Start at the End: Pre-Mortem Meetings

If you've ever helped organize an event, I'm guessing you sat down at some point to discuss what went right or wrong after its conclusion. Have you thought about having this same meeting before your event ever took place?

Sit back and imagine a scenario: you’re seated around a table filled with your event’s planners as exhibitor and attendee survey responses are read aloud. There are so many glowing comments and high marks, you can’t keep track. There’s no denying your most recent convention was a hit.

But what got you here?

Just earlier this month at PCMA’s Convening Leaders I was conversing with several folks when an interesting idea was mentioned. Why not have this post-show meeting several months before the event ever takes place?

Some groups have a post-mortem meeting to discuss why something failed after the project is over. Why wait until your event is complete to start this exercise?

Known as a pre-mortem meeting, it’s becoming more popular to dissect an event before it ever takes place – and the timing of this exercise is important. Start by laying out your plan for the event. Then, call a meeting with the appropriate stakeholders to review this plan, all with the intention of discussing why your event failed.

Check out this Harvard Business Review article on how to conduct a pre-mortem.

Here’s the kicker: don’t just discuss why your show or conference failed. Banter about why it was such a huge success, too! Discussing why it failed, often times, can lead to “worst-case scenarios,” which are important, but don’t always impact attendees or exhibitors in creating memorable experiences. Your pre-mortems should include conversation on why your event was such a huge hit as well.

Have you done something like this before? I’d love to hear from you.

Conduct an event pre-mortem