Survey Systems Blog

Is your Conference Evaluation Form Yielding Meaningful Results?

Posted by Lynn Cunningham on Nov 19, 2013 11:57:00 AM

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.


Conference Evaluation Sample, Scantron Forms



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!



Download Our Conference Evaluation Planning  Guide and Start to Measure Your Success!



Topics: scantron form, session evaluation, conference evaluation

Avoid Survey Fatigue!–Best Results from Conference Evaluations

Posted by Lynn Cunningham on Oct 16, 2013 2:32:00 PM

Are Your Respondents Exhausted from Survey Fatigue?

YES! Every day we are inundated with requests for feedback. As customers, as shoppers, as students, as employees, our opinions are sought after, begged for, over and over everyday when we leave the house or browse online.

As a meeting or event organizer/administrator, it is important to make your session evaluation tool stand out from the background noise of continual requests for feedback that are thrown at us. Like you, the folks attending your meeting are probably tired from survey inundation. There are a few best practices that can help you improve your response rates and get good, honest feedback from your survey-weary meeting participants. 


Communication is Crucial

The best way to improve the engagement of your respondents is to communicate at every step of the process. 

  • Why are they being asked to complete a session or speaker evaluation?

  • When do you expect them to fill out the rating form?

  • Who is going to have access to the results, and will confidential information be secure?

  • What will be done with the results? How will the information be used to improve future meetings?

  • Where can results be viewed? Will tabulated results and comments be accessible to attendees?

The more information you can share regarding your intentions and what you need from them, the better your chance of getting honest, engaged responses.


Make Your Conference Surveys Simple, Relevant and Accessible

Simplicity is key in getting good response rates and heart-felt feedback from your attendees. The fewer questions on your evaluation tool, the better. One organization that we worked with had only one item per speaker on their session evaluation.

Session Evaluation Rating Scale

How simple is that? The "five-star" rating systems has worked great for organizations such as or YELP. These folks took keeping it simple to heart! You may need more than one item to gather the feedback you need from your respondents, but simplicity is key. Hand your attendees a two page, densely packed speaker evaluation form and watch their eyes glaze over and their brains shut down. 

Another key factor in the success of your session or speaker evaluations is accessibility. Are you using a paper form and allowing time at the end of sessions for completing it? Are you using a web survey or conference app to gather feedback? Give your attendees more options, and you will gather more quality responses! It is important NOT to assume that everyone has a mobile device or that everyone will take the time during the session to complete an evaluation form on paper. The more access you can provide to your evaluation tool, the better. Using a paper form that has a QR code for quick access to the same evaluation online is a great way to give your attendees options.

Conclusion–Apply the K-I-S-S Principle!

When creating content and designing a session evaluation or speaker evaluation for your next meeting or conference remember your respondent. You want to gather as much actionable data as possible, and your respondent group is weary from the day in, day out requests for feedback that we all encounter. For best results, communicate thoroughly and "keep it simple stupid!" 


Session Evaluation with QR Code, Scantron Forms


Topics: session evaluation, Customer Satisfaction, speaker evaluation form

Conference Session Evaluations–Getting More With Less

Posted by Lynn Cunningham on Jul 12, 2013 2:58:00 PM


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.

Session Evaluation with QR Code, Scantron Forms

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.

Download Conference Session  Evaluation Guide with Samples!



Topics: scantron form, session evaluation, speaker evaluation form, sample evaluation form

The Best Way to Do Conference Evaluations? Try a Hybrid Approach!

Posted by Lynn Cunningham on Apr 11, 2013 11:31:00 AM

Use Paper Survey AND Mobile Internet Survey to Get the Most from Conference Speaker Evaluations!

Everything has a "hybrid" version these days! Hybrid vehicles use more than one source of power, hybrid dog breeds are all the rage (such as the goldendoodle), and hybrid golf clubs combine the distance of a wood with the accuracy of an iron. The idea of a hybrid is to capture the "best of both worlds" to improve a product's performance or a consumer's experience.

Now, consider a hybrid conference session evaluation:

Session evaluation, conference evaluation sample, scantron form

 • A simple, easy to use paper evaluation form the attendees can fill out before leaving the session room while the details of the session are fresh in their mind.


• An online evaluation optimized for mobile devices that allows your attendees to rate the session on their phone or tablet. This option allows the evaluation to be done at the conference, but also allows for a later response. 


By having both paper and online rating options, your session evaluations provide the best of both worlds! For the 50-75% of Americans who have a smart phone or a tablet, you have increased their incentive to respond by making the evaluation easier to complete and technologically interesting. For those not equipped with a mobile device, or for those attendees concerned about responding electronically, you have provided an easy way for them to respond on paper.

Know Your Audience!

It is probably not prudent to assume that all of the attendees at your conference can or will want to rate a session online. I recently read a blog post regarding a conference evaluation survey that was done online, using a QR code to allow quick access to the evaluation survey. The conference manager printed the QR code in the program book and on various signs around the conference site. He assumed that the technology was familiar to everyone, and so little explanation was given, and no alternative to the QR code URL was offered. Needless to say, the conference evaluation was a dismal failure! It is definitely important to be aware of the demographics of your attendees and create a conference evaluation methodology that will best fit your organization's unique group.

Session evaluations,speaker evaluation sample, scantron forms

Not every attendee will have a smart phone or tablet and be able to utilize the mobile version of your session or speaker evaluation, but for those folks who have the technology at hand, the hybrid evaluation will simplify the process.

For more ideas and information about Conference Evaluations and sample session evaluation & sample conference evaluation forms, click the the button below and download our free planning guide!

Download Conference Evaluation Planning Guide  and Start to Measure Your Success!

Topics: session evaluation, conference evaluation

5 Reasons to Use a QR Code on Your Next Conference Evaluation Form

Posted by Lynn Cunningham on Feb 23, 2013 6:22:00 PM

There is a rapidly growing trend to use online surveys instead of old fashioned paper surveys, especially in commercial uses such as customer satisfaction surveys and conference evaluations. How many times has a cashier handed you your purchase receipt which has a URL and an invitation printed on it for completing a survey online? Most people these days not only have access to a computer and the Internet, both at home and at work, but also access most anywhere through mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets.

Our blog space has several posts on the lower response rates generated by online surveys vs. paper survey forms, but what if you had both available? In theory, at least, that would provide the highest response rate, while offering your respondents the choice of medium.

What is a QR Code?

QR or "quick response" codes are two dimensional symbols similar to barcodes. Where barcodes only span horizontally and are limited to a maximum of 20 digits, QR codes span horizontally and vertically, and can hold up to a maximum of 7,089 characters. QR codes are used to provide a quick link between printed media and digital content. Most often, the link created leads the user to a specific URL online, but the code can also be created to transfer contact information (think business card), shopping coupons, electronic images–most anything you can imagine. The codes were originally developed by a Toyota subsidiary to track automobile parts. Free QR code reader apps are readily available for most mobile devices, or may even come preloaded on your smart phone. There are also numerous sites online at which you can create, print and save your own QR codes for free.

Survey Systems, Conference Evaluation Sample

You have probably seen these funny codes in a multitude of places, not all practical or even useful. A giant QR code on a billboard is a bit hard to scan with your cell phone while driving down the freeway!

Why You Should Use QR Codes on Your Next Conference Evaluation

1. A QR code is the easiest way to make a connection between offline and online!

2. If you offer both a paper and an online session evaluation form, a QR Code on your paper session evaluation form can allow an attendee to instantly access the online version of your form on their smart phone or other mobile device. This should increase response rates for your session evaluations!

3. If you offer only a paper session evaluation form, a QR Code on your form can link attendees to your conference website, or give instant access to an online, downloadable program or schedule.

4. People love to use their gadgets! Next time you are in a restaurant or coffee shop, count the number of people that are clicking away on their cell phones or tablets.

5. Save the Date! A QR Code can be created and added to your form that will put the dates for next year's conference onto their cell phone calendar. What a great way to promote your next event.

Session Evaluation, Scantron Form, Conference Evaluation

Click on the green QR Code at the top of the survey image above to go to the online version of this evaluation. Note: the online version has been specially formatted for functionality on mobile devices (i.e., smart phones or tablets).

Try using QR codes on your next conference session evaluation and boost your response rates!

For more ideas and information about Conference Evaluations and sample session evaluation & sample conference evaluation forms, click the the button below and download our free planning guide!

Download Conference Evaluation Planning Guide  and Start to Measure Your Success!


Topics: session evaluation, conference evaluation

Incentives for Completing College Course Evaluation Surveys

Posted by Jackie Jones on Dec 17, 2012 5:15:00 PM

What impacts course evaluation response rates?

Survey Systems prints and distributes most of the college course evaluations that we scan. We receive a list of how many enrollees there are in each class, and we sort, package and ship the survey forms accordingly. Therefore, when the completed surveys are returned for scanning, we can easily see what the percentage of return is. This made me think about what impacts the rate of return—are there external incentives, and if so, what are they? I began a little research project on the course evaluation process and incentives. This is some of what I learned:

  • Paper course evaluations were handed out in class, and collected at the end of the class by someone other than the instructor to assure confidentiality. The person stood by the door and collected the completed surveys as people left. No means of escape! This could also explain the number of blank surveys we receive—the collector collects, isn’t supposed to read them.

  • In another scenario, the evaluation was exchanged for a raffle ticket.  The prizes varied from iTunes gift cards, $50 gift cards, Amazon gift cards, etc. More incentive to complete that form than just escaping!

What's being done to increase the response rates of online surveys?

It is easier to impact the response rate for paper course evaluations or instructor evaluations in the manners listed above—a controlled environment-- paper, and a door. Some environments appear very controlled—the paper surveys are received in signed and sealed envelops, all surveys facing the same direction, all completed. The "control" is why the response rate on the paper course or instructor evaluation surveys is so much higher than the online surveys—the primary incentive--to go home, or to the next class, or where ever one needs to be next. The added incentive of a raffle is frosting on the cupcake! 

Now, what about online course evaluations? In a lot of classes, there isn’t the ability to complete the survey during class. There is no “guard” at the door. What are the colleges doing to increase the rate of response to acceptable levels? The following is a list of incentives that I found from various studies or postings:

  • $50 gift card

  • Amazon $10 gift card

  • iTunes gift cards

  • Institutional memorabilia—cups, mugs, bags, water bottles

  • Pay-Pal gift certificates

  • Flash drives

  • Gas cardstickets resized 600

  • Sport or event tickets

  • Ice cream or grocery certificates

  • Music or ring tone down loads

  • Bookstore gift certificates

Upon completion of evaluations for all of his/her courses, student’s entered into raffles for prizes such as:

  • iPads

  • iPods

  • Parking spaces

  • Pizza parties

  • Palm Pilots

  • Cash

  • For those schools that do not have the capability of dual data bases, allowing for tracking submission while assuring anonymity; some of the professors were offering to post one or two of the final questions online when the rate of completion reached a high enough percentage.

  • At least one college holds the student’s grades until his/her course evaluations are submitted—a guard with a big stick!! (although they did go on to explain that they had never had to hold grades.)

Strong opinions don't require incentives.

One can understand forgetting to complete an online evaluation without incentives. Unless there are strong feelings, either positive or negative, evaluations would not be a high priority on a busy student's schedule.  It has been our experience that the overall results from online surveys are more negative than the same survey on paper.

If your institution is offering incentives, or has another method of positively impacting the return rate of course evaluation surveys, either paper or online, please add your ideas to the comments below.



Topics: session evaluation, course evaluation

Conference Evaluations - Why Bother?

Posted by Lynn Cunningham on Dec 14, 2012 12:51:00 PM

An important part of conference management is the conference evaluation. Most association conferences are repeated annually, so it is critical for the planners to make an assessment of the quality of symposium sessions, speakers and overall experience. An unpleasant or unproductive experience may keep attendees from going to future events. Only by getting relevant feedback from those in attendance will you ever know how well your conference was received and who you can count on to provide quality presentations for your future events.

Why Bother?

A good conference planner will have a clear understanding of their goals and objectives and have an effective review process in choosing speakers and session topics. Speaker or teacher selections often come from personal encounters, but most come from recommendations of others. Speakers, session topics, venues and amenities don't always meet expectations and may need to be revised before your next event. You can find out an incredible amount of valuable information by providing attendees with an easy conference evaluation tool that will assist you in making the necessary changes in environment, personnel and material. Conference evaluations will help to insure a more successful event in the future.

quality conference evaluations

What Kind of Questions to Ask

With a clear understanding of the goals and objectives of the conference in mind, prepare a comprehensive list of questions and associated measurable responses regarding individual speakers and sessions. It is important to find out if the speaker was knowledgeable, and if they were able to deliver their knowledge in a relevant and effective manner. It is also important to find out if session topics were timely and applicable to the needs and expectations of the attendees. An easy conference evaluation instrument can make this happen.

Capturing a general sense of attendee satisfaction, including the site location, amenities, meeting facility, networking opportunities, A/V equipment, etc. is usually accomplished through an "overall" conference survey. This type of survey can give you a sense of what worked well and what can be improved upon at your next meeting location. Often times, attendees are also polled on future meeting locations and/or topics. Using an overall conference survey is also a way to collect demographic information on attendees in order to asses how well your conference is meeting the needs of people in different industries, job titles, or different age groups.

How and When to Administer Your Conference Surveys

For best response rates, administer session evaluation forms at the end of each session. The details of the sesion and of the speaker's performance will be fresh in the minds of attendees and it will be easier for them to respond constructively. Many organizations will offer an incentive to attendees to increase response rates. Offering a raffle ticket or chance to win a price for each evaluation submitted will definitely inspire participation and make the survey results more meaningful. Overall conference evaluations are sometimes inserted into programs or other conference materials.

There are several different methods to facilitate conference evaluations. Machine-readable paper forms are easy to administer and offer simplicity and confidentiality. Paper surveys make it easier to control respondent participation, and are accurate in capturing data. Online surveys can also be used, either alone or in conjunction with paper surveys. An online survey is harder to control, in that an attendee may respond right away or wait as long as a week or two before they get around to submitting responses. Email reminders can be sent out to encourage participants to fill out online evaluations.

We would love to hear about your experience in administering conference or teacher evaluations. Your comments are always welcome and appreciated.

Improve your next event using attendee conference evaluations! Click on the link below to download our Conference Session Evaluation Planning Guide.

 Download Conference Evaluation Planning Guide  and Start to Measure Your Success!



Topics: session evaluation, teacher evaluation, conference evaluation

New Survey Systems Blog - Let's Start a Conversation!

Posted by Lynn Cunningham on Dec 10, 2012 1:57:00 PM

What's Going On Inside the Bubble?

At different times throughout the year, we come across questions, problems and solutions that are relevant to many who use OMR technology in survey or testing operations. This new blog will be an avenue to communicate those items of interest to others and a place for you to leave your comments and suggestions.

photo keyboard resized 600

Here is a short list of topics that you will find discussed in this blog in the coming weeks and months.

  • Tips and tricks for scanning forms

  • Helpful hints for form design software

  • Interesting industry trends

  • Reviews of software/hardware

  • Best practices for survey administration

  • Time saving ideas

  • Trends in conference session evaluation surveys

What Do You Think?

While we share our experience and ideas, we hope that you will join in and share your knowledge and comments with us. We'll try to keep it relevant and more interesting than reading a telephone book, and we hope that you will give us your feedback and let us know what you would like to see discussed.

Several people on our team will be regular contributers to this blog; among them, me, Gary Wilson, our Sales Manager, as well as some of our scanning and printing specialists. We will also be looking for guest bloggers to add some diversity and excitement to the mix.

So, bookmark this page, stop back often, share your ideas and comments. Signup for an email subscription below!






Topics: session evaluation, course evaluation, Survey Systems