Managing an event is hard work, and making it great is even harder. We chat with Andrea O'Meara, Community Engagement Manager at Crosscut & KCTS 9. She shared with us how after 3 years they feel like this is the year they can make Crosscut better, and not just make it happen.

We dive deep into what their debriefing process looks like. Andrea shares how they analyze their post-event surveys by figuring out what they'll do (or not do) for next year's event, immediately after this year's event is over. And how feedback can be a feeling you get during the event, and why it's important to listen to both data & feeling in the team debriefing.

The following has been edited for length and clarity. Excerpt begins at 2:25, and continues at 5:58 and 29:40.

Debrief With Your Team Post-Event

ML: You had mentioned that you are already in the planning stages for the upcoming Crosscut [Festival] in May 2020. What's that first step you guys take once, let's say Crosscut has finished May 2019 in the summer. What is the first step to plan for the next year's event?

AO: We debrief the year before, and that is a pretty long process because there's a large group debrief that kind of encompasses everyone in the organization. So that's usually a room of like, 30 people kind of saying anything that they think went well, think went poorly, that could be better. And then we debrief with individual groups as well. So we did a crew debrief and then we did an editorial debrief and the stage manager debrief.

Really trying to get into like the nitty gritty of what people experienced so that we can say, "Oh, great, that was perfect. We don't need to change that." Or, "All right, that didn't work. What can we do better for next year?"

And really detailing that out and making notes so that now when I'm starting to do more of the logistics, I can look back at these notes and say like, "Oh, right, our MC situation wasn't ideal, so let's start the conversations about how we change that for this year."

So I think for me that's the most important part. Just keeping those notes and making sure we're meticulous about things that we all agreed we wanted to change

so that we're not just like, "Oh yeah, registration could be better." And then we forget about it and we do the same thing [as last year].

Post-Event Survey Data Is Important...

AO: We send a survey to all of our attendees after the event that has both open-ended questions saying, "What'd you like, what you didn't like? Give us your feedback." And then specific questions about, for example, how was the registration rated on a scale of one to 10, how was signage on a scale of one to 10? And then we take that information and see like, "Oh, okay, well, people didn't love registration," and that means we need to flip it.

ML: I see.

AO: Or people [saying], "The signage was perfect. We don't need to do anything," that type of thing. We use SurveyMonkey for that survey system. It's pretty simple. Honestly, we don't have a ton of tech that goes into this, we're doing most of the stuff just by ourselves.

ML: Yeah.

AO: So while we're collecting that survey information through SurveyMonkey and it lives in there, predominantly throughout the year, the analysis of it is really coming from my team looking through the results and flagging things that were problematic, or that were great, because we also like to share out things that people said that they loved.

...But Listen to Feedback During the Event

ML: During that debrief, how does your team determine, "Okay, this was a success. Things went well"?

AO: I think a lot of it has to do with both volunteers and attendees. We know how much money we made already going in. Obviously, that's important having those goals, but logistically, that's not what is the most important.

And it's not about nothing going wrong either, because things definitely go wrong all the time.

ML: Yeah. Always.

AO: I think this year we left feeling really great because what we had heard from our volunteers who had interacted with attendees. They had heard from people that they were happy with [the festival], that it was so much better than the year before.

That kind of gives us a hint as to how people felt about it before we get that survey out there too.

And along with like, how did the volunteers feel about their experience? How did our crew feel, how did the speakers feel? Of course, we want to send them on a really great journey with us so that they'll tell other people or they'll come back.

ML: Yeah.

AO: And so, I think getting those recollections from people is how we kind of know that things were successful. And, of course, we're looking also at, "Did something just melt down?" Like-

ML: Right!

AO: [laughing] Was there a meltdown anywhere — and luckily this year there are, you know, little things, but there’s nothing that would have been seen as a disaster to anyone.

So I think it's really trying to get some kind of feedback from staff and attendees and volunteers on the day of.

ML: As [the event's] happening, you can kind of feel it if people are having a good time or not. [Or are] you know, a little dissatisfied.

AO: Yeah, you can feel it. And we're all kind of in touch all day. Like on the day of, I like to remain pretty free because I'm the main point of contact when something goes wrong. I'm touching base with everyone throughout the day and stopping in at all the different venues to make sure everything's fine, and you can feel it in there too.

ML: Oh yeah.

AO: If something is chaotic, I would know. [laughs]

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