What Are You Asking For?
Is your conference evaluation giving you actionable data that helps you plan your next meeting, or is it just giving you a warm, fuzzy feeling and a nice "pat on the back."
What can you do to ensure that your evaluation form captures meaningful information from your attendees? It could depend not only on what you ask, but also on how it is asked!
Often, the most constructive and helpful information gathered from event evaluations are the negative responses.
Isn't that what surveys are about? Letting other people provide input into the process rather than just validating the planning decisions of your committee?
5 Ways to Get Meaningful Feedback
• Ask the right questions - focused questions will target key areas of your meeting and return more meaningful responses. Stick to the things you need to know, as opposed to those things that you want to know.
• Ask questions in the right way - avoid leading questions that point respondents to the answer you "want" to receive. Make sure each item has an appropriate response scale that is applicable to what is being asked.
• Timing - conduct session evaluations while details of the speaker and session are fresh in mind of attendees. Ideally, allow a short period at the end of each session for attendees to evaluate the success of the presenter in communicating his or her content. Overall evaluations that rate registration, location, amenities, etc. should be done as close to the end of the conference as possible.
• Use the results - if you don't act on suggestions and comments, they are not meaningful! By acting on the results of your conference and speaker evaluations, you will encourage feedback at future meetings and improve the success of your conference.
• Share evaluation results - with speakers, stakeholders, and meeting planners. A report showing feedback results for specific speakers that is shared with those speakers can help them see how they measure up against other presenters at the same conference. Overall meeting evaluation results shared with attendees demonstrate that you value their opinions and input.
Exploring Other Avenues
Surveys are a great feedback mechanism, but social media can also be a powerful tool for gathering feedback from your conference attendees. Post questions on Facebook or Twitter and spark more discussions, both internally and externally. Use QR codes posted around your meeting venue to direct attendees to your meeting's Facebook page or website. Use impromptu video-recorded interviews with attendees to measure various aspects of the overall conference experience or to share as testimonials on social media sights.
Plan of Attack
Planning the evaluation process well in advance of your conference or meeting is important if you are trying to gain meaningful insight into the effectiveness of your event and presenters.
Meet with your planning group specifically to discuss the evaluation process. What do you need to know in order to accurately measure the effectiveness of your conference logistics? Was the registration process functional? Was the conference site adequate? Did the program meet the conference objectives? What information do you need to gather to measure the effectiveness of your speakers?
Review results from past conference evaluations. What changes can you make in light of the information from your last survey or evaluation?
When your conference evaluation results become a playbook for arranging your next event, then you have attained meaningful, actionable results!