Audience feedback is one of the only ways an event planner can know what attendees thought about the event. While analytics from event technology are an excellent source of quantitative data that can help you make decisions, there is unique value in hearing directly from attendees.
But it can be difficult to get useful audience feedback at events. Keynote speakers are able to observe audience reactions as they present, but event planners don’t have the same advantage. And what stands out most to an attendee—wifi access, amazing food, washroom line-ups—might not be the most helpful to an event planner in the long run.
Here are 4 commonly used methods of gathering audience feedback, and pros and cons of each.
1. Digital Feedback Form / Survey
PRO: Easy to set up and access
CON: Easily ignored or forgotten
PRO: Results can be automatically organized
CON: May be difficult to follow up
PRO: Can send to large number of attendees
This can be done either through your event website or your dedicated event app: anywhere that an attendee can access the survey or form through a computer or mobile screen. Some event planners also use a specific tool, like Survey Monkey or Crystal Interactive, to gather feedback. This might not be necessary if you’re already using other event technology: double check with your tech providers to see if you have audience feedback capabilities.
The PROs of this method are the same benefits as any modern mobile technology: ease of access, convenience, and automated data organization. As it’s already online, you won’t have to digitize any documents, and it’s very simple to schedule a few post-show emails to remind attendees to fill out the form or survey.
The downside of this approach is that your attendees may be bombarded with emails, and your notes may have difficulty getting through. It is very easy to ignore or simply delete your emails. And although you can send out high volumes of surveys, it may be hard to get responses or follow up with additional questions.
2. Physical Feedback Form / Survey
PRO: Requires immediate action
CON: Requires immediate action
PRO: Will stay top-of-mind for attendees during event
CON: Easily ignored and creates paper waste
PRO: No learning curve
CON: Requires digitization or other organization
Feedback boxes or paper surveys are less common now, but essentially accomplish the same thing as their high-tech feedback relatives. Because surveys are often anonymous, it can be nearly impossible to do follow-up questions. In these cases, it’s important to think through the questions that will allow you to get the most information out of your attendees. Here are some sample questions for your post-event survey, and some tips on what types of questions to include.
The advantage of using physical surveys or forms is that the survey will be easier for attendees to access. Paper surveys don’t require any tech to fill in, and will also be around physically to remind attendees to submit their responses. However, it can also be a double edged sword, as “out of sight, out of mind” means attendees can throw away, forget, or just lose paper surveys.
But for event planners who don’t have the resources to set up or learn a survey tool, going back to paper surveys can be a quick, easy shortcut. Large amounts can be printed and distributed—though that will also create paper waste. And physical surveys will require more post-event resources, as the responses will have to be digitized or otherwise organized.
3. Social Media Outreach
PRO: Instant results and discussion
CON: Takes place in public forum
PRO: Can follow up and build community
CON: Dependant on follower engagement
Especially if your attendees are active on social media, platforms such as Twitter or Facebook are a low-bandwidth, basically instantaneous way of gathering audience feedback. You can set up a Facebook post inviting attendees to leave comments and impressions, use hashtags on Twitter to start discussion, or create polls where attendees can quickly submit their vote. Or social media platforms can be used to direct attendees towards digital surveys, or sign-ups for in-person interviews.
Using social media is the fastest way to get results, and will initially require fewer resources beyond basic knowledge of the platform. Note that you’ll have to keep track of the responses as they happen, and work out a system to track and organize them. Another point of contention is that using social media to gather audience feedback means all of the feedback will be public, and take place in a public forum. You’ll have to be aware of potential backlash and security issues.
If social media is an appropriate channel for you and your event, this can be a great chance to connect with your attendees, and also help you to build community as you host and contribute to discussions. Also keep in mind that the amount of responses you get from this method will be dependent on your followers’ engagement level. If you’re intent on using this method, it might be worth your time to nurture these channels over several events.
4. Conducting interviews
PRO: In-depth and has space for further investigation
CON: Time consuming and resource-heavy
PRO: Good source of anecdotes and testimonials
CON: Limited to smaller number of respondents
When you’re interested in more in-depth audience feedback, this can be a great method. A downside is that interviews are the most time consuming, and you’ll likely only be able to sit down with a few attendees. After conducting interviews with interested attendees, you’ll also have to put work into breaking down the transcripts for key takeaways.
But this method also allows you to get the closest to your attendees, putting you face to face with them—and as we know, that’s the most efficient form of communication and connection. You can easily ask follow-up questions, or focus in on their thoughts about certain aspects of the event. In addition to audience feedback, you can also gather anecdotes and testimonials, as well as build up your relationship with key members of your audience.
This method is arguably the most flexible: however, it is not scalable unless you have larger amounts of resources. There is also the trap of falling too deeply into a few attendee’s experiences; be careful not to overgeneralize based on the testimonials of select attendees.
Audience feedback is a crucial part of the event planning processes. Learning how our attendees perceived the event can lead us to make better, more informed decisions about future events, as well as build goodwill towards the event organizers.
What are some methods you’ve used to gather audience feedback? What worked, and what didn’t? Let us know in the comments, or Tweet us @QuickMobile!
Communicate More Effectively with Attendees
Good communication is critical to your event, whether it’s between staff, attendees, presenters, or exhibitors. Download this white paper for some methods that an event app improves how you communicate with attendees.