How to get really useful post-event feedback

Months of planning, some nervous weeks just prior, and a very hectic few days for the event itself. The work is not over yet. The motivating speakers, glitzy promotions, and high attendance figures don’t necessarily mean the event was a triumph.

Even if you have an uncanny instinct for what works and what doesn’t, the opinions of your attendees are what determines true success.

Did they leave better informed, happier, better connected to others in their field, or more ready to consider your product? Do you know what mattered to them? What’s the best way to get meaningful post-event feedback? 

Timing is key

Assume everyone’s business life is very full. A dozen urgent calls and crises can demand attention in a single day. In a week, event attendees have moved on mentally, no matter how inspired they were as they left the venue. Immediately after the close of the event, you need to find out whether your attendees share your high opinion of how it went.

You could set up a mechanism to garner some comments at the door as people leave. If you do this, the forum should be very simple so as not to take much time. At the end of a long day, no one wants to get bogged down in paperwork. This may help you determine the emotional impact on your attendees, but probably not much more.

More effective will be email sent out within a day. This process will require careful planning. If the event spans more than one day, then send your request for feedback to registered attendees at the end of the day they attended. Any longer, and you have likely lost their attention.

Methods for collecting event feedback

Jesse Johnson of Meeting Tomorrow suggests these methods:

Surveys shared via email

This will allow you to get more detailed comments on all aspects of their experience. There are dozens of survey tools available, but whichever one you use, be sure to customize the email to suit your company and specific event. As with all these methods, don’t ask so much that people will dismiss your email before considering it.

In-App surveys

Some event apps will allow people to rate particular sessions or speakers as each item concludes. Such customized responses will give you a very good idea of exactly what works or fails, and why. Don’t ask too much of attendees at this stage. Check boxes, buttons, or drop down options may be all you need, although some opportunity for brief free responses to some questions could be useful too.

Social media

With an event hashtag widely used by your attendees, you can get responses to some questions in real time via Facebook, Twitter, or a similar platform. Many of your attendees will already be spending time there, so it won’t seem like you’re asking much of them this way.

Many other methods could work well, depending on your goals in hosting the event in the first place. EventMB has plenty of innovative suggestions on other methods that work.

Questions you need to ask

You won’t get useful feedback if you don’t ask useful questions. And every question should count, keeping in mind that the more questions you ask, the less likely it is that attendees will complete the survey. Formstack suggests a limit of twelve.

Here are five simple questions as a starting point, sourced from Billetto:

Rate your event experience. Allow people to rate aspects of the event on a preset scale, from “very dissatisfied” at one end to “very satisfied” at the other.

The best/worst thing about the event. This will tell you quickly what worked and what didn’t.

Would you recommend this event? If the answer is no, ask for clarification with a “Why not?” follow-up question.

How likely are you to attend a future event? This will identify potential future attendees.

Please tell us more… An open-ended opportunity to provide more detail.

There are many feedback templates on offer out on the Internet. The important thing is that you customise your questions to your event, your attendees, and your company’s agenda. SurveyMonkey provides three lists of five essential questions, tailored to public events, conferences, or training courses. Here is what they suggest for training courses:

  1. How satisfied were you with the course? Ask participants to rate the date, location, sessions, and instructors. Include each instructor separately, since participants might be happy with one instructor, but not another.
  2. How useful was the information presented in this course? Participants will want to see that they can apply the information from training courses to their jobs.
  3. Did the course improve your skills? Ask participants for a rating on whether or not the course improved their skills in each of the areas covered.
  4. Did you have an opportunity to ask questions during the course? Gauge whether or not participants felt comfortable speaking up during the course—or were even given the opportunity to speak up—with this question.
  5. What would have made the course better? Don’t shy away from asking for feedback outright. This open-ended question lets participants comment on whatever they think is most important.

Conclusion

Getting feedback on your hosted events is hardly optional. It should determine the direction of future events and help you provide what your clients expect. So be sure that you ask for feedback quickly, while the event is fresh in mind. Use a variety of methods, considering that many attendees these days will be very comfortable with social media. And ask the questions that will give you the most useful responses. The event is not over until you have this step covered.