Event Feedback: Beyond Attendee Evaluations
Organizations of all sizes and interest groups can benefit from hosting or sponsoring live conferences and events. They help you connect your people with each other and with information. They’re also a great way to learn about the latest and greatest tools for your business, build your network, and foster community among industry professionals.
Creating an unforgettable event experience requires, first and foremost, establishing standards for success. What does a great event look like, and how will you know how yours measures up? Collecting feedback from conference attendees is an important part of defining the results of your event. This is true whether you’re hosting a live in-person conference, virtual event, or hybrid with a livestream component, as is increasingly popular among associations and nonprofit organizations.
Evaluations, sometimes called “evals” for short, are but one method to collect attendee feedback. We’ll explore a few other ways to gauge the impact of your event or conference:
1. Live Polls
Imagine for a moment that you could capture feedback instantly and use that information to change the course of your event mid-stream. What would it mean if you could harness that real-time data and apply it to drive engagement among your audience, while they’re still onsite/online?
Live polls are a unique way to get feedback from conference-goers that can empower you to take action in the moment versus waiting until your next event to apply the learning.
Maybe you have a major keynote speaker scheduled to take the stage in the afternoon, but general session attendance was poor earlier in the day. Before the big afternoon keynote, you could call attendees’ attention to a poll (using email or your event app) about what topic they’d most like to see from the upcoming speaker. Or have them vote on two impromptu topics and have your speaker lead with insights gleaned from the poll results as an icebreaker.
Or, better yet, your speaker could incorporate a live poll into his or her presentation. This gives your audience a part to play in the experience and helps connect them to the speaker’s message— both can positively impact their overall perception of the event. You’re engaging them, making them part of the experience, and showing them that you care about what they think.
Structurally speaking, a survey is basically a group of polls. It’s a set of questions with predetermined answer options that help you collect and organize feedback from your audience. Surveys are frequently used in pre- and post-event contexts to help event planners analyze the impact of the event on attendee perception.
Do your people feel differently about your organization or brand before they attended their last breakout session than they did when they arrived on Day 1? Did they attend your conference to get insights they can apply right away to their business (pre-event), and were their expectations met (post-event)?
Surveys can be used across your event in as many innocuous ways (was the coffee hot enough?) as indicative ones (how likely are you to enlist our services in the future?). By focusing your questions around key indicators of success you’ll capture the right data to help you improve with each event delivery.
You’re halfway through Day 2 of your event and everything onsite is going great. Then you look around and, all of a sudden, you see your attendees are completely distracted. They won’t look up from their phones and the presenter you’ve invited to speak knows it. Instead of taking this cringeworthy moment as a failure or a fluke, consider it an opportunity. Make a game of it!
Another burgeoning method for engaging attendees and collecting their feedback at events is through gamification. This is a concept born out of the human desire to play while learning (yes, even at work) and technology’s power to enable that behavior.
Challenge your people to a friendly competition to see who can complete their session surveys the soonest. Offer a prize to the top five people who visit the greatest number of sponsors. Watch as the number of private meetings booked increases after you incentivize peer-to-peer and attendee-expert networking. Encourage them to team up with colleagues and spread the word.
These are just a few examples to engage the audience at your next event or conference. Be sure to check out EventMB Studio’s “15 Ideas to Collect Feedback at Events” for other creative ways to find out what attendees really think about your event.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maggie Greene, Pathable, Inc.
Equal parts voracious reader and passionate writer, Maggie is an expert in communication principles and practices that help drive positive impact for business. As Marketing Manager for Pathable, Inc., she’s customer-obsessed, results-oriented, and dedicated to celebrating the value of highly customizable event app and web solutions for event planners across industries around the globe.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to present at the 2019 Higher Logic Super Forum, on the topic of community-based learning. At the start of the session, I discussed the difference between training and learning. I suggested that training tends to be one dimensional or instructional, in support of a specific process or job with a singular path towards the end goal. Learning can be described as a multi-dimensional approach, that links educational experience and work performance. It focuses on personal qualities and situational decision making. Too often online education programs that fit well into the learning space are structured as training. The problem is, there is little space created for engagement, conversation and sharing of ideas and this leads to minimal learner to learner or learner to instructor engagement.
A way to address this situation is to create space for sharing of ideas, reflection and connection among participants. This was one of the initial goals when we formed a close partnership with Higher Logic to bring learning and community together as a single offering. While we have had some success achieving this on a macro level with an integrated user experience (UX), a single menu structure and seamless integration, we have not had great progress on a content level.
In my talk yesterday, I made the case that if you are offering online learning that is enhanced from a collaboration among participants, an integration of your community and LMS on a program level makes a lot of sense. Here are three benefits of integrating discussions within your online course, virtual conference or webinar offerings:
- Your community members have already taken time to set up their profile and participate in the community. They can now leverage that presence to engage fellow learners in a more focused way. Adding online education to their participation makes them more active and creates synergy between the two platforms, therefore increasing participation.
- Satisfaction with a course will be enhanced when there is the opportunity to share ones ideas or thoughts with other learners.
- Adding discussions provides a continuum of what is learned. It provides participants the opportunity to continue with the topic once the course is completed.
Recently, CommPartners enhanced its integration between Higher Logic’s Community and CommPartners’ Elevate LMS. Is it time for you to make this a priority in 2020?
If you have questions on how to move forward with community based learning, contact Meghan Gowen, VP of Client Development at firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ve noticed that among many organizations, a primary focus for their RFPs is to ensure that the platform selected meets a defined set of requirements. The review process of narrowing down a list of providers, tends to be based on which companies can satisfy those requirements. The company you will be working with is typically a secondary consideration, but should it be? Here are five considerations when identifying the ideal company to support your LMS platform.
- How has the company developed and evolved?
- Have they grown organically over many years and have an established staff with a long tenure? Alternatively if the LMS was part of an acquisition, how was it handled? After the transition, did a core group stay on to provide continuity? Has the mission or focus changed? Companies that are home grown tend to have a more singular focus on the client and not worried about politics and mixing in with other internal forces.
- Do they have a positive culture?
- Do you sense that their staff is happy and fulfilled? The platform you are selecting is the tangible component of your decision, however the relationship you are establishing will most likely be, at minimum a few years. So like any relationship, is this a company that you feel confident and comfortable engaging with on a regular basis?
- Does the company have a reputation for listening to client ideas or requests and incorporating that input in their development process?
- The set of features within the LMS you are selecting is a moment in time. This is not necessarily an indication of what the platform will be like a year from now, or multiple years from now. It’s important to learn about how the platform will evolve and whether the company will take your future online education needs into consideration when making these updates.
- How are their reviews?
- Some of the best platform feedback and advice that your organization can receive are client reviews. We have found that ReviewMyLMS is an excellent source of information because it focuses specifically on the association community. It recognizes that the way association LMS options are evaluated is different than other markets.
- What complimentary solutions does the company offer that can bring value to your organization?
- Are there additional services that can extend the effectiveness of your platform, such as, instructional design, course development, livestreaming, content capture and webinar production? Being able to work with an all-in-one company on content and the LMS platform reduces complexity and leads to a more seamless result.
We all understand that a priority is selecting an LMS platform that will meet specific feature requirements. However, it’s also important to consider that the company you sign a contract with can have a profound impact on the platform’s future success.
To learn more about Elevate LMS or our suite of online event solutions, please contact Meghan Gowen at email@example.com.
Ten years ago, CommPartners introduced livestream services with a focus on helping organizations, extend their reach and value of their place based conferences. The rationale at the time was that only a small percentage of our communities are able to attend onsite, leaving a significant number unengaged with these premiere education and networking events. We felt adding a livestream would be positively received. We realized through our initial client conversations, this wasn’t necessarily the case.
One of the reasons for the slow adaption rate was within organization structures, conference and meetings and online education were not always aligned as complementary elements of an education strategy. A livestream presents the intersection of these two areas. Organizations were not internally set to address this new opportunity. Specifically the conference and meetings folks were hesitant to invest in any initiative that might take away from the number of onsite attendees.
Fast forward ten years later, we are seeing significant movement of organizations embracing the chance to increase their audience to more than just the people that attend onsite. So why is this happening now and how can you leverage this opportunity?
We believe there has been a breakthrough for three reasons:
- There is greater recognition that attending online vs. onsite are unique experiences, with different motivations and expectations for participating. The fear of losing onsite attendees to an online offering have not materialized. Alternatively, if presented in the right way, adding a livestream component, will grow the audience and can inspire online attendees to attend onsite for subsequent years.
- Increasingly our members and extended community staffs are working from home full time or several days per week. We are increasingly comfortable managing our work from a distant location and collaborating through our electronic devices.
- Host organizations are realigning how they present content with less focus on how it is originated. The emergence of online education and learning management systems that have become centralized knowledge communities are being used increasingly as central repositories for conference content, virtual events and eLearning programs.
With greater appreciation and emphasis on livestreaming we have become more educated and strategic about how to position, price and deliver these programs. Provided below are considerations and approaches to help you generated positive results from your investment.
Position Your Livestream Programs for Success
We know attending an event remotely, without the energy of a crowd or being at a venue is vastly different than attending alone, through your computer screen. Therefore to have a successful outcome, the planning process should be based on understanding the virtual learner and planning accordingly. Having an alternative or parallel remote participant plan to actively engage online attendees moves them from passive observer to active participant. Ideas include:
- Have programming for just the virtual audience such as pre or post session interviews, pre-produced content, facilitated chats, raffles or giveaways.
- Have an on camera MC for the virtual audience stimulating chats, submitting questions to speakers, and engaging remote attendees.
- Make sure presenters incorporate the virtual audience in their session by looking at the camera, mentioning virtual attendees and having exercises available if the onsite audience is involved in an activity.
- Use a platform that offers engagement features to blend the remote audience with the onsite audience such as live polls, crowdsourcing and contests.
- Ask virtual audience members to upload their picture or groups they are participating with in the collaboration area to give the event a community feel.
- Show a live map of where virtual attendees are logging in from.
Price Your Livestream to Strategically Fit Your Goals
Clients ask us all the time, how should we price our event? Before considering pricing, it’s important to confirm strategy and your reasons for offering the live stream. Some questions you want to consider are:
- What is the value or uniqueness of the content we are providing?
- Are we issuing credit for this program?
- Are the speakers we have well known and would they attract an audience?
- Do we draw onsite attendees from certain geographical areas or level of experience in our community?
- Are we at capacity for our onsite event?
- Are we using the livestream to attract participants to our community or our brand, onboard new members that can’t afford to travel, extend the conference experience, promote attendance for subsequent onsite conferences or a combination of all of all of these?
Based on responses to these questions, you can decide if you want to price your program at a full conference rate similar to the onsite event or attract more online participants with a lower, easy decision rate. In considering revenue goal, sponsorship and / or a virtual exhibit hall can help offset the attendance fees and assure your program meets your budget objectives.
Deliver or Produce Your Livestream in a Professional and Engaging Manner
While education strategy is critical for online events, the production quality will be noticed and is critical to the program’s success. The goal is to have remote attendees feel they are onsite and have a front row seat. We recommend the following:
- Consider a room or multiple rooms to hold all your virtual event sessions that work well as a virtual setting. Think about it as a studio with excellent acoustics, visuals, camera positioning and sound.
- Use your onsite audience to build energy in the program form the virtual audience. Include roving microphones and camera shots to capture audience engagement.
- Use the virtual MC to have a prominent role representing remote participants. Have him or her on camera introducing questions to the speakers.
- Use lower third name graphics to identify who is speaking.
- Consider multiple cameras to switch shots and views.
- Have a remote interview area in a public place that attracts onsite attendees in the audience.
- Consider an eye in the sky mounted camera to cut to transitions to provide the remote audience a sense of the energy at the event.
There appears to be a realization that a livestream is an excellent way to expand an organization’s reach and impact. Providing the opportunity to participate online says to your community that you value their involvement regardless of where they are geographically or what stage in their professional life they may be.
If you are interested in discussing the opportunity for a livestream for your organization, contact Meghan Gowen, VP Client Development at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the past five years there has been increased focus from technology companies on making their Web based applications accessible to all participants. At CommPartners, we recently teamed with eSSENTIAL Accessibility to provide assisted technologies to support access and usage of our Elevate LMS to those with physical challenges. In that spirit we are pleased to post this blog from Michael Doane, Marketing Manager at Cadmium CD.
Conferences and trade shows provide education and opportunity to a wide range of people with different abilities. It is more important than ever to make sure these people can access the full range of opportunities your event has to offer, both online and onsite. That’s why many tech companies are embracing website accessibility standards like WCAG 2.1.
Michelle Wyatt, CadmiumCD co-founder and CEO, says, “As a software company that services and supports global users with various backgrounds and needs, we take it as our duty to uphold this mission to the best of our ability.”
What is WCAG 2.1 AA Accessibility?
According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 covers a wide range of recommendations for making Web content more accessible.” Its goal is to, “make content more accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including accommodations for blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, limited movement, speech disabilities, photosensitivity, and combinations of these, and some accommodation for learning disabilities and cognitive limitations” (source).
Is compliance compulsory?
While these standards are not required by law for private companies, the EU does require all public sector websites to adhere to WCAG 2.1 equivalent standards (source). This includes products sold to or used by public sector organizations.
For now, US public sector sites only require 2.0 standard, but will likely adopt 2.1 standards in the near future as more organizations understand the need for modern accessibility standards.
Meghan Capiaghi, Lead Accessibility Developer, recently shared some tips on how CadmiumCD is making certain products more accessible (watch the recording).
Here are her 3 main tips on making your conference website more accessible:
1. Create Contrast on Your Site
Colors are an important factor for accessibility. To be truly accessible to those with visual impairments, your site must have a contract ratio of at least 4.5:1.
To determine if your selected colors meet the requirements, check out this website: https://webaim.org/resources/ contrastchecker/
2. Use Instructional Language
“Click this Button” makes no sense to someone who uses voice commands. Get creative with your language to reflect a wider audience. “Use this button” may be more appropriate.
3. Don’t Forget About PDFs
Do you share PDFs on your conference website site? Any documents linked from your site must also meet accessibility standards outlined by the W3C’s WCAG 2.1 initiative.
To learn more about how to create accessible documents, refer to this website: https://www.section508.gov/create
- An introduction to WCAG 2.1 standards can be found on the W3C website.
- CadmiumCD has created a resource for clients who would like to uphold WCAG 2.1 Level AA standards, which can be accessed here.
About Michael Doane
Michael Doane is marketing manager at CadmiumCD, makers of the myCadmium software platform, an award-winning suite of conference and trade show management products. Visit the CadmiumCD blog for more articles like this.