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No matter how skilled you become at your job, you should never stop looking to improve. To disregard the idea of self-improvement is the ultimate expression of laziness and apathy. Those men and women who are truly successful at their jobs never stop trying to find new ways to better themselves.

No, I’m not practicing for a career as a self-improvement huckster. I’m just offering a bit of valuable advice which every event planner should take note of. No matter how perfect an event seems to have been, there’s always something you could have done better, always a mistake you can improve on the next time you run an event.

The trouble is it’s just about impossible for one person to discern what these mistakes actually are. As an event planner, if you try to be everywhere at once, you’re very likely to drive yourself to the point of exhaustion, while everyone else wonders who the odd little animated ball of stress happens to be.

Instead, what you need to do is let your event play out just as you planned it to, and examine the finer details once everything’s finally wound down. Only then should you start considering what you might have done differently, what you can do differently at your next event. Of course, determining this isn’t exactly a simple task. Standard metrics like attendance, attrition rates or conversion rates might tell you whether or not you’re doing something wrong, but they’re effectively useless when it comes to determining what you’re doing wrong.

That’s where attendee satisfaction surveys come in.

These little pieces of paper are one of the most powerful weapons in any event manager’s toolbox. They allow people at your conference to inform you, in no uncertain terms, both what they enjoyed and what they disliked about your event. They allow you to see, in simple terms, what you did wrong in the past, that you may avoid such stumbling points in the future.

Consider using an online survey tool. Electronic surveys are easy to deliver and easy to take!

That’s not the only thing surveys are good for, either. Surveys offered at the beginning of your event or handed out with event registration can give a great deal of insight into demographics, audience expectations, or the results of your marketing. Those handed out during the event can offer feedback on pressing issues before attendees can forget them, while evaluations handed out after the event – up to a maximum of two weeks – can give a decent retrospective on your event as a whole.

Biggest hurdle: Actually convincing your guests to take a survey!

Most of us are bombarded with surveys, questionnaires and requests for information that we effectively tune out the moment anyone mentions the word “survey.” For people to actually bother with your satisfaction survey, they may need some form of incentive, which could include free registration to an event session, gift cards or vouchers, consider free raffle tickets. Naturally, incentives will vary depending on what sort of attendees your event caters to.  Also consider what level of participation you surveys require, for example, how long is a survey.

Speaking of length, if a survey is too long people will likely tune out regardless of a terrific incentive. Generally, ten questions is a safe bet for length: compile a list of one hundred questions, and then randomly compile them into ten-question lists.  You will tease out a wide variety of information by using multiple surveys for a single event.  Yet remember, even though your surveys may vary, be sure to keep tone and style consistent with one another.

Hint: when creating surveys, be sure to include a healthy mixture of multiple choice, scaling questions, and at least one open answer question.

As an event planner, you should always be looking to run better, more effective and more efficient events. Standard metrics can only go so far towards helping you accomplish this. If you truly want to improve, you’ll have to ask your attendees. At the end of the day, they’re what the event’s all about anyway, right?