Post-event surveys and attendee outreach, whether conducted via email, social media or other platforms, are indispensable tools for gaining insight on what worked and what didn't during your conference or meeting. They can help guide your whole approach to event planning moving forward, and make it possible to create a useful attendee feedback template to employ for future events and surveys. But when and how how do you craft the kind of event-feedback questions that will entice attendees to provide the value-rich responses you're looking for?
We’ve consulted with industry pros to get some tips for gathering event feedback.
1. Review your goals. Before reaching out to attendees for their input, it's important to review what your own goals were for the event, says Danielle Rothweiler, owner of Verona, N.J.-based Rothweiler Event Design. Then go over what you think worked and didn't, and why. This will give you a foundation from which to interpret feedback.
2. Ask at the right time. "In general, you want to do a follow up with meeting attendees immediately after the event, and then again a month after the event is completed," says Rothweiler. "Another option is to ask attendees to complete an evaluation and feedback survey before they ever even leave the event, and offer an incentive to do so." Such incentives could include gift cards, giveaways or other thank-you gifts that attendees could collect and bring home after handing in the evaluation.
3. Keep it simple. For events with multiple sessions and speakers, use individual session surveys to determine if the speaker was effective and the content was meaningful, as opposed to jamming all feedback into one long-winded evaluation form.
One important question to ask: “Did the description match the content you received? That’s a big deal,” says Christopher Korody, experiential event marketer at CK Writes. "You see this constantly: The description was wrong, it was too basic, it was too that. Now they are 15 minutes in, and they have to get up and try to get to another session, and it has basically blown their hour." Breaking up feedback to focus on specific, shorter forms can entice attendees to provide a more in-depth response.
4. Use new techniques. Why not try steering away from traditional methods of gathering feedback in ways more convenient for meeting and event attendees? For example, "There have been recent studies talking about the extreme success of text messaging to collect data," says Rothweiler. "This is a path I think more businesses should explore and could be a great way to do outreach to event attendees."
For example, shortly after attendees have left an event (or individual session), send them a text thanking them for attending and ask them to respond with 1-3 words describing their experience (you can follow up with more detailed questions later on).
Beacon technology, which uses geo-location to send signals to a smartphone or event app, can be used to push event feedback surveys onto a phone as soon as an attendee leaves the area. This can be done for specific exhibits, attractions or the conference as a whole.
5. Value attendee responses. Individuals are more likely to give feedback when they feel that their opinion truly matters. Take a tip from the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, says the studio team at Event Management Blog. They used conversation starters as a way to engage their museum event attendees and gather feedback. They invited guests to finish any one of the following sentences about the event:
I made ___________
I loved ___________
I met ____________
I learned _________
They then took pictures of guests with their written answers and asked if they could post them to social media using an event-specific hashtag. Ninety percent agreed. "An added bonus to this type of input is that it requires people to think about the value they got out of your event," adds the Event Management team.
6. Provide feedback for the feedback. "If you’re surveying people electronically, let them see an instantaneous list of how others answered the same questions," suggests the Event Management team. "This sparks a natural curiosity and will encourage them to complete the other questions as well."
Gathering and displaying this information in a collaborative way builds community. "Plus, attendees are more apt to agree to provide their opinions if they know others are doing it as well," adds the EM team.