How can you cap off your year in the best possible way? No, not the staff Christmas party (although that is our first choice too!), we’re talking about a year-end review. Conducting a proper audit of 2018 will help your team start 2019 on the front foot with the right event strategy.

Download the Free Template: End of Year Review for Events

Whether your event team is one person or 10+, set aside time to meet with the whole team. This will help you to reconnect with staff, set goals, and plan your tactical execution for the year ahead. This is essential for any event manager wanting to build on successes and avoid repeating mistakes.

Let’s dig into the five steps you should take to conduct a thorough year-end review:

Step 1: Review processes and tactics from your 2018 events

The first thing you’ll want to do is to look back at 2018. Ask your team to come with plenty of ideas before the review meeting takes place, so that it gets off to a flying start.

In the 2018 review meeting, you should look at 3 things in particular:

  1. Successes: Whether it’s reaching attendee numbers, saving money on a venue, or providing stellar customer service, make sure everyone in the team finds at least one achievement they’re proud of. Celebrate achievements as a team and see how they can be catalogued as best practice — to be repeated and improved upon in 2019.
  2. Improvements: Nobody is perfect, but you should focus this part of the meeting on processes, not people. How can mistakes be avoided, processes improved and which tactics simply didn’t work as well as you had hoped?
  3. Return on Investment: Think about efficiency – of time and resources. Has something you did produced good results, but taken an inordinate amount of effort to achieve? Is it really worth doing again? Can anything be automated or outsourced? This is where looking at ROI can really help you prioritise better, above looking only at absolute results.

Step 2: Review values and strategy of your events business

The next stage of the review moves up from tactics and processes to one of values and strategy. Here you should look at three critical components:

  1. Reconnect: Take a moment to reflect on the values of your brand. Revisit who your target audience is and why they come to your events.
  2. Mission: Take the time to remind yourself and your team about why you do what you do. A clear mission or purpose invigorates everyone, makes the day-to-day grind worthwhile, and helps get us through tough spots.
  3. Attendees: Who is your customer? After reconnecting with who your target market is, it’s time to see how well you really know your audience. If you have been collecting demographic data through 2018, review your actual results based on the audience you have been targeting. Are they the same? Has anything shifted? Re-evaluate your ideal customers for the year ahead.

If you haven’t been collecting attendee data, now is the time to start! Read up on how to create custom questions for your event attendees and start collecting information for future use. Consider what data will be most useful to you. It could be age and location data, or if your event is information based you could look at asking attendees what their biggest challenges are or what they hope to learn from your event.

Read more: To Increase Revenue, Uncover These 10 Hidden Gems In Your Event Data

Step 3: Develop your 2019 event strategy

It’s time to take your reflections and start looking forward to 2019. To develop your event strategy, assess these three key areas:

  1. Customer Needs: Good event strategy needs to start with the customer. Not their demographics, but their needs. What does your event provide they can’t get elsewhere? If you overheard your customer trying to describe one of your events to a friend, what would you want to hear them say about you or that event? A key part of your strategy should be to develop a solution to how you will create a business and event/s that would match this description.
  2. Company Needs: While it’s top priority to cater to your customer, you can’t forget about your own needs either! What do you care about? Is it growth and profit, brand awareness, connecting your community or support for a cause?
  3. Metrics: Once you’ve answered the above two questions, you need to put in place metrics that keep everyone focused on your agreed strategy. For example if you care about growth, maybe you’ll focus on month-on-month ticket sales and not talk much about cost; if you care about profit — cost-per-acquisition may be much more important.

Step 4: Set goals for 2019

Everyone needs something to aim for! So it’s time to agree on some goals, which we’ll again break into three parts:

  1. SMART: You’ve probably heard of SMART goals before: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound. For example, if your goal is to “sell more tickets” or “increase ticketing revenue”, a smart goal might look like this: “increase ticket sales in 2019 by 10% year-over-year by leveraging new paid marketing channels, like Instagram and Google advertising.”
  2. BHAG: This acronym stands for “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal”. Do you have a long-term vision for your company and events? Or perhaps a stretch goal that will really push your team to aim high? If you’re going to break the mould and be an exceptional company, your goals should be big, ambitious, and exciting.
  3. Milestones: Don’t assume you’ll get your event strategy right the first time to hit your goals. Instead, benchmark progress toward a goal and adjust your plan as you go. By breaking goals down into small chunks you can see incremental progress — and course correct if the progress isn’t there (before it’s too late!). Set a timeline for when you will review your progress towards goals.

Step 5: Create a 2019 event plan

Last but certainly not least, you need to turn all of your brainstorming and ideas into an actionable plan. How will you execute your event strategy and achieve your goals? Think about these three things:

  1. Team: Does your current event team posses all the right skills needed to execute on your vision? Do you need to hire more people or upskill staff?
  2. Tools & Tactics: What specific ideas do people have? This is a great time to brainstorm specific tools to implement and campaign ideas to test for next year.
  3. Processes: Go back to your notes on successes and mistakes from 2018. Can you put in place specific workflows, reviews processes, or collaborative tools that will help you sustain best practices and avoid bad ones?

Download the 5-step template

To guide you through the process of conducting a year-end review and setting your 2019 event strategy plan, download the Free End of Year Review Template for Events.