As we were working on conference details for a client, something didn’t feel quite right. I knew there was something that the client wanted to change from the previous year’s event. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember exactly what it was. (In my defense, it had been over a year since we had planned that particular conference. That’s a long time to remember things!)
Thankfully, I knew exactly where I could find what I needed. The detail was included in our post activity report, also known as the PAR.
We complete a PAR when we wrap up each project and/or event, and it’s proven to be one of those documents we don’t want to live without.
A PAR is more than a summary. It’s not the same as an attendee evaluation (which you should also do!). And it’s not quite the same as a post-event recap. Instead, it’s a document that includes valuable information that allows our clients and us to do even better work next time around.
For our client’s benefit, the PAR includes an evaluation of whether the project met its purpose and achieved what the client hoped it would do. It’s where we list what went well and what didn’t, so that if the project (or event) is recurring we don’t make the same mistake again.
For our benefit, the PAR includes estimated project hours and how much time we actually spent – information that can help us make better estimates next time.
My favorite part of the PAR is a list of “lessons learned.”
These lessons are useful even if the project or event isn’t intended to occur a second time. Lessons learned can easily be applied to other projects or events. After all, every project or event has room for improvement.
For example, we have learned that when scheduling events in the Fargo-Moorhead area during football season, it pays to check out the Bison schedule. If you can avoid scheduling during an in-town game, your attendance will go up.
Another lesson learned: special dietary needs should be included in the overall menu selection whenever possible. We once arranged to serve chocolate mousse to attendees who were vegan. The cups at the end of the buffet line were well-labeled. People still grabbed the mousse because it looked so yummy. And our vegans, who couldn’t eat the cheesecake, went dessert-less. It would’ve been better to have served chocolate mousse to all.
I was particularly glad we did a PAR for the event referenced at the beginning. A quick look at the document, and I remembered: The client wanted an easy way to capture the mailing addresses for conference speakers so that she could send handwritten thank-you notes after the event.
I was totally on board with this plan! We simply added a mailing address request to the online speaker form. The solution was easy, but would’ve been completely overlooked without the PAR.
It is easy to wrap up a project and move onto the next one without taking time to consider what went well and what could be done better next time. It is worth the time to do so.