Debrief: Setting the Stage for Success

08 Mar 2013 By Roger Devine

Remember what it was like, the first time you got involved in the auction planning process? If you recall the process being easy and seamless, then you are in the lucky minority.

More often than not, beginning the planning for your school auction is a rocky process… because every year means starting over with a new group of volunteers.

Imagine what a difference it would make to go into next year’s auction season with all the knowledge you gained through this year’s experience, readily accessible to the next team?

This is the purpose of debriefing.

Debriefing should happen within a week of the event… when everything is still fresh in the minds of the volunteers. Done right, this will be the most important time you spend during the entire process because you will use it to build volunteer goodwill and make things better, year after year.

Here are some suggestions for making the most of the debriefing process:

Make it fun

Providing refreshments will make it a fun event, rather than just one more auction-related task.

Recognize Volunteers

Apart from the obvious goal of collecting insights and feedback about every aspect of the process, debriefing is a time to recognize and thank the volunteers upon whose dedicated efforts the success of the auction was built. Your successor(s) are almost certainly going to come from this group so do your best to make everyone feel really good about their accomplishments and contributions so they look forward to being part of the team again.

Ask some open-ended questions to get the ball rolling

● Which tasks generated the most/least revenue for the effort?

● What 3 things most impressed you/guests about the event? What will you/they remember a year from now?

● What was your least favorite aspect of the event?

● What would you like to see done differently next year?

● Which piece/task/role would you be excited to help with in the future?

Allow time for open sharing – and take notes

Sharing war stories and reminiscing on the triumphs, memes, and (hopefully averted) disasters builds espirit d’corp among your team. Some people are great at making the time to write down their thoughts, but many more (most!) will not. The sharing time allows each team member to talk about what they felt went well, and to collect all the suggestions and feedback at one time. Note: be sure to assign a note taker during the open sharing segment.

Pass out a simple one-page checklist/survey (with space for comments) rating:

  • event facilities
  • auction mix (types of items, quantity etc)
  • check in
  • check out
  • food/beverages
  • music/entertainment
  • anything else that seems important

Encourage key players to put their feedback in writing

Committee Chairs should be asked to jot down a couple pages of notes – no need for a detailed report – outlining what worked best and what could be improved upon. These people’s feedback will be critically important for future auction teams.

If some volunteers are not able to make it to the debriefing session, take time to reach out to them by phone or email to collect some feedback.

Additional feedback can be requested from guests, perhaps included in a Thank You note or email, such as: “Thank you again for all of your support. We’re already starting to think about next year’s auction and we’d love to know what you liked best and what you’d like to see done differently. Please send us a message and share your thoughts!”

Finally, collect all these notes and surveys in one organized place – a binder works great – and clearly mark it in a way that next year’s team will understand its importance.

Until next time,