Last Year’s Evaluation
We really can’t do it better until we learn from our past mistakes. This may seem really strange to say but I’ve seen too many event committees not get this right
(present readers excluded of course!). Following are the 2 most problematic scenarios when the accurate knowledge of previous events comes in really handy.
The Status Quoers
This committee is made up of the exact same people as last year so the same exact event is repeated over and over with the assumption that nothing needs to be changed or made better. This committee tends to be very self-congratulatory and really thinks everything always went perfectly until the organization starts to panic when attendance starts to drop and then the event is cancelled because it’s clearly not a money maker – most likely the economy is to blame.
These are committees that are quickly formed and members are thrown into an unknown environment because even though lots of people have been to the island, no one has written anything down to explain it to the newcomers. They are bombarded with surprises and with no plan of action, spend their time putting out fires and scrambling to do everything last minute. The event just barely comes together but most committee members don’t come back the next year for fear of being stranded on the island forever.
Both these scenarios, of course could be improved with better committee selection (to be discussed in future post along with other committee profiles) but they also could benefit from really well-thought-out evaluations from the previous year.
It’s Not Too Late
So Step One will be to go over evaluations from previous years or locate people from last year’s committee to create an evaluation now. Find your most anal – I mean organized – employee and have them initiate this process. The more organized you are now, the better equipped you will be when you select (or shake up) your current event committee.
So open an excel spreadsheet and plug in some numbers – and not just for last year, but the last 3-5 years – you will need to know:
- Title and theme – you need to be able to evaluate if the theme or title of your event – if it changed from year to year – may have had an impact on your numbers.
- Day and date – you need to evaluate whether any change in the time of year or day of week had any possible influences.
- Add an area for Activities – this is where you would add a note about any unusual activities that may have influenced the outcome of your event not covered under any other areas i.e. you tried a new registration system that year or you were able to piggyback your marketing with another one-time event. The economy doesn’t count; it’s just a new factor that means we actually have to be organized supermarketers now, when we didn’t have to be before.
- Price of the event. This is a very important item to track because it’s always hugely debated – should we charge less in this economy – should we discount for certain people (my answer would be no for both but more on that later) and usually changes every year. It’s also often a critical factor determining event success.
This would just include a column for each type of participant and just list the number of participants in each category including Attendees, Sponsors, Donors, Volunteers, Committee Members – this will give you a nice view of your participants over the years and help you when you set goals for this year’s event. You can also see if larger or smaller committees or larger or smaller numbers of volunteers may have influenced results.
Just do general categories like Ticket Sales, Donations, Auction/Raffle, Sponsorships – for every major income source for the event. You probably have this already tracked elsewhere but add it into this spreadsheet anyway so you can see it side by side with the numbers of attendees, sponsors etc. so you can either do a quick calculation yourself or if you want to get fancy schmancy set it up within Excel to determine average donation, sponsorship etc. You will also want to know how many attendees actually purchased tickets (if you track attendees by head count or how many meals eaten or by ticket you may be surprised how many tickets were given away). This needs to be tracked to see the direct impact free tickets can have on your bottom line.
Also very general categories – you just want to be able to glance at it and see general trends or problem areas that need to be worked on – Facilities & Parking, Food, Marketing & Advertising, Giveaways, Printing & Postage, Website, Other Supplies (tailor to meet your needs)! This way you can glance at it and say – OY – last year we spent too much on food, how can we get the price down…
You would also have the spreadsheet subtract the expenses from the income for your net income and you may want to track in-kind donations in another column.
This may be harder to track down for previous years, but do the best you can and at the very least it’s set up for this year’s tracking. At least evaluate if general techniques were used and you can either check the box yea or nay or put in actual dates if you have them i.e. when the direct mail piece was actually mailed – this is a good one to track because timing of your communications can hugely impact your outcomes! I would set up these categories below (we’ll cover these in more detail in later posts). As you develop your plan and what tactics you will be using, your spreadsheet will expand to include the results of each of your tactics.
- email blasts
- online ads/widgets/banners
- social media
- press releases / articles
- collaborations / cause marketing
- direct mail
One last thing to research that you can track more thoroughly for this year’s event: number of people registering online for your event vs. offline. We can look at this number over time to see if it’s increasing (hopefully!) and, if not, why not.
I lied – there is one more piece to add here. If you did previous evaluations you should have comments / suggestions / complaints. You should add a section to your spreadsheet titled Feedback and then columns for the top 3 complaints and top 3 kudos. This will give you a quick overview and weed out the nitpickers that will always find something wrong and goody two shoes that just like to see their own writing on paper. And it will give you your best insight into what to keep and what to improve upon for the next event.
Mini Focus Group
If you DON’T have these try to find 5 people who attended the event that will give you honest answers and ask them what they liked and didn’t like – people really do like giving their opinions and keeping the pool small will save you time (with your super mini and quick focus group) and it really is never too late to get feedback and feedback is CRUCIAL to understanding successes and failures and adapting for the next time.
Armed and Dangerous
Once you have completed this task you will be armed and ready to go; this very important document needs to be handed down annually to each event committee to evaluate and add to. The initial amount of work will obviously take more than a day but will be well worth it as your best tool to hone your event into a super successful one.