The importance of post event review and analysis

Welcome to the talking tourism and event podcast, season one, episode 1: the importance of post-event review and analysis - what I classify as the first step in planning your event.

Hi guys, you’re listening to the talking regional tourism and events podcast. My name is Linda Tillman, and on this show, we talk about how a successful tourism events economy can drive regional growth and community pride. We offer you tips, insights and even some great case studies on how you can create a sustainable visitor economy. Now let’s talk!

For most of you I know that once your events over, you’ll often have this overwhelming urge to drop to the ground and sleep for, sometimes a month, or some of you might end up in the corner, rocking backwards and forwards! But really it doesn’t have to be that bad, which is why i've created rEVENTS academy, which is a community and support network that will assist you to be more productive but less busy. It really is all about systems and solid foundations. Giving your event that real clear direction and understanding about how we will actually take our event through the planning process step by step can save you so much time! So the first thing we’ll be talking about is what I classify as the first step in planning your event, and is to many other people the last step in planning your event; it's the post-event review and analysis. So for me, I actually classify it as the first step in planning your event because it's the opportunity for you to actually look at what's working, what's not working, and undertake a post-event review, or what some people classify as a debriefing process. So for me, the post-event review is the start of the event planning cycle. I do believe it's the most critical part of the entire planning process for your event, particularly if you want to build and develop and grow in your event, and hey, what are we doing if that's not what we want to achieve, right? So it's ultimately about how do we create a successful and sustainable event; how do we drive increased visitation to our event; how do we sell more tickets; how do we increase our merchandise sales; how do we stop our committee from burning out? You know, these are all the things that are so important to many events.

So what I want to talk about is that idea of using the end as the beginning, in order to help you move forward and make your job easier but also to enhance the visitor experience. So I’m just going to take you through a few things today, just to get you thinking about some of the things that you can do and hopefully providing some insights and takeaways that will assist you in reviewing and taking this first step for your next event. So one of the first things, it's about listening to your tribe. And when I say listening to your tribe, it's your tribe of event attendees; it's your tribe of your loyal online advocates; it's your tribe of sponsors and partners; it's your tribe of industry stakeholders; and your tribe of peers, and the amazing volunteers and the team driving your event. That's your tribe, and you know what, they are the most important element to the review of your event, because let's face it; the event wouldn't exist without them, right? If we don't have attendees, if we don't have advocates, if we don't have sponsors and partners and stakeholders that are going to work with us to help us achieve our vision and to  help us grow and develop our event then we’re wasting our time, we have nothing. So the very first thing you need to think about when you're looking at post-event review and analysis is who’s in my tribe, and how am I actually engaging and listening to them. Once you've got an understanding of your tribe, how you're going to listen and engage with them, what you need to do is assign a committee member to the role of post-event review, and let them focus on that. That can be their core responsibility, because we all know if we wear 5 or 6 or 20 hats on an event committee, we cannot do all of those jobs right. So, assign a committee member to the role, and then what they need to do is consult with the local council, the state tourism organisation, your regional organisation, and see what resources already exist, because often there's some tools and templates out there that can assist you with this entire process. And we’ll come back to that, because we actually have some stuff that can help you as well.

So the event review coordinator needs to have their plan of attack ready at least one week prior to the event. So what this would include would be developing, or if you're lucky updating, visitor and stakeholder surveys. So think about what are the critical questions that we want to ask of our visitors and our stakeholders that will allow us to improve on our event and the experience we offer. You may like to do this in paper form, or these days you can use free software, things like SurveyMonkey, and then you can conduct the surveys on an ipad. Just be mindful with that, particularly in regional and rural areas, if the internet connection is not as strong as you like, then that can often fail you, so just keep that in mind. Whatever you decide, whether it's paper, online; you need to have these surveys ready to go in advance, and I often suggest that people get a few colleagues to have a look over them, just to provide some feedback and thoughts, perhaps even test them; just to make sure that they’re ready to go and there aren't going to be any hiccups on the day.

So you've got your surveys ready, you've got your event review coordinator in place, and they're all pumped and ready to go; the next thing that I suggest you do is think about creating a team to help you conduct the surveys during the event. I've been involved in plenty of events over the last 15 years, as an event manager, sponsorship coordinator, or marketing manager, i've done a lot of reviews of regional festivals and events, and I know how easy it is to push the review process aside on event day. You know, when everything goes a little cray-cray and there's 5’000 people trying to get in the gates and there's infrastructure still going up and media wanting to do interviews - it can get crazy, right? And often things like post-event reviews, or doing surveys - those things that aren't absolutely critical at that moment will get pushed aside. So, prior to your event it's really important that your event coordinator recruits a team that can help deliver this on the day, so once again that's their core responsibility on the day.  So, you can reach out to local schools, TAFE colleges or universities, and basically recruit a team of volunteers that can look after the market research at your event. I've worked a lot with universities and TAFE colleges in this particular instance, and it is a real success. They can come in and focus, and often they use it as part of a learning process within their educational framework, so it's a great opportunity to have that win-win outcome. One thing I will say is make sure you conduct a briefing with the team; it's really important that they understand what you are trying to achieve and what you will do with that data at the end, so they can make sure they gather the appropriate content for you. Also encourage them just to have general conversations; one of the things I love about doing the survey on the day of the event is you get to have an in depth conversation with the visitors, so that's really really powerful in terms of providing you with insights into what's working at your event, what could be done better, and perhaps what will help enhance the visitor experience. So, always encourage them to sit down and have those more in depth conversations when they can.  I'm often asked how many surveys we should aim for; obviously the more the better. And doing it face-to-face allows you to get that more comprehensive feedback as i've just said, but often you don't have the time to spend that if you're really after that high sample size. I’d suggest around that 5-10% as a target, so for an event of 5’000 attendees, that will be around the 250 - 500 surveys. So if you've got a team of, let's say 10, to conduct your survey, that’d be around 25 - 50 surveys each, and I think that's quite achievable.

Another thing to keep in mind is you don't have to do them all on the day of the event wither. Obviously that's a real opportunity to capture the data in the moment, however if you don't reach your sample size on the day, and even if you do and you want to increase that even more, what I recommend you do is to utilise any databases that you have. So if you're a ticketing event, then hopefully with the ticketing system you will have access to email data; if you have a database of consumers then that's obviously another great opportunity, then what you can do is actually direct market to your network of emails and ask them to actually provide feedback post=-event. Another good way to do this is obviously post the link on a social media channel, and that will also drive more responses. So really push it out there as much as you can, and really try to get as many responses as possible, because the more responses you have, the richer the data, and more accurate that data will be as well.

So I'm getting close to wrapping up, but I really want to spend time on this subject, I just can't emphasise enough how important it is to take the time to listen to your tribe, to review your event, to understand what's working and what's not working. To understand how you can actually improve in every element of your event - it's getting pretty competitive out there with regional festivals and events, so you need to listen to your audience. You need to improve, and you need to continue to grow and develop. So I cannot emphasise enough the importance of this post-event process.

Alright let's keep going - so in terms of the survey, what I recommend to people is that they leave it open for 1-2 weeks post-event. Just leave it open once you've got it out there in the marketplace, it can just kind of sit there idle, you don't have to actually be active in that process. So put it out, set yourself a reminder for 2 weeks time to shut off that survey and to download the results, and what I suggest you do during that 1-2 week period is, that's your chance to gather data and feedback in other aspects of your event. I know right now you're probably sitting there going ‘oh my god, but i'd rather just be sleeping, and wipe my hands of the event 1-2 weeks after!’ I get it, right, I absolutely get it, and i often refer to it as the event hangover. I've felt it many a time, however, just take the time to do this! If you totalled up the hours, it might be an extra weeks worth of work post-event, but it's extremely valuable. So basically what you need to do in addition to the survey part, is to gather as much feedback and data from other aspects of your event. So look at the budget washup - talk to the treasurer, look at what the actuals are compared to the budgeted forecast, and have a discussion about that; so what's happened, where have we overspent, where have we underspent, did we reach our income targets, etc. thats a critical part of this process as well. You want to look at the ticket sales; how did we work; where did our ticket sales come from; what channels of marketing worked in term of driving our ticket sales? Spend some time analysing that, and don't forget your online data; you've got google analytics, you've got social media data, you've got online reviews and feedback forums, so spend the time to do that googling of your event to identify what people have said online. You've got your stall holder feedback, sponsor debrief; I always say to people, particularly your higher level sponsors, they need a face-to-face, or at least a phone call, to discuss what worked from their perspective around your event.

Then there's the debrief meetings. I typically recommend two debriefs. One of those would be a community debrief; these can be confronting, they can be a little daunting, but they’re extremely valuable. We need to engage our communities, we need our communities to own the event, and we need them to be ambassadors of our event, and the only way we can do that is to bring them on the journey. So what you need to do is host a community event. So we want to try to get as many businesses, community members and not-for-profit groups to come along and let them have input into the event. Go open minded, let them speak, and take notes. It's a valuable process, I promise! The other one you need to do is more of that internal debriefing process. Your volunteers and committee need to sit down and have a very structured, but comprehensive discussion around the event. This is often the last thing I suggest you do, once you've got all of that other feedback and data in, then you can prepare a summary of that to present at this  committee or internal debrief, and that allows you then to have more robust conversations around what you think as an internal organisation, will actually assist in the development and growth of your event. I love doing this! People think i'm nuts, but for me, if I could put my hand up for one aspect of an event, it's the review and analysis process. I absolutely love it, in addition to strategy, but doing this review process and understanding what's working, what's not, and why it isn't working and how can we improve that? So yeah, people think i'm a little bits nuts, and maybe I am, but I absolutely love this, and I think you'll find that you will as well. When you start to see and hear and understand the importance and the value of doing this, you'll start to go, ‘wow, this is great!’ and then you can actually activate it at your next event and see the results of that.

So, once you've conducted all the market research, you're then in a position to prepare a report. Now, this doesn't have to be a time consuming process; basically what I suggest is you aim to distill everything into key recommendations to improve the event, and that can just be dot points, so don't feel like you have to have a comprehensive report here - key recommendations to improve the event. Then you need to note what are the long-term opportunities. These are the things over the horizon a little bit, because let's face it, some people do make some pretty radical recommendations but let's note them, right? What are the long term opportunities. And the third thing is, what are the ‘must fix immediately’ items? This is about what will make a difference. what will make a difference to the event and the visitor experience; what will make a difference to the planning cycle, what will save you guys a bit of time, you know - what will improve your systems and processes, and improve your productivity; and what will make a difference to the sustainability of your event? It can be a one page report - it doesn't need to be comprehensive, it can be a simple table with those 3 sub-headings; key recommendations to improve the event, long term opportunities, and must fix immediately. If that's all you include in your report, you're a long way ahead of many other events, so well done.

So basically then, these things can get filed for the committee to review and activate as the priority when they start their next event. And that's how the event review process becomes the first step and not the last in the event planning cycle. So you see that it's about utilising the event, and the power of the event, and the power of that engagement in your tribe during the event to start the process for the next event. Lots of fun hey?

 

So there you have it, simple steps to reviewing your event and listening to your tribe. Remember, this is all about systems and making you and your committee less busy. So, as you work through this for your next event, set up the surveys, set up your debrief meeting agendas, and set up your budgets templates accurately, take the time to set them up and then you have them for the years to come. You only have to tweak them and you've saved yourself or your committee a few hours the following year. We need to be more productive and less busy. We all have so much to do, I understand event committees are typically volunteers - the event is not our number 1 priority in life, but we’re passionate about it. So let’s be more productive and less busy. Let's set up effective systems and processes that allow our event to be more successful and sustainable, and prevent us from being that person sitting in the corner rocking backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. Don't let that be you - it doesn't have to be you. 

Now I mentioned a little earlier that we have some stuff for you. So if you head over to reventsacademy.com you can purchase DIY tools that will assist you with your post-event review: so we’ve got survey templates, meeting agendas, and even a post-event report template, and if you become a member of the rEVENTS hub community, you’ll get all of this and a tonne more for free! It’s all waiting for you in the hub at reventsacademy.com. Let’s talk soon.

Thanks for listening regional tourism and events podcast guys! For more great stuff, be sure to visit us at tilmagroup.com.au

Cristy HoughtonComment