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Evaluating the Conference Experience: How to Get Useable Feedback From Your Delegates

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Congratulations! You have reached the end of planning your event and are ready to put together your delegate conference evaluation. Asking the right questions and gathering useful, useable information can be a challenge, but when done correctly the information that you gather can put you steps ahead in planning your next event.

Before you jump into creating a list of delegate questions, ask yourself two questions:

  • Why are you doing the evaluation? Will it be used by next year’s planning committee to inform your speaker or venue choices or do you just want to know if people found value in this year’s conference? Understanding what you are going to do with the information you are requesting is crucial in knowing what questions to ask your delegates.
  • What key information do you need to gather? What facets of the event do you need feedback on (keeping in mind your answer to question one)? It is important to know what specific feedback you are looking for so that you can ensure that you ask the right questions in the right way.  Focus on a few key things that you want to learn, and ask pointed questions about that topic.

Once you have established your goals and key information, you can start to compile your questions. Break your questions into sections that are clearly delineated so that it can be quickly reviewed and answered by participants.

When creating your evaluation, I would also recommend you keep the following in mind:

  • Keep it short: The longer your questionnaire is the higher the probability that a delegate will ‘drop out’ of completing it, possibly leaving you without answers to the questions that you really needed.
  • Choose the right medium: Paper or Electronic? Consider your audience – if you have a less-technology savvy crowd, likely a paper form that is completed at the conference is the way to go. If your crowd is more web-based (and you have all delegate’s email addresses), then an online survey sent out after the conference is quite effective. Most of our event clients choose the electronic version as it has the added benefit of being automatically tabulated. Less time needed to compile the answers gives more time for advanced review.
  • Give an incentive: Entering all delegates that complete the evaluation in a draw for an enticing prize is a sure-fire way to get more people to complete your evaluation. One of our annual clients saw their delegate survey completion rate go up almost 20% over the previous year by offering a draw for a complimentary registration to their annual conference.
  • Sometimes asking a specific question instead of a general question is a better approach. For example instead of asking delegates to evaluate the conference on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being excellent, simply ask them this: “Would you recommend this conference to a colleague?” If their answer is “No” prompting them for a reason why will yield greater insight and a much more actionable piece of information for next years planners.

Remembering your goals and keeping your questions simple, short and easy to understand are the keys to getting practical information back from your delegates. This feedback will help you make informed decisions when planning your next event and keep delegates coming back.

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