Some Tips For Doing Event Surveys

I’m on my way back from Portland, where I spent two days at a fantastic conference of independent workers: freelancers, entrepreneurs, and other intrepid souls like myself.

Like most conferences, there were a lot of logistics: multiple sessions at once, a space that spanned several blocks, and the basic needs of 400+ attendees. I’m always amazed at people who can pull off events like this, and I’m especially impressed when they do a post-event survey.

Event organizers have to think about every single detail BEFORE the event happens. After the event, I imagine they are so exhausted that doing an attendee survey is the farthest thing from their minds. It shouldn’t be! Event surveys are great tools to plan future events. You can learn what worked–and what can be improved for next time.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when doing an attendee survey.

1.  Ask soon! The conference ended on Friday, and I’m already forgetting some details. Ideally people will get a link to a survey as soon as the event is over.

2.  Offer an incentive. You want to do everything you can to get the most representative group of respondents—not just people who had a great time, or people who had a terrible time. By offering something that people really want, you’ll get a broader range. Bonus tip: DON’T offer free or discounted admission to your next event. This won’t incentivize people who had a bad experience—and those are people you definitely want to hear from!

3.  Keep it short. I’ve seen event surveys that asked about every detail. This can be exhausting for respondents, and not necessary for event planners. Figure out what you REALLY care about (and what you can realistically change), and limit your questions to those areas.

4.  Keep it useful. One question that makes my skin crawl is “How satisfied were you with this event?” What if 100% of your respondents say they weren’t satisfied at all. What are you going to do with that information? Ask specific questions that will be useful to you: Was there enough coffee? Enough time between sessions? Was the venue too cold? Too far from public transportation?

5.  Don’t overwhelm people, but give a chance for open-ended feedback. Asking “What did you like about this event?” can be a daunting task, and many people won’t answer. I usually suggest keeping open-ended questions like this to a minimum. On the flip side, many people appreciate a chance to voice their opinions. Asking a question like “Any additional comments?” may lead to crazy rants—or it may give you the answers to questions you never even thought to ask. Make sure you have the manpower to read all the open-ended responses you receive.

6.  Implement the feedback you receive.  If people feel like you took the time to read their thoughts and make changes to the event, they’ll be more likely to answer next year’s survey!

Thanks, Pioneer Nation team! I can’t wait to answer your event survey!

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