How do you know what your audience is really feeling about your event? You’ve put hours into its organisation and you think it’s gone well, but how do you know? Are your sponsors happy? Are the delegates happy to come back next time to another event that you organise? How can you measure what happened during the occasion?
“What gets measured, gets managed”.
Collecting opinions on how the event performed, analysing the data, taking decisions on the next event and disseminating the results to the organising personnel and sponsors is a vital part of organising an event. You’ll want to know how well you met your objectives, what went wrong and can put right and how satisfied delegates were with the whole occasion.
Right at the very beginning of organising an event, you should be thinking about ‘how will I know this will be successful’. This is an important start as most of the decisions are taken early on and not evaluated; it’s just the effects of those decisions later on down the line that are analysed. So, think about the evaluation early on in the process. Think about how you will collect the data. In other words, which social media channels will you use, who will be responsible for putting the evaluation into place, will you use an evaluation form only at the end of the event, how it will be collected, who will do the analysis and who will be informed about your conclusions.
The ‘how’ of collecting the data depends on your audience profile, the occasion and the location. Popular methods commonly used are: a pertinent question asked on a social media page linked to your event; an app linked to the event that attendees can log into and use throughout the occasion; ‘Happy Sheets’ left on chairs at the end of the event for delegates to complete; questionnaires emailed out to attendees or linked to the event website.
The social media channel provides immediate feedback on the event. You can find out whether there are any problems straight away as delegates will take to social sites to complain. It’s a good idea to have someone monitoring your social media page throughout the event to prevent any problems becoming a major issue. Encourage speakers to announce the hashtag title at the start of their talk to encourage social media comments to raise awareness of the hashtag and create a buzz. Incidentally, using your social media page in the run up to the event to create excitement and drum up business is a good way of monitoring how your potential audience feels about the whole thing as long as you’re not the only one.
After the event, using some sort of feedback questionnaire collects the opinions of how the delegates felt. The ‘Happy Sheets’ that used to be used don’t really reveal the true feelings - people just want to get away or network and will tick the central box just to get rid of it. The emailed questionnaire or survey linked to the event’s website is a much better method of collecting the data and should be sent out to the delegates as soon as possible after the event’s finish.
The feedback will fall sharply into two camps; if you get early replies, the attendees will either love or hate the occasion. If the survey is completed a few days’ later, a more measured response is given. Both are valuable so make sure you calibrate feedback based on when it was given so make sure your capture method can give you that information.
Areas to cover in your evaluation could be how did they hear about the event, how did they rate the technology that was used, what was the reason for attending and were their objectives fulfilled, would they attend again/recommend this to a colleague, would they use the ideas/gadgets that they heard about, how good was the speaker(s), how was the venue and refreshments, were there any problems and how did they get solved.
Once the data is collected, what do you do with it? If sponsors are involved, they will want to see if their objectives have been met and attendees went away with the correct impression. Chat to the team of organisers/volunteers to share what has been discovered from the feedback and gather their ideas. Reflect back on your own objectives at the start of the process and see if you’ve achieved them, was it worth repeating the event, what needs to improve, change or just discard. All of this data gives you a good foundation for the next event.