Navigating through a post-con evaluation

MTCC post con

In the lead-up to any event, it’s easy to get consumed by the immense planning effort, and by the time it has (successfully) come to a close, many want to do what needs to be done to move onto the next project. Personally, I call this the Post-event Purge; the brain dumps information that is no longer relevant so that it can make room for pertinent information for the here and now. I believe this is a natural instinct, but before one can truly move forward, pausing to review the entire event is a powerful way to evaluate business decisions and relationships. This is done through the formal process of a “post-con” or “post-conference evaluation.” But where to begin? From a venue’s perspective, I’m revealing the Top 5 ways my colleagues and I navigate through this conversation that allows us to gather the most valuable information.

Timing: Why being mindful of the scheduling of your post-con is key

Oftentimes, I feel a certain buzz in the air when I know we’ve almost reached the finale of an event; it’s a mixture of excitement and joy of a job well done, and a bit of emptiness and disappointment that the adrenaline rush is over (what I refer to as PEMS – Post-Event Melancholy Sickness). This feeling also signals that an internal debrief with my Operations team is in the near future as their testimony helps to complete the narrative of the event. None of us can be everywhere at once, so I personally rely heavily on the experiences of my front line team members to fill in the blanks of what I missed.

I translate this thinking to my client by asking when they will meet with their team, and if that collective experience could be shared with me. Some of the stories that have come out of these conversations have been amusing and others have been frustrating (so everyone hated that seating arrangement, did they?). But truthfully, they have also always been valuable; knowing more about an event leads to improved service and stronger business relationships. And this can only happen when both I and my client have touched base with our respective teams about the event before we meet formally for the post-con.

The space: Evaluate the very setting of the event head-on

This might sound like a no-brainer coming from me because, after all, we sell space at the MTCC, but allow me to elaborate with the following questions.

Were you pleased with the look of the space? The answer to this will help us assess whether we are relevant and modern in the marketplace, and it also speaks to the kind of look and feel that attract our clients.

Were you pleased with how you used the space? This question is especially important when a client uses the space in an unconventional way, such as using exhibit halls for a concert. If it was a success, we know it can be done again for the same client or another client. If it wasn’t, alternative space must be sought.

Were you pleased with the amount of space?  This is the Goldilocks question: was it too much, not enough, or just right? Perhaps at the time of contract the space was sufficient, but, as time progressed, the space became too much or not enough. Although space inadequacies would have been apparent at some point during the planning, the conversation that follows this question can be extremely educational about the factors that affect a planner’s business.

Attendance: Did you meet your mark?

All along the planning process, discussions about daily attendance would’ve been had, whether it was about capacity in a meeting room or guarantees for lunch. At the end of the event, it’s valuable for us to know if the predictions were correct and if there were any factors that helped or hindered attendance.

I like to ask, if growing attendance is a goal, what do you attribute to the growth? One of my clients recently shared that a new marketing strategy increased the online ticket sales by 200%! It’s always great to hear about my clients’ successes, but it’s also worthwhile to learn how they got to that point. From an operations perspective, if attendance is changing, perhaps the products and services we’re providing as a venue need to be re-examined. This may have an impact on my – and my client’s – budget, so learning about this is mutually beneficial.

Facility knowledge: Were you armed with pertinent information?

This question is typically directed to new clients, traveling shows, and when a new team member joins a repeat event, as it is vital for my team to evaluate how well we are consulting on venue and Toronto-related specifics. If my department does its job right, the list of “I didn’t know that…” will be short and we can all take an early lunch. If the list is long, this is a cue that there is a knowledge gap and we must work on the consulting and communicating part of our role as venue representatives. Whether an event is booked with four years or four weeks of lead time, the same information should be delivered with the same care and detail.

Communication: Could this have been better?

After consulting my little heart out over the few months or weeks leading up to an event, I’ve found that the way the entire team (client and suppliers) interacts with each other throughout this process is a significant predictor to the degree of the event’s overall success. We all know that Murphy’s Law prevails especially in show business (Hmmm, that bulkhead wasn’t there before…), but how the known and unknown situations are dealt with is important to the health of my relationship with my client.

If I had to narrow it down, I’d say, specifically, that I’d like the event planner I’m working with to assess two things regarding my behaviour and the behaviour of my Operations team: were we accessible when needed? And, was our response rate to your needs appropriate? Ideally, the same care and detail that was taken in educating my client about the facility pre-event is carried over to the onsite experience.

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There’s so much that can be learned from a strategically crafted conversation, and these points are just the tip of the post-con iceberg. I encourage you to make this a priority in the coming weeks after your next event, even though you’re thoroughly exhausted, alarmingly malnourished, and if you saw another human being – ever – it would be too soon. Remember, recording and reflecting upon the past is a natural, uniquely human, process; it’s called history, folks, and it’s not just for making blockbuster films!

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