If there’s one thing to always keep in mind as an event planner, it’s that you can never know your attendees too well. That’s partly because both the event world and your attendees are constantly evolving. Social media means that global trends and conversations spread like wildfire, so if you want to stand out from other events in your industry, you’ve got to make an emotional connection with your attendees. The biggest trends in event planning right now involve tech personalization and interactivity. That means you need to be interacting with your attendees before, during, and after your event. Aside from interacting with attendees on social media, post-event surveys are one of the best ways to track the success of your event after it’s over. The right survey questions vary with different kinds of events. Here’s how to be sure you’re asking them.
A good general rule of thumb is to ask mostly open-ended questions. These kinds of inquiries require some thought and help you learn more about your attendees and their needs. It also gives attendees the feeling that you care enough to interact with them and customize their experience based on the information they share.
Today’s attendees like to have some control over the agenda at events. Millennials in particular want to feel like part of a community and experience a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves. It might be a good cause, culture, art form, or hobby. Whatever the case, millennials like to feel as if they’re connected to the bigger picture in life, however they see it. There is also a strong need among millennial-aged people to feel as if they’ve contributed something unique to the world they live in and are leaving their mark on it. These are broad, general trends that you can tap into and measure with pre-event and post-event surveys along with various other marketing strategies. But as an event planner, you want more personal information than that. From the mundane to the philosophical and emotional, your questions should be designed to yield detailed information from attendees.
Let’s start with public events. When hear “public events”, you may automatically think of entertainment and hobby industries: sports, music, art, movies, theater, food, festivals, and the like. But events like grand openings for stores, business or product launches, political rallies or protests, and trade shows are also public. Public events are golden opportunities to increase exposure for your brand and get people talking about your event via social media and word of mouth. The best way to make your event stand out from others in your industry is to start an ongoing conversation with your attendees. Before your event, you asked them to share their interests, needs, and preferences. Now that the event has come and passed, you’ll want to see what your attendees liked and disliked about it. This information tells you what your areas for improvement are, and helps you expand upon the things your attendees loved. By asking open-minded questions, you’re not just getting a simple yes or no answer. You’re prompting attendees to give you more in-depth information about their experience of your event- and showing that you really care what’s important to them. If you’re asking good questions, you’ll find that trends emerge among niche audiences.
So what are the right questions? Let’s get down to it. Post-event survey questions should start out general so you can get a bigger picture of your attendees’ experience: How satisfied were they with the event? A good rule of thumb: Ask people to rate the date, venue, location, speakers, products, and vendors. Offer multiple choice answers such as “very satisfied”, “satisfied”, “unsatisfied”, or “very unsatisfied”. Or you can use numbers on a scale of satisfaction. If they were satisfied, what did they enjoy or find useful about it? To glean this information, ask them to rate vendors, keynote speakers, products, date, venue, location, and catering. Then ask what attendees didn’t like. But don’t stop there. Regardless of whether they were or were not satisfied with your event, ask them if there is anything that could be improved upon for future events. Even if your survey yields positive results, many attendees will still want to share what they personally wished for and didn’t get.
If yours was a multi-faceted event with many different experiences, narrow your survey questions down to the most important parts. Maybe the most important part of your event was its speakers or performers; maybe your event featured a product launch that included interactive demonstrations. Maybe you launched more than one product, and you want to know which ones your attendees liked best. Your survey question might ask, “Which product (s) are you most likely to use on a regular basis? Their answers tell you whether your products are adding value to customers in real life.
Continuing to send surveys following your events on a long-term basis allows you to keep up with your attendees’ needs as they shift. The needs and interests of your niche audiences are constantly ebbing, flowing, and evolving.
Did your attendees like the venue where your event took place? Was it an easy trip for people driving or taking public transportation? Or is the venue a difficult or complicated trek for most people?
Ask your attendees how likely they are to attend one of your events in the future. You can also ask how likely they are to suggest or refer your event to friends. The latter question gives you an idea of whether people are talking about your event and spreading your brand’s news as it comes. If they’re not, post-event surveys will give you an idea of why- and what you can do to change that.
Also, don’t forget to ask your attendees whether this was their first time attending one of your events. This tells you what kind of first impression you’re making. But even more importantly, it tells you whether people who attend your event are coming back. If you’re not getting as many repeat attendees as you would like, post-event surveys with open-ended questions can help you figure out what you need to do to build a loyal customer base. Sometimes you’ll be surprised by the insights your well-placed questions answer. For example, your attendees might have loved your speakers and vendors, but they weren’t crazy about the venue. Have you hosted too many of your events in one place? Is feedback telling you that attendees would like to attend your events in a new setting? Let’s imagine that you periodically organize a concert featuring several indie rock bands. You know the bands are local or even regional favorites, but lately the turnout hasn’t been so great. The reason could be something so simple you might have overlooked it. Maybe the attendees loved the bands that played at your event, but found the venue too crowded or inconveniently located. The point is, if you never ask, you’ll never know.
It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to take niche audiences into consideration. It’s common for events to sell out but still not reach the new audiences they were supposed to. Post-event surveys can help you track emerging trends. For example, let’s say your event is a community fundraiser that happens quarterly, and it typically sells out. Sounds like a success, right? But what if your goal is to get younger members of the community involved, but your attendees are mostly adults in their forties and fifties? Asking general post-survey questions about what people liked and didn’t will give you more insight than you might expect. Post-event surveys typically ask for demographic information, such as age, gender, location, marital status, and so on. Look for patterns that emerge among people among the same demographics (in this case, young people). These patterns can inform the promotions and agenda of your next event.
Training or Educational Courses
This category includes professional training courses and recreational classes related to hobbies and common interests. Professional training courses are meant to expand its participants’ knowledge and career opportunities. Generally speaking, these kinds of courses teach and demonstrate new skills that help attendees keep up with a constantly changing job market. Professional training courses also give attendees the information they need to stay on the cutting edge of their industry and continue to grow their careers. Recreational education might include cooking, language learning, writing books or screenplays, acting, and many more.
Just as with public events, we recommend starting with the bigger picture and working your way down to the details. Your post-event survey should first ask how satisfied participants were with the course. Again, for this question, give attendees the option to choose from multiple choices (i.e., “very satisfied”, “satisfied”, “unsatisfied”, or “very unsatisfied”). Then get more specific by asking attendees to rate the date, venue, geographical location, vendors, topic, instructors and speakers, sessions, and materials. Whatever their answers, your next question should be, “What can we do to improve this course in the future?” or something along those lines. This is an open-ended question that prompts people to share original ideas about what could be changed to make the course better. Obviously, it also gives you insight into who your attendees are: their wants and needs, thoughts and opinions, and suggestions. No matter how expert you become, you can always learn from your attendees- and you can learn something new from them each time. The cool thing about post-event surveys is that they reveal trends and patterns while turning up unique information with every survey.
Next you want to delve a little deeper. Ask whether the course improved existing skills or taught new ones. Maybe it did both, which is obviously a great sign. Training courses usually teach or improve skills in more than one area. Your post-event survey should ask whether attendees improved upon existing skills in each area; it should also ask whether attendees learned new skills in each area. These questions give you some substantial, straightforward information about the effectiveness of your course.
In the case of training courses, don’t just ask a general question like, “What could be improved upon for future events?” Be specific. Ask attendees what skills you didn’t expand upon and should have. Inquire about what new skills they want to learn but didn’t during the course. What topics did your attendees wish they could have spent more time on? Your post-event survey questions should be aligned with the goals you set for the course- and the goals you are setting for future courses.
Consider the outcomes you promised attendees before your event. One of the most important questions you can ask post-event is whether you fulfilled your promises. You can ask something like, “Did the content we provided meet the expectations we set up when you registered?” Whether your training course lived up to its hype can make or break the course- and your reputation. That’s not to say that you should panic if this question yields responses that suggest room for improvement. As long as most people feel that you generally delivered on your promises, the course was not a fail. Be proud of what you did accomplish and improve your next course based on the customer feedback you received.
Generally speaking, people want to leave a training course with skills they can use in professional capacities or daily life. Ask attendees how useful the information presented by your course was. Also, people usually need to ask questions in order to learn and make the most of a course. Did your attendees get the opportunity to ask questions?
You can take this a step further by asking attendees what their preferred learning style is. This information can provide you with invaluable information that helps shape the future of your training course. For example, let’s say that your event featured brilliant speakers and a great Q&A session, but there was very little hands-on or interactive demonstration. Suppose your post-event survey shows that many people who attended your event learn best by doing rather than listening. It stands to reason that a significant amount of attendees were dissatisfied with the way information was presented. It can also be inferred that the hands-on learners may not have taken away as much information as they could have. When people are presented information in a way that makes it difficult for them to process it, they’re less likely to retain knowledge.
Conferences and Conventions
These include workshops, board meetings, press conferences, and more. Conferences and conventions can relate to professional development or hobbies and areas of interest. As with public events and training courses, you should start by asking attendees to rate their satisfaction with overall experience. Follow that query up by asking them to rate the date, location, venue, keynote speakers, product demonstrations, sessions, and even catering.
The second portion of your post-event survey should focus on how well the conference was structured. Did some portions of it feel rushed or inadequate? Did you spend too much time on topic that was boring or not useful to attendees? Were the sessions interactive enough, and did attendees have opportunities to demonstrate what they learned? Was too much information packed into small snippets of time, and therefore difficult to remember?
Like training sessions, conferences and conventions should be characterized by objectives. How well were those objectives met by the conference? For example, if the conference was meant to share knowledge in multiple areas, ask attendees how much they learned in each area. If the conference was intended to set specified professional standards, how well did it achieve that goal?
How effective were the discussions at your conference? When we talked about training courses, we emphasized the importance of successful Q & A sessions. Ask your attendees whether they felt they had enough time to ask questions, and how satisfied they were with the answers. This will tell you whether your speakers were clear, responsive communicators. If they were dull or ineffective, it’s usually time to replace them. Sure, sometimes speakers can improve based on feedback. But now your attendees associate that speaker with a poor or ineffective experience. Even if they’re super open-minded and want to give the speaker a second chance, the first impression has already been ingrained, and the expectation is low.
Last but certainly not least, ask your attendees to share what topics they would like to see covered at future events. More often than not, they’ll readily share ideas for new topics with you. When you take in this feedback, don’t be overwhelmed by all the subjects you didn’t cover- it’s utterly impossible for one conference to cover every possible aspect of a topic! Simply use the feedback to find out what your attendees want and do your best to give it to them.
Hopefully, we’ve given you a solid starting point for your post-event surveys. While they can be tedious to review and many event planners worry that attendees will pass them by, it’s likely that you’ll get more comprehensive responses than you think. Remember, successful event planning involves a continuous conversation between you and your attendees. Post-event surveys are really useful tools that help build a strong relationship with your customer base. Got feedback for us? Post it in the comments, and we’ll take it into consideration for future posts!