It’s easy to get lost in “the fog of war” in the preparations and implementation of a complex event and lose perspective on the essential reason for your promoting and producing the event in the first place. Although nearly all events have some financial prerequisites and goals which are measured in dollars and cents, the essence of the value of each event is how it satisfies the audience’s expectations. How do you find out how your event was viewed by your audience? Ask them!

You have to consider the attendee’s point of view

When reviewing your event, looking for potential mistakes and places to improve upon, it is absolutely imperative to include input from the attendees themselves. You can get this input easily through polling, either online surveys after the event or onsite for live events, and you can gather this critical data by the time that the event ends. The surveys you create have to be specific to the exact type of content the attendees engage with. You have to ask the right questions to get the right answers, so make sure that you don’t just create a survey which is generic and unfocused. Integrate the goals you had for the event all along into the polling questions to see how well you succeeded or failed at each one.

Incentivize the return of your filled out survey forms

If you determine to take the onsite survey path for live events, make sure you distribute the forms as early as possible on the tables or work stations of the attendees, or as a handout for the audience as they enter the venue, so they can fill it out whenever they have time. At conferences, the speaker should encourage the attendees to fill out the surveys and you should have a drop box prominently visible at the exit where the attendees can return the survey once they have filled it out. You will never be able to get everyone to fill out the surveys, but reminding them of the process during the event itself can give you a higher rate of response. Of course, every savvy event marketer is aware that the best results are always garnered by incentivization so you provide a valuable reward or entry into a grand prize sweepstakes for the return of the fully filled out survey forms, your response rate will skyrocket.

Concise, focused surveys which take less than a minute to fill out

Even though there are likely a significant number of areas of attendee experience you are interested in exploring, you should be concise and make it your goal to have the survey take a less than a minute of effort on the part of the audience member. This level of brevity will require careful consideration from your side in the process of determining exactly what information is most important for you and what is peripheral or fully optional. Unless you’re interested in a very specific insight, you should focus on a wide variety of topics and be as general as possible in nature, concentrating on questions related to their overall experience at the event.

Ask the audience about logistics, presenters, networking, and value

Some of the typical areas to explore in your brief audience survey include:
1. Logistics – Was the registration process easy? Was the accommodation and food acceptable? What about the venue? Was the event technologically adept? What do you think about the price?
2. Presenters – Did you appreciate the choice or presenter? Was everything as advertised? Did they engage with the audience enough? Were your questions answered?
3. Networking – Did you find there were enough opportunities for networking? Were there ample time and appropriate venues provided for it? What can be improved?
4. Value – Did you get out of the event what you had expected? Did you get value for your investment of time, effort, and money? Would you be amenable to attending a future similar event?

There is no event without an audience, so unless you know exactly how your event has been perceived by the attendees, you’re failing at your most basic task!