Post-event surveys: Torture or Feedback?

Despite all the advances in technology and instantaneous communications, event organizers continue to torture us with the same old paper surveys that we have been filling out for years. They follow a formula that just does not make sense to me. I attend events to learn, not to evaluate a speakers posture, presentation, and material on a scale of 1-10. I suspect that most of the surveys returned evaluate all presenters at or near the top of the scale. Why not consider using technology to get feedback? And I don’t mean a flood of Twitter tweets and retweets. Use a survey package, such as SurveyMonkey or PollDaddy, to send out a post-event e-mail requesting completion of the survey.  As an incentive, you can promise the event material to all persons who complete the survey.  I realize that event organizers want immediate feedback, but I do not believe that the standard paper surveys for each session are the best approach.  If you do want to use paper surveys, keep them short and simple to complete.

Let me suggest a couple of questions that I think would benefit event organizers:

Why did you come to this event? – If I were paying for events, I would want to know why someone decided to attend.  Was it the content, the speaker, the venue, or some other factor (or combination of factors)?

Did the presenters meet your expectations? – This question will be interpreted differently by attendees.  Some may evaluate content, others presentation, others the message.  In any event, you want to know whether we thought based on our expectations.

    • as a group (especially for panel discussions)
    • individually

Did you learn anything new? – This is my key measure for the value of an event.  If I learn something (not just hear the same old message), then I consider the event a success.

    • No
    • Yes, but only a little
    • Wow – I was overwhelmed
    • Would you recommend this event to a colleague?

As follow on questions, you could ask whether they want to be notified of future similar events and whether they have suggestions for topics. If they are not satisfied with the event, you want to find out what was missing? Was it the format, the content, or just a mismatch of expectations?

What do you think about post-event surveys using the comment form below.  Do you like them or consider them useful?  Do you have examples of good surveys?  If so, send them to me.  I really would like to hear what others think.


Posted on October 31, 2011, in Communications, Lessons Learned and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Sherry… I like your idea of a free drink ticket or some other item for completing the survey. I remember on event where they gave us a copy of the speaker’s book for completing the survey. Since smart phones and tablets are so prevalent, the survey could be completed via a mobile device as well. You are absolutely correct when you say immediate feedback is better and technology can make this happen at little or no cost. Follow-up to those who have not responded is also a good idea. Thank you for the feedback.

  2. Take it one step farther – providing instantaneous feedback is much more useful than a survey two days later. I would prefer to provide my comments immediately and if you provide me with an incentive (say a drink ticket) I would be much more likely to do so. Set up a simple kiosk (everyone has an internet cafe anyway) link the survey to the respondent’s registration number or name and only surfey those attendees who have not already provided comment.

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