Session Evaluations–Less Nets More
The easier you make it for attendees to evaluate your session or meeting, the better and more meaningful the responses you will receive. Trying to obtain too much information will most likely decrease the response rate and the "engagement level" for your evaluation. The best, most effective conference or session evaluation will have less than ten questions in a format that allows attendees to rate the session before leaving the meeting room. Try to limit your data collection to information you are sure will be useful.
What Do You Really Want to Find Out from the Audience?
There are five basic types of information that session evaluations are usually used to collect. Using these categories as guidelines, what would you really like to find out?
• How effective/knowledgeable was the presenter?
• How useful/beneficial was the content presented?
• What is your personal reaction to the session (were you satisfied with it)?
• Were the objectives met?
• Demographic information about the attendees.
One well-worded question from each of the first four categories is all that is needed to make an useful, easy to complete session evaluation. If your organization also utilizes an overall meeting/conference evaluation, the demographic questions can be saved for that questionnaire.
What Question Format Works Best?
The simplest and best question format for session evaluation forms is the close-ended question. A multiple choice, likert scale rating, or simple yes/no question format is better than open-ended questions on this type of survey form. Open-ended questions provide a flexible way for folks to offer up their thoughts and ideas, but they are also time consuming, both for the respondent and for the people processing the completed forms. Open-ended questions also result in a lot of unnecessary and sometimes irrelevant information being collected. A good multiple choice or rating scale question is quick and easy to respond to and doesn't require a great amount of thought. An open-ended comment section added to the end of an evaluation form will usually be utilized by less than 50% of those responding.
Getting the Greatest Number of Responses
The best time to administer the session evaluation is near the end of the session itself, while you have a captive audience. Allowing a short period of time at the end of each session for completing questionnaires should result in your session evaluation having a great response rate because:
• The form is short and sweet! There are only five or six items.
• The questions are well thought out, close-ended, interesting and easy to answer quickly.
• You have convieniently provided time at the end of the session for responding.
• The details of the session are fresh in the respondents mind.
• You have provided a box or envelope to put the evaluation forms in, so there is a degree confidentiality.
What To Do With All This Useful Data?
Plan to share and communicate the tabulated results from your session evaluation with key stakeholders, including program staff, speakers/presenters, and even participants. Using these results, you can easily see who the best, most effective, most popular speakers are. You will be able to determine which topics were a hit and which topics you may not want to repeat. This great data you have collected will help make your next meeting or conference even better!
For a more in-depth look at the session evaluation process, plus several actual session evaluation form samples, download our free Conference Session Evaluation Planning Guide. This helpful guidebook will get you started creating a unique, useful data collection tool for your next meeting, workshop or conference.