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.