12 Mar 2018

Supercharging Your Survey

Event designers everywhere struggle with the challenge of measuring event engagement. If only it were possible! The reality is that it isn’t possible to measure engagement per se, but it is possible to measure everything about an event that can contribute to engagement. Traditionally the tool that has been used for that is the good old-fashioned survey. You may already be a wiz at developing and conducting feedback surveys, and if you are then this post may not help. If it’s been a while then this may be a good refresher.

But when do you do it? How do you do it? And what do you survey? Let’s start with ‘when’. The short answer? As soon after an experience as possible. The most recent experience is the one that will be most remembered. So if you want people’s reactions to a specific session, you need to conduct that survey as quickly after that session as possible. The sooner a survey is taken, the better participants will remember the event and provide good data, especially if you are looking for details. If you are conducting a survey post-event, keep it general with broad questions like “overall, I enjoyed the event (on a scale of 1-7)”. “I am satisfied with the networking opportunities that were provided” (1-7, strongly disagree to strongly agree).


It’s important to remember that a badly timed survey will either feel like an interruption or will be conducted so long after the event that it yields weak data. Memory can only be stretched so far.

How to:

As for the question of ‘how to survey’, it is critical to decide what you are trying to accomplish & what you want to measure before you start. You only get one shot to collect the information you need. To ensure it is productive, conduct pilot studies and interviews to obtain information on your target audience before you decide on the questions to be asked. Another tip is to use very simple language: imagine you are talking to a fifth-grader. Be clear and concise, and avoid compound questions-within-questions. Ask one at a time. And use neutral language so as not to bias responses.

Privacy and anonymity are other important considerations. Answers will be more honest if people believe they are responding in private. People need to know up front that the survey is confidential and that they will not be personally associated with the outcome. Sensitive, controversial, or negative information is more likely to be revealed by confidential responses.

What do you want to know:

Lastly you need to consider what to survey. It’s best to stick to specific questions about products and  experiences. Ask if they thought it was worth the price, if they got value for their money, how it compares to similar events they have attended, how likely they would be to attend again, would they recommend it to a friend, what they liked about it? Don’t be afraid to probe for details.  In other words, don’t just ask if they liked something, but try to get at what it was they liked about it. Don’t just ask what their favorite part was, ask what made it their favorite.

Remember, the better the survey mechanism, the more accurate the data and the better the learning and guidance for your next event. When, what and how you survey are the key factors.



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