Create An Event Pre-Mortem Instead Of An Event Autopsy

Dr Fixit is on the Job / Alternate title The Proctologist

The knife plunged into the skin creating a diagonal slash starting at the shoulder.

The gloved hands plunged the knife into the body again creating a second diagonal cut in the opposite shoulder. The two incisions met at a point and then continued in a vertical downward slice. The letter Y was scarred permanently into the body.

No one screamed. No pain was felt. Little blood flowed from the body.

The Common Autopsy

This procedure is repeated daily in cities across the world. Clinical and academic autopsies are performed to determine the cause and manner of death, especially if it’s related to a crime. Examiners also want to evaluate any disease or injury that may be present.

Autopsy literally means, “See for yourself!”

Our TVs are filled with autopsies. From the evening news to the crime dramas to TLC’s magazine style faux-documentaries, they are part of our culture.

It’s easy to get addicted to watching TV autopsies. It’s almost as dark as Dexter’s devotion to hunting and killing the bad guys that slip through the justice system.

We are fascinated by the human body’s complex system.

Post-Mortem Event Autopsies

Like many TV crime dramas, most meeting and event professionals hold some type of post-mortem event autopsy.

We pour over hundreds of evaluations and pages of notes. We try to evaluate any dis-ease our participants had. We look for things that went wrong and how to correct them in the future. We look for processes and procedures that were bruised or injured during the event.

We discuss:

  • What to keep doing
  • What to tweak
  • What to dump in future events

We take copious notes from the autopsy and file them for next year’s planning.

Our goal? To make incremental improvements to next year’s event.

Yet are making improvements next year soon enough? What can we do now to improve our next event?

Adopting An Event Pre-Mortem

Guy Kawasaki talks about conducting a pre-mortem in his book Enchanted. He suggests that before a project occurs, those planning it should discuss all the ways it might fail. Then proceed by eliminating those reasons.

Imagine if during your event planning process, you held a pre-mortem. You ask your team to look into their crystal balls and predict why the event failed. You encourage them to openly list all the reasons your upcoming event may die. They should consider, “What’s the worst that can happen?”

Each person that participates brings a different set of experiences to the task. Their views can help alleviate potential minefields and pitfalls.

This process subtly shifts the focus on failures after the event to finding any weaknesses or flaws in the current plans. The goal of the pre-mortem is to avoid and minimize potential problems that might occur.

Creating an event pre-mortem is one way to make improvements now to your next event. It helps prevent death and failures rather than explain it. It can increase the likelihood of your success.

What other questions should you ask in an event pre-mortem? Why is it important to shift from focusing on explaining why something failed or died to preventing problems?

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  1. Amen. Clients don’t like it when I bring my 15-page checklist to events because they are in love with the idea of themselves being faultless. All of these things on the checklist came about as a planning episode, sometimes learned the hard way.

    Thanks, Jeff!

    1. Jeff Hurt says:

      Whoa! What a surprise to see you commenting here on the blog John! Thanks for reading and sharing your insights. I know you attend more than your fair share of events!!! You get it for sure. 😉

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