By Rachel Owen, Communications Manager
In part one of All About Conferences we talked a little about what association professionals should focus on Post-Conference. Today, we’ll go a little more in depth into some good things to include in your post-conference routine.
Ask for Feedback.
If you aren’t surveying attendees after the conference you should be! You can use apps to survey attendees real-time during the conference or you can send out a survey email after the conference. Prepare the survey in advance so it’s ready to send immediately following the conference when the experience will be freshest in the minds of attendees. Also, follow-up with your staff and committee members for feedback – connect with anyone who was involved in the inner workings. They will have valuable, unique insight that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Talk About What Worked.
Now that you have surveyed all of the key players it’s time to discuss the findings. You want to hear from the attendees about what part of the conference gave them the most benefit and then build on that aspect for the next event. Find those highly rated speakers and invite them to return for the next event. Learn from staff which new systems worked well so they can be tweaked and repeated for the next event. Reviewing feedback and really examining what “worked” for your association can help you to better understand your organization’s culture and therefore make future events even better.
Talk About Solutions for What Didn’t Work.
Be as realistic and objective as possible about aspects of your event that struggled and then focus on solutions. Analyze the issue to understand the trouble points, but watch that you don’t dwell on mistakes or devolve into finger pointing. Remember, we don’t have a time machine to go back and make something “right” – we can only work to improve the system for the next time.
For instance, if attendance at a reception was low think about marketing the next event differently to promote awareness, switch the format of the reception to create more interest, or offer prize drawings throughout the event to encourage attendees to linger. If there was a bottleneck at registration, brainstorm with your team how to simplify the check in system or better guide attendees through the process. Find out from registration desk staff what FAQ’s they heard from attendees and be proactive with ideas for how to resolve and minimize those “hot spots” at the next conference.
“The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.”- John Foster Dulles, Former Secretary of State
Measure the Wins.
Be sure to measure the wins and keep track of them. Keep historical data from each event so you can compare and show how your association is progressing. Don’t be shy in sharing the association’s wins! Remember the old adage “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it make a sound?” Event success is similar. Get the word out about how your event was successful. You need to share those wins!
Here are some “wins” you can easily measure and share:
• Improvement on attendee satisfaction ratings
• Higher attendance numbers
• More participating in certification classes
• Stellar feedback on speakers
• Increased social media activity
• Increased volunteer participation
• More sessions than previous events
• Successfully implementing improvements (new type of session/topic, training, exhibit hall change, app, etc.)
Some wins will be best shared with the board and event committee members, but others should be announced far and wide. Get creative in sharing the wins. Consider sending a press release about all time high attendance, writing a newsletter article praising the hardworking volunteers, or sharing an infographic on social media highlighting the number of people who tweeted about the conference.
Get Started On Your Next Event
Gather up all your notes on those wins and solutions to start working on your next event. As you well know, some improvements need to begin far in advance. Finding a new conference app, revamping the sponsorship system, and adding new educational tracks are just a few examples of improvements that likely will require much research and discussion to get off the ground. Be sure to pace yourself so there is plenty of time to implement your new ideas.
Take time to thank everyone who helped make the conference a success. Your conference “superstars” all the way down to those who take care of the tiny, often unseen tasks are the legs that prop up your event. Often times we forget to thank people who are “just doing their job” – the registration desk staff, graphics designers, conference planners, room hosts, etc. – but thanking those faithful workers is important, too.
Be specific in your thanks. Thank the appropriate volunteers or staff members for being flexible, dependable, creative, tireless, calm, quick thinking, etc. I like to say, “Praise the behavior you want to continue.”