Event Planning Best Practice: Post Mortems

Missed Opportunity for Post MortemWhen I was in Barbados last week, I had the pleasure of sitting with Sarah Lionel of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency at lunch time. It's one of those impromptu events in which you meet a random stranger for the first time and end up having an engaging conversation.

I call these "divine encounters". Sarah was at the hotel attending a post mortem. We talked about the fact that many organizations seem reluctant to schedule post mortems. I have found this to be true with corporate client assignments whether they involve event planning, consulting, team building, and especially training and development initiatives. It's a missed opportunity. I don't know if it's because people are overloaded but many companies just don't take the time to pinpoint desired outcomes and identify specific and measurable goals. When a project is finished, the tendency is to drop it and move on to the next initiative. As a result, organizations end up bouncing from project to project never taking the time to identify lessons learned, celebrate the successes (what went well) and refine best practices.

The risk for event planning and consulting professionals is that companies value what they measure. If no time is taken to measure results, you can bet your bottom dollar that the next time the organization experiences a dip in performance, the initiatives will be cut.

One thing is certain, leave it up to most clients and post mortems will never happen. So what can you do?

  • Introduce the concept early.
    Ensure that post mortems are mentioned on your website, in early conversations, and in proposals.
  • Schedule them.
    If you don't schedule them, they simply won't happen. If you're flying to another destinations, ensure that you've scheduled a post mortem with all key players before you board the plane. Sometimes you have to be creative. You many only be able to catch a busy CEO over lunch on the last day of your program or for 15 - 20 minutes after events, team building sessions or business meetings are over.

    I have even conducted post mortems in the jeep on the way back to the hotel after desert team building.

    For a US client, the CEO and I traveled to the nearest major airport by private charter and that is when we conducted the post mortem. It may not be ideal but if you don't schedule and grab these slices of time, you many never have another opportunity.
  • Schedule a back-up.
    Things come up and if some of the key players get caught up up in fighting the latest fire, your post mortem simply won't happen if you haven't scheduled a back-up.
  • Have a structure.
    The shorter.....the better. Provide a one page outline with bullet points to capture the salient points under 2 - 3 headings.
  • Provide a written summary as soon as possible.
  • Identify next steps.

If you wait to schedule a one hour post mortems in a corporate meeting room or meeting venue at a hotel, many of them will never take place. Re-think your approach to post-mortems and find creative ways to make them happen.

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