Debrief Meeting Guide: What It Is and How to Host One?

A team holds its debrief meeting.

Debrief meetings are an essential part of any team's operations. They are an opportunity for you and your team members to reflect on recent events. You can discuss what went well and what to improve. 

Are you struggling to run each debrief session efficiently and productively? If so, we will discuss everything you need to know about debrief meetings, including when to hold them and how to use a meeting agenda. We will also provide a template for a debrief meeting agenda.

What is a debrief meeting?

A debrief meeting is a session to discuss and review a recently completed project, event, or activity. It helps you and your team reflect on how the event went and how to improve in the future.  

Work to deconstruct everything about your recently completed event. Analyze how your team operated the event. Identify what everyone thought went correctly, what went wrong, and how to make the next event opportunity more effective.

It's hard to know whether an event went off without any hitches. Everyone will experience different viewpoints about the event based on their vantage point. If you don't take the time to review your events, you may never understand why some people view them in a negative light. 

By holding a debrief meeting, you'll learn from your mistakes and make improvements for future events. 

When should a debriefing meeting be held?

Hold your debriefing meeting as soon as you can. It allows everyone to remember what happened and provides the most accurate information.

A good rule of thumb is to hold the meeting within 24 to 72 hours after the event ends. Schedule it within a week of the event if you can't hold it within a day or two. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes for people to remember specifics.

If you need to wait beyond three days due to scheduling conflicts, ask your team to write notes about their initial reactions the day after the event. Doing so will help them come to the meeting with better recollections than trying to do it from memory. 

How to conduct a successful event debrief

Follow these steps to run a debrief meeting that results in tangible next steps toward improving the next event.

1. Use a meeting agenda 

When preparing for a debrief meeting, the first thing you should do is set an agenda. An agenda will help keep things on track and ensure that you cover all topics. 

Include the main areas of your event, such as the following items.

  • Registration

  • Setup

  • Catering

  • Promotion

  • Speakers or entertainment

  • Guest Relations

Write down any comments or notes you want to discuss in the agenda. Using your notes will help to spur ideas from others in the meeting. One way to begin your agenda is to start your note-taking during the event.

2. Determine the attendees 

Generally speaking, you should invite anyone who played a role in the event. Include people involved in the planning, execution, and evaluation.

You'll most likely invite your entire group with a small team. If you're leading a large team, however, consider inviting only the leaders. Make sure to represent every crucial event function when selecting a large team's leadership.

For example, if you're debriefing a corporate retreat, you may invite people from the following departments:

  • Human resources

  • Marketing

  • Operations

  • Sales 

Think about the size of your organization. Ask how you can maximize the meeting's effectiveness by limiting who gets invited. If you invite too many people, you could make it hard to have a quality conversation.

3. Create a comfortable environment

When selecting a meeting space, ensure that it's comfortable and has enough seating. Even in virtual meetings, the environment should always create open and honest conversation. It means that the room should be private with minimal distractions.

Remember that you always run the risk of disagreements and even wounded egos when reviewing performance. With that in mind, you want people to feel like they can speak freely without judgment. If people don't feel comfortable, they may hold back critical information. 

Watch out for feedback from any person placing blame on someone else in the group. Lighten things up by immediately stating something constructive about the person receiving the blame. Emphasize that you don't want to point fingers during the debrief. Help everyone understand that it's a safe place and ask the group how to make improvements.

4. Review the event performance and goals 

Use this time to identify what went well and what needs improvement. Start by asking people to identify the main objectives of the event. Once you've established what those objectives were, ask people how they think you did in achieving them. 

Use this opportunity to get feedback on your goal-setting process as well as the event itself. If there are areas where you didn't meet your objectives, ask people for suggestions on how to improve. As people share their thoughts, make sure to write them down. 

5. Ask open-ended questions

Use your event debrief as an opportunity to get honest feedback from your team. It is the time to ask tough questions and listen intently to the answers. Asking open-ended questions will encourage people to share their thoughts and feelings about the event. 

6. Show some key metrics

If you have any quantitative data from the event, now is the time to share it. Displaying metrics helps people understand how it went. Your data may include registration numbers, social media engagement, ticket sales, website traffic statistics, or survey results.

Use these metrics to tell a story about what worked well and where there's room for improvement. Be sure to explain any anomalies in the data to keep everyone on the same page. 

For example, if you had a decrease in attendance from the previous year, you'll want to explain why that may have happened. Was there a change in location or date? Did you market the event differently? Answering these types of questions will help you understand what went wrong and how to fix it. 

7. Summarize the achievements

Summarize everything positive about what the group just shared in the meeting. This is a good time to recognize people who did a great job. Congratulate your team on their successes and let them know that you're proud of their hard work. 

8. Decide what could have gone better

Now that you've recognized the successes, it's time to focus on what could have gone better. Summarize what the group discussed in step #4 above. This will help you identify any areas where you need to make changes. 

9. Use event debrief data to decide on action items

The final step is to use the information gathered in the previous steps to create action items. These are specific things you can do to improve your event planning process. Start by making a list of all of the suggestions people have made. Then, go through and prioritize which items to address first. 

Once you have a prioritized list, create a plan for how to implement the changes. Assign responsibility for each task and set a deadline. Be sure to share this plan with your team so that everyone is on the same page. 

31 Questions to ask in a debrief meeting

We mentioned using open-ended questions above. Let's now give you specific questions to ask in a debrief meeting. We'll focus on the questions you should ask your staff, the sponsors, and the attendees.

Questions to ask the staff

Let’s start with five core questions before giving you plenty of other questions to ask your team.

1. What were our goals?

Asking this question helps to ensure that everyone on the team worked toward the same objectives. If you discover discrepancies here, figure out how to fix them next time.

2. What did we accomplish?

This question allows you to review the event's successes and become clear about how many goals you met during the event. 

3. What did we do right?

Use this question to identify the event's strong points. You can then use this information to replicate these successes in future events. 

4. What did we do wrong?

This is an important question to ask so that you can learn from your mistakes. Be sure to listen carefully to the answers and take note of any patterns that emerge. 

5. Was there anything that surprised us during the event?

Asking this question is different than, "what did we accomplish" or "what did we do right". It will help get your team thinking differently about how to improve upon the positive and also how to fix surprising negative situations.

Other important questions to ask your team

6. Did we notice any specific problems or bottlenecks to improve upon?

7. How do we feel about the event overall?

8. How many people attended our event?

9. What percentage were male or female attendees?

10. What was our favorite part of the event?

11. Did our team work well together?

12. What was our least favorite part of the event?

13. Did our sponsors receive sufficient visibility?

14. How did we do with our budgeting?

15. Did we budget enough time to get everything done without stress?

Questions to ask the sponsors

Here are questions to ask your sponsors. 

16. What did you think of the event?

17. Do you have any suggestions on how we could improve?

18. What went well?

19. What didn't go well?

20. Did our event fulfill your expectations around your promotional options?

21. Were all of your sponsorship opportunities made clear? 

22. Did you find it easy to share your promotional content efficiently?

23. Did you feel comfortable suggesting new ideas to our team?

Questions to ask attendees

Use the following questions to learn from your event attendees.

24. Did you gain an accurate idea about the event from our promotional materials?

25. Was the process for registration convenient enough for you?

26. Did you find the presentations organized well or did they cause any confusion?

27. Did you feel that the event's agenda was clear?

28. Did you find enough opportunities to network with others?

29. Did the workshops and 1:1 interactions provide enough engagement?

30. Did you know about our event's social media presence?

31. If you knew about our social media presence, did you engage with it?

Debrief meeting agenda template

One of the easiest ways to create a debrief meeting agenda template is to use this formula:


Describe what you learned about the event.

  • What were our goals?

  • What did we accomplish?

  • What did we do right?

  • What did we do wrong?

So What?

Make sense of what you learned and gauge its impact on your team.

  • Why is what we learned important?

  • How does this affect our future?

  • How does this make us feel?

  • What conclusions can we draw from this information?

Now What?

Describe your plan of action.

  • What do we need to do going forward from this meeting?

  • What will we specifically do that's different from what we did previously?

  • What actions will we keep doing?

  • Who will work on each step after our meeting concludes?


Debrief meetings are a crucial part of any event or project. By holding a debrief meeting, you can make sure your team is on the same page. It will help everyone gain a clear understanding of what happened during the project. Use the questions we gave you so that everyone knows what went well and what to improve.

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