12 Essential Steps to Run a Debrief Meeting Effectively

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 25, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A debrief meeting is an effective and efficient technique to increase the retention of critical information, consider main findings, and ensure the briefing of every team member. It encourages people to properly evaluate the knowledge shared, allowing them to become more productive, efficient, and disciplined. Learning how to conduct a debriefing meeting can improve organizational operations, personal growth, and productivity. In this article, we discuss what a debrief meeting is, explore various steps to run a debrief meeting successfully, and highlight some benefits of such a meeting.

What is a debrief meeting?

A debrief meeting is a team meeting that allows the participants to reflect on a project, an activity, an occurrence, or an event. It usually covers action items relating to a task, any obstacles that arose, individual learnings and findings, relevant progress, or subsequent actions. This post-project discussion aims to determine what happened, why it occurred, and how those involved can perform better next time. Most organizations hold a debriefing session to allow participants in a project to discuss ideas and offer suggestions for improvement, depending on the study findings.

How often you conduct debrief sessions depends on your project, current status, and development rate. Try holding these debriefs once weekly until you can establish how frequently you and your team require a debrief. For example, there may be times when you only need a meeting to debrief after major milestones, some when you need it daily, and others when concluding a project. Consider getting insight from your team members on the most productive frequency for debriefing.

Related: How to Run an Effective Meeting With Your Staff

12 essential steps to run a debrief meeting effectively

Here are the steps to run a debrief meeting successfully:

1. Determine the frequency of the meetings

Determine how often to hold debriefing sessions in advance so that your team members can include the date in their schedules. Before starting any project or event, establish the frequency and the duration to convene. Discussing how often to evaluate your progress helps reduce the number of meetings you hold, removing time commitments from your schedule.

2. Establish a meeting agenda

A meeting agenda is often necessary for a successful and productive discussion. Consider preparing a meeting agenda document for every initiative, event, or subject you intend to discuss so that you may use it as a framework for the debrief meeting. When you develop a practical agenda in advance, the likelihood of conducting a productive meeting increases significantly. Include important themes, discussion points, supporting evidence, decisions, and action items to ensure a successful debriefing meeting.

A good meeting agenda also guarantees that all participants contribute to the conversation. Your team members can come prepared with suggestions, concerns, and ideas to discuss because they know the discussion points. Before the session, invite every member to add some discussion points to the agenda. Consider assigning specific owners to sections of your agenda template to ensure the active involvement of every participant. Once you decide on the discussion points, ensure you adhere to them, leaving any newly arising issues for the next debrief.

Related: How Do You Plan a Meeting Across Time Zones? (With Guide)

3. Make logistical arrangements

It's a good idea to plan the logistics of the debrief before conducting it. This may entail working around complicated schedules to ensure every participant in the project can attend. Digital technologies can assist you in the coordination of every member's calendar. Although most organizations hold debrief meetings in person, you can conduct video calls or use other remote communication tools when managing individuals in multiple places. You might also want to prepare any essential supporting documents and make them available to participants in advance.

4. Discuss expectations

When you get together for a debrief, the priority is usually to talk about the expected results of a specific project. For instance, if you were gathering to discuss a subscription campaign for your group, you may speak about the number of new subscribers you expected heading into the project. It may also be good to define specific ground rules, such as involvement and respectful dialogue.

5. Discuss the outcome

After establishing the results you expect, you can discuss the actual outcome heading into the project. For example, you may talk about new subscribers resulting from a recent membership campaign. You can also speak about employee engagement, vendor disruptions, and other relevant factors.

6. Discuss the success

The contrast between what the team expected versus what occurred can give a helpful foundation for discussing what was successful. For example, if you held a membership initiative expecting 500 new subscribers and ended up with 1,000, you might determine the factors that persuaded those extra customers to join your service. If your service provider charges were lower than expected, you might talk about this and other factors that contributed to your success and how you can replicate them to get better results.

Related: How to Set a Meeting Purpose (With Definition and Examples)

7. Discuss the shortcomings

In this step, you can discuss and explain aspects that can enhance the project. For example, if you predicted 1,000 new subscribers from the membership campaign but only received 500, you might look for factors preventing potential subscribers from registering. You may discover some deterrents and try to discuss viable solutions to prevent them from recurring.

8. Ask open-ended questions

Asking open-ended questions gives you a genuine sense of how the team feels about the project and gathers their thoughts, ideas, and suggestions. These questions encourage better discussion and enable members to participate in the project and the decisions. Asking such questions exhibit your attention to the project and shows your team members that you value their ideas and suggestions. Discussions generated by open-ended questions are valuable because they allow participants to learn from each another.

9. Change the meeting format

Sometimes it's necessary to deviate from a rigid meeting structure when you realize that your usual meeting format isn't functioning well or if enthusiasm levels are low. Consider making your debriefing meetings exciting and effective by changing the regular structure. For example, you could consider using whiteboards and graphic support resources to make your debriefing more successful and relevant. Including these components in debriefs makes them more engaging and can enhance the involvement and participation of your team members.

Related: What Is a Stand-Up Meeting and How to Run One Successfully

10. Make notes of the learned lessons

Make notes of the lessons learned in a way that you can refer to later. This can entail taking notes and sharing them with attendees. Other means, such as recording, can help make the material more accessible to a larger audience. The key insights from debrief sessions can serve as a point of reference for your team members, allowing them to retrieve essential information quickly. This summary is also helpful for discussing your findings and progress with stakeholders.

11. Document actionable insights

It's also vital to keep track of any action items during your debriefing sessions. Consider delegating key actions with precise timeframes to specific team members during the meeting. This holds each team member responsible and accountable for their duties and creates a way for the initiative to advance on a set timeframe.

Related: How to Make a Meeting Agenda: Tips, Template, and Example

12. Inform stakeholders of your findings

Consider who might benefit from what you learned during your debriefing sessions and share this information with them. Also, consider how to store this data so that you can retrieve it when required. It's also critical that you and your team have easy access to these lessons to refer to them in the future.

Why is a debrief meeting important?

Debrief meetings help team members understand the project's progress and apply learned lessons toward project success. Here are some other benefits of debriefs:

  • Encourage team interaction. During a debriefing session, members engage by sharing knowledge and ideas, leading to successful project collaboration.

  • Enable teams to process valuable data. Debriefing sessions assist team members in processing and comprehending essential material from each finding, which can be beneficial when working together on a project.

  • Create an opportunity for feedback. During these meetings, team members can share their thoughts on the project and suggest ways to enhance it.

  • Simplify the project. Team members can streamline the project by sharing crucial information when they schedule short debrief meetings after each progression.

  • Allow for information sharing. Teams can share the outcomes and suggestions from a debriefing meeting with individuals who couldn't take part, such as customers and other project stakeholders.

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