Organizations everywhere are starting to understand the importance of feedback; while most consumers are growing increasingly tired of providing it. That leaves event planners at an impasse. But what you may not realize is that your event participants are already providing you with lots of event feedback. You just need to learn how to listen.
According to the State of the Event Industry survey by EventMB, attendee satisfaction is the number one measure of success for 91% of event planners, making it extremely important to establish feedback on your event.
With attendee feedback the number one way planners measure success, event feedback is vital. *Data courtesy of EventMB.*
It’s critical to event success (and future participation) to receive feedback on your content, entertainment, and venue in order to better suit the needs of your audience.
Why They Don’t Respond: The Downside of Event Feedback
Every marketer will tell you it’s important to understand what your audience wants. In an article published in Time, Martha C. White wrote that this survey request phenomenon has occurred because “Data is the holy grail of customer feedback.” Businesses in every industry have heard this message loud and clear. That’s why consumers are drowning in “tell us how we did” emails.
While an attendee may have enjoyed themselves at your event, couple your exit survey email
with ten others they received that day and you’ll likely get no response. You may also get annoyance from the attendee if you send out your request more than once.
Just as you differentiate your business or your services as an event planner from the competition, you have to give attendees reasons to use their valuable time on your survey.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel: Use What’s Out There
As mentioned previously, your attendees are already providing you with event feedback. Becoming a good “listener” allows you to get the data you want without disrupting (or annoying) your attendees. There are a few ways to do this.
This is one of the easiest to read during your event. Are your attendees visibly uncomfortable? Do you see a lot of crossed arms and sullen faces? Or are you seeing good engagement with the content? Remember eye contact is no longer a sign of an interested audience if they are busy tweeting the juiciest learning from the session. Which brings us to our next way to get event feedback from your group…
Some attendees may look disengaged because they’re staring at their devices, but don’t make that assumption. They could be engaging with your content on social media. If you see many heads down, fingers furiously typing, check out the social streams and your hashtag. You may have a plethora of attendee-created content. If not, it’s safe to guess they’re using their electronics to escape a presentation or meeting they don’t find valuable.
Keep an eye on the social feeds to see what attendees are connecting with.
Most attendees won’t be bashful to tell you how they feel. It’s also a lot less invasive to ask them at the event than it is to disrupt their inbox later. The one deterrent to these in-person surveys is that some people won’t want to get into details in a public forum. If you can’t have quick one-on-ones with people when you catch them on a break, try listening to the chatter before a session starts or during lunch. Attendee opinions are good common ground for conversations to spark up so it’s a topic many people will use.
Are your hallway and break sessions abuzz with conversation relating to the speaker or session topic? Spend some time listening to what people are saying. Are they exchanging ideas on how to apply the concepts to their lives? Or are they complaining because of a disconnect? Even when the attendees are reticent to tell you, you can bet they’ll tell one another.
This is something that all staff can help gauge. Enlist their assistance in measuring the attitude within a room and in break areas. Keep measure of the emotional energy as the day progresses and throughout different sessions.
Are people participating in the meeting or sessions? Do they ask good questions and is there plenty of conversation occurring? If so, it’s likely you’ve selected a speaker or content they find value in. Consider continuing these valued session topics outside of the event through online conversations and social media prompts.
Increase Feedback Participation Through Easy Interactivity
While listening to the conversation that is already going on around you is the first step to getting event feedback, sometimes that’s not enough. There are times in your events where you can’t let the feedback occur organically. In those situations, you need to make event feedback quick and fun.
5 Quick Tips for Making Event Feedback Easy
Providing feedback should never be hard—your attendees are doing you a favor. They are giving up their time to answer your questions. Since you are already asking something of them, you need to ensure that it is a frictionless process.
- Make the survey available when they are. You might use scarcity to drive action in your marketing but you don’t want to threaten attendees with short windows to respond to your survey.
- Don’t ask for a lot of information. Just get what you need. A shorter survey will be a finished one. Make sure when you ask them to partake, they know how long it is. If it’s one question, tell them.
- Pre-populate or personalize what you can. Don’t require them to fill in things you could’ve done for them already – like identifying the track they were in.
- Make people aware you’re sending a survey or let them complete it at your event while waiting for the final session to start.
- Show a progress bar. If your survey is longer than one question, show them how much more they have to go. Let them come back to it and continue where they were if they have to exit out.
In addition to making event feedback easy, it needs to be fun. Boring surveys aren’t enough to elicit results anymore. You can use:
- An interactive dial design. Attendees can rate their experience and see how it compares.
- Polls that show instant results.
- Emoji-based responses where respondents select an emoji that best fits their feelings.
- Interactive boards where people draw or write a response.
- Recycle bins for badges where people will drop their badge in the bin that corresponds to their satisfaction level.
- Pre-session surveys in your event app that are projected in the room in real time.
Pre-session surveys can increase response rate.
Offering Incentives for Feedback: Good Practice or Bad Precedent?
Event planners often wonder if incentives work to increase survey participation numbers. In research completed by Smoke Customer Intelligence, they found incentives increased response rate by 8% on average but it also did something unexpected.
Incentives increased the customer feedback score by 4%. Part of this may be because of the law of reciprocity. You are giving them something and they feel inclined to return the favor or they have a more favorable view of you because you valued their time.
However, you need to seriously consider what incentive is of value to your audience. Will you discount a special offer? Are they eligible to win a free training session in a drawing for those who provided feedback? The promise of an actual reward is far greater an incentive than a possible prize. In order to find an incentive that works, you may want to try several different types.
But know that incentivizing response may take on the same burden parents face with giving an allowance. In the future, surveys may become a question of “what is it worth to you” as recipients may not want to bother if you’re no longer offering an incentive to participate.
Addressing the Problem of Answer Bias
Surveys and review sites may struggle with a vocal minority (a few people on either end of the attendee experience spectrum, the very satisfied and the very dissatisfied) being overrepresented in the polling. It also happens with reviews. According to Reputation Builder, “Customers who have a bad experience are twice to three times more likely to write an angry review than customers who had a great experience are to post a happy review.”
You can avoid this bias or the placing of more weight on the vocal minority by looking for trends in answers, not just “bad experiences.” Advanced analytics can also help you correlate and sort based on answers for other areas. For instance, most reasonable respondents when asked for their opinion on different areas of your events will give higher ratings in some section and lower in others. If someone gives 1s or 5s in everything (without explaining why), you may have a vocal minority.
Place those to the side and look through the ones that express both positive and negatives. Then look for patterns that will help you understand more of what let attendees down or excited them.
Who Should You Survey for the Full Picture?
Most event planners think about attendee surveys but that’s not the only group you should be interested in. In order to get a 360-degree view of your event, don’t forget to poll vendors, sponsors, and the venue. How did things go from their perspective? Were their needs and business goals met? How could things be improved on?
Remember to ask your staff. If possible, consider hosting a debrief where everyone can share what worked well and identify areas for improvement next time.
How to Incorporate Feedback in Effective Ways (That Your Participants Will Notice)
One of the most self-sabotaging practices you can participate in is asking for feedback and then ignoring it. You won’t be able to act on every suggestion you get, but you do want people to feel like they’ve been heard, particularly if there is a consistent message in the answers.
If you can’t directly act on an issue that multiple people have addressed, send a thoughtful message to your entire group. For instance, if attendees complained about boring sessions, communicate that you are looking into ways to make future meetings more interactive and with more hands-on training. You needn’t give exact examples of how you will address the complaint at that moment, but it is something you should have begun by the time you have your next meeting.
With today’s increasing survey fatigue, most participants would rather skip the exit surveys. So finding creative ways to listen to your audience is essential to understanding what they want and can be more revealing than a paper or electronic survey. Once you know what your attendees crave, you must address it. Even if addressing it means saying no or not at this time. If you don’t, your participants will feel like you weren’t listening or that their opinions don’t matter. No audience or guest deserves to feel that way.