“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” Ecclesiaste 7:8
Well, it’s over. The decorations have come down, the tables have been unmasked of their colorful cloths, and the remaining programs that took so long to format now lie at the bottom of a trash can. You’re falling into bed, ready for some well-earned rest. Enjoy it! After all, “God giveth His beloved sleep!”
Sleep well, but after you have had a chance to rest and eat a meal that didn’t come in a paper sack, take a few minutes to do the last step of leading: Evaluate.
Good leaders are like a captain of a great sailing vessel: they oversee it all and take note. They are aware of how the ship is sailing, the direction they are headed, the weather on the front, and the condition of the crew. They receive and make reports after each voyage. So ought we to take account so that we can make for smoother sailing with a happy crew in the days ahead.
Now, I’ve learned to keep a file on any events I run or assist in.
Things I want to remember; things that my multi-tasking, mother-listing, and “on to the next big thing” mind won’t remember. Things like:
-How much food was purchased and how many people did it feed?
-What did we charge for tickets? Did we meet our budget?
-How did the event flow? What did not go well and how could I fix it?
-What went over wonderfully? What was my favorite moment?
-Who really shined in serving? Did we find a new gifted leader in an area?
Without asking ourselves and others for evaluation, we will find ourselves less and less effective in our work. For example, why are we knocking ourselves out making handmade goodies if our community prefers store-bought treats or is so health conscious they didn’t eat half of what we put together? Evaluation notes these inconsistencies and paves the way for new and better methods in the future. Let’s talk about three groups you should evaluate with.
Do it alone, do it with friends,
Do it by survey when the event ends!
(sorry, it’s cheesy, but I couldn’t resist!)
1. Evaluate with Those who Attended the Event.
We try to have a paper survey to pass out at the end of each event. We ask those attending the event to fill it out and place it on their seats before they leave.
(At times we have had to send these out via email with a free program like survey monkey after the event is over. We’ve found that we get less responses this way, but the responses we do receive will likely be more detailed.)
For these surveys:
a. Keep it short. If you want people to do it, make sure it’s not overwhelming. It should easily fit on a half sheet of paper. It needs to visually look like something that could be completed in 4 minutes or less. Give attendees time to complete this. Have the surveys on their seats when they come to the last session to save time, or pass them out at the end and after asking them to fill them out. Proceed with your closing announcements so those in a hurry can quickly complete them. If you hand them out as people are leaving, most will not take the time to complete them.
b. Keep it simple. Have less open-ended questions on a paper survey and more questions that give the option to rate something by circling a number 1-5 or a yes or a no answer. Your goal is to get a better view of the majority perspective of the group rather than a snapshot of a few. Short and simple can entice almost everyone to participate.
2. Evaluate By Yourself.
It’s important to take some time for reflection after your event. Again, wait until your head is clear but not so long that the responses of your audience are lost from you. And don’t be discouraged.! This is a learning process. Look for not only the fails but the fantastics! Ask yourself what one thing would you change or modify if you were doing this event again? What one thing was so great that you would do it again exactly the same?
Lastly, remember to do an evaluation not just by yourself but also of yourself. Don’t be harsh or unrealistic; what you should be looking for here is growth. What did you do this time that was a step in the right direction? What area do you see now for this type of event or that could have saved you a headache?
After one of our recent events, I recognized the fact that I had not set up women to direct enough of the various aspects of the event like registration/arrival, seating/ushering guests. For example, I should have had someone with great time management and people skills outside to coordinate the ticket sales and hosts greeting at the door. This individual could of easily looked at the long lines and come up with the solution of getting another worker out there or moving people who had already paid for their ticket to the door, etc. Because I did not set overseers in enough areas, like this, I found myself running in too many directions at once and solving those problems. This is something I had not needed in the past, but an event of this size and type requires this. Next time I will review my notes and make more steps towards a leadership team in these areas and then entrust them with the responsibility.
Remember, honest evaluation is your goal, not self-critical, discouraging slosh. Instead take the perspective of a student learning from her omniscient and perfect Teacher.
3. Evaluate with Those who Helped you Organize or who have Direct Insight.
“Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14
The last group you will want to hear thoughts from is from your leadership team and those who have a keen eye in the details of the event.
Your leadership team had an upfront and personal view of the entire event behinds the scenes and on the stage. They may have wonderful ideas they learned that you can keep or pass on to others who may lead in that area. Recently we used a personal caterer for an event. The lady from our church who very kindly agreed to oversee this area made notes for me on things to remember to ask or be aware of the next time we use catering. How terrific to have those notes to read through as a reminder to her and myself the next time we need catering or to share with another lady who will oversee this in the future.
Those who have direct insight would be mature believers who understand ministry more than others might. Perhaps there is one of your pastoral staff wives who works at another locations or who was not highly involved in the planning because she has young children or is caring for elderly parents. If she attended the event, she is in the know of what your purpose was and will have a different perspective than you on what went on. Her honesty is invaluable. She may not have sensed the chaos that you and others setting up the event felt behind the scenes. That is great to know that it went better than you may initially feel. Or because she knows you well, she may have sensed your exhaustion when it might escape others. Don’t allow offense at her comments. See her concern for you and ask the Lord to grow you in that area.
Give them time to think. Some of your best feedback will come from processors. They can’t answer right away. They need time to remember, consider, or even to overhear comments in the following week from those who attended the event. After the event, send them a questionnaire to email back to you or to bring in with them if you are meeting in person.
For this group, open-ended questions are great. They are more invested than the crowd who came to the event and will be willing to spend more time answering your questions. Questions like “What part of the program did those attending the event seem to enjoy most?” “What could have been improved in our program?” will give them the opportunity to think and help you see other perspectives.
I recommend doing this evaluation separately or via email. If honest but constructive comments are given in an area that someone else was serving in, it is better for you to be aware of this privately than for her to hear it from a lady who may not have “the law of kindness” on her lips. If you would like to do group feedback in an event, I suggest still gathering the information beforehand by email or snail mail. Then make the group meeting celebratory. You lead the discussion sharing the positives and not hitting the negatives for the most part. (If you lead the discussion while standing when everyone else is seated, it will guide the ladies in the fact that it is not a fully open forum. It will be easier for you to guide the conversation in the right direction.) Overall, this should be a time to rejoice as well as better prepare for the future. Time to inspire and gather perspectives that go beyond your own.
TIP: Don’t forget the golden question of “why?” Try to determine not just what worked but why something worked.
*Was that skit or video funny because it was placed in the right place in your program, because of who was in it, or because you had young girls in the audience whose infectious giggles spread throughout the whole crowd?
*Was the session the speaker delivered a bit off because you did not give her a better idea of the theme or because her flight left her little time to rest before your event?
Ask yourself and if you can come up with the answer, make note of it for next time.
Evaluation was once a dread to me. I found it disheartening and saw little purpose in it. But over the years, I am learning that evaluation in the right forum and with a direct purpose can be one of the most encouraging and productive uses of my time and in the end can wrap up an event like a savory dessert.
What did I miss? Have you found another way to gather information to equip you for tomorrow? What question have you found it