runs perfectly, and no event has reached the zenith of its performance and potential. You are  absolutely right to conduct a postmortem. You may be unaware of some glitches, and at the very least you want to understand what went right, why it went right and what you can do to deliver even more value to your fans, participants and sponsors.

Rather than holding one or two large sessions, I like to schedule multiple postmortems with small groups of participants who have common interests and agendas. Sure, it takes more time, but the results are often far more comprehensive and candid when there are fewer people in the room. You know the dynamics of large meetings: A handful of vocal individuals tends to dominate the conversation, drowning out others who may have critical intelligence to contribute. Smaller meetings encourage more focused conversations on the things that matter most to those in the room.

Sponsors and the event staff members who work with them form one group with very particular needs and points of view. They appreciate being heard and view contributing their post-event input as added value to their event relationship. Participating teams, coaches and athletes experience events very differently, and understanding their points of view can help build the popularity and reputation of your event. And if you can convene a focus group of fans, it will provide you with much more information than a simple post-event survey. Other postmortem meetings will depend on the structure of your event and organization. They may include managers of the host facility, city service departments, media-relations partners, promotional partners and other like-minded combinations.

Contact likely participants for these meetings shortly after an event has concluded, thank them for their help and support and solicit agenda items for the review sessions. If you receive no agenda items, proceed anyway. I have been consistently amazed by the number of observations, recommendations and critiques received during free-flowing conversations at postmortem meetings.

If you don’t have specific agenda items, come armed with these three questions to help facilitate conversations: What went well? What could have gone better? What opportunities should we consider for next year?

Embrace criticism and try to avoid being defensive. Be sure to thank all participants for their candor and input, and assure them their participation will go a long way toward making future events better.

This first appeared in Sports Travel Magazine and appears here courtesy of SCHNEIDER PUBLISHING COMPANY, INC.