Attendee feedback is one of the most valuable sources of information for an event management professional. Understanding what resonated with your guests (and what didn’t) inevitably helps guide both your present and future efforts. The best way to collect this feedback is via post-event surveys. Here’s how to structure them to be as effective as possible.
I’d like to begin with a question: What’s the most important responsibility of an event management professional?
You might think it’s establishing a solid network of vendors and partners. You might answer that it’s maintaining an understanding of the event technology landscape. You might expect that it’s coordinating keynote speakers, volunteers, and other stakeholders.
These are all vital to an event’s success. But together, they also form the foundation of something else. Something even more important.
The attendee experience.
To host truly successful events at the end of the day, you need to understand your guests. What they want. What they enjoy. What they’re interested in seeing. What you did well, and what you can do better.
To that end, a well-structured post-event survey, even if your event is postponed or cancelled due to current circumstances, can tell you pretty much everything you need to know. Let’s talk about what’s involved in creating one.
Figure Out What’s Most Important To You
Basic questions such as rating one’s event experience or discussing the best and worst aspects of an event are important. But beyond that, it’s important to probe for specific insights. Figure out what you want to achieve with your post-event surveys, and what you want to learn.
Maybe you want to know how you can improve your keynote presentations. Maybe you’re curious about the venue or lodging for event guests. Maybe you’re curious about what type of vendors your guests might want to see at your next event.
Depending on how granular you want to get with this, you might also consider segmenting your post-event surveys. Guests who attended a particular keynote, for instance, might receive one set of questions, while people who only attended on a particular day might receive another. The easiest way to track this attendance is through an event app, created either by a development team or via a tool such as CrowdCompass.
I’d also recommend focusing more on open-ended questions than questions with simple yes/no answers. Focus on trying to get people to not only provide an answer but to also explain that answer. Moreover, I’d advise always concluding your surveys by giving your guests the opportunity to share any thoughts not covered by your other questions.
Send at the Right Time
For post-event surveys, timing is everything. You need to send your surveys out immediately after your event concludes. The longer you delay, the less likely you are to receive any valuable responses. Email is the most obvious delivery mechanism for these surveys, but it’s not your only avenue.
You should also consider featuring links to your survey on your event materials, including within your app, on your event website, etc.
Nothing in life is free. That includes feedback on your event. While some guests certainly will respond to your survey requests without expecting anything in return, you can greatly increase your response rates by offering some form of incentive.
Per Survey Monkey, incentives may include:
- Money. If someone knows they’ll make a few dollars by filling out your survey, they’re much likelier to do so. Make sure your incentive is scaled to your audience, as high-value professionals like doctors will demand more money for their time.
- Discounts. Discounted attendance for your next event. Coupons for products or services your guests might be interested in.
- Gifts. Free access to white papers or textbooks. Event swag. Products that might pique the interest of your audience.
Don’t Forget to Follow Up
Last but certainly not least, remember that post-event surveys aren’t simply a one and done thing. They’re a crucial step in building a relationship between yourself and your attendees. With that in mind, ensure you have a means of sending out personalized thank you emails to anyone who fills out one of your surveys.
It’s also worthwhile for you to have communication channels through which attendees might reach out and contact your team, whether that’s through email, social media, or a website chat client.
Cancelled or Postponed Event?
As we navigate through current circumstances with COVID-19, there are many events that will be postponed, transitioned online, or cancelled. The key is to approach your attendees with empathy. Many of your attendees were looking forward to the business and social opportunities an in-person event presents. Zoom can’t always replace the experiences that people have face-to-face. In addition to the helpful survey
Here are a few questions you can ask if you postpone or cancel your event:
- What were you looking forward to the most at the event?
- What would you change based on the program you saw for the event?
Know Your Guests
As an event management professional, fostering an understanding of your audience is one of the most important tasks you’ll ever have, and informs everything else you do. While demographic research can carry you part of the way there, the best way to know your attendees is through surveys. By structuring them effectively, you can learn more about both your guests and your events.
About the Author: Brad Wayland is the Chief Strategy Officer at BlueCotton, a site with high-quality, easy-to-design custom t-shirts.