Meetings

Postconference Surveys: Are You Getting What You Need From Attendees?

By / Jul 7, 2017 (iStock/Thinkstock)

Are you asking attendees the same old questions on your postconference surveys? If so, you may want to consider shaking up the script to get a fresh perspective.

After I returned from a conference a couple of months ago, the standard postconference survey appeared in my inbox.

The familiar rundown of questions popped up: How satisfied were you with your conference experience? How likely are you to attend this conference again? Would you recommend this conference to a colleague?

While I knew that my responses, combined with those from other attendees, would help the conference host determine whether the event was a success or not, I couldn’t help but think about other questions they should have asked me that they didn’t.

I was happy with the conference and would probably attend again, but here’s some stuff the survey failed to capture: Being there generated the beginnings of at least six potential Associations Now articles, I loved the healthy food options they offered at every meal, and I exchanged contact information with at least seven other attendees over the course of three days.

Those were some of the biggest wins for me, but there was no place on the conference evaluation to share them. And with research consistently showing that people go to conferences to make connections and get practical ideas that they can implement once they’re back in the office, it’s probably time for associations to rethink the questions on their postconference surveys. With that in mind, here are three questions I think associations should consider asking their attendees after a conference wraps up:

What’s the idea you heard that you were most excited to take back to the office? Asking this question is a good way to quickly gauge what people got out of the conference. Plus, if you see a pattern of attendees sharing the same few ideas, you’ll be able to identify industry trends and address those again in future learning content.

What could we have done to make your conference experience better? Sure, you want to hear everything attendees loved about your event. But it’s just as important to know what they didn’t like or what you could have done better. After all, how can you improve your next event if you don’t know what missed the mark this time around?

How many meaningful conversations did you have? Inspiration for this one came from consultant Jeff Cufaude of Idea Architects. In a blog post on Meetings Today last month, he told Joan Eisenstodt that meetings “need to move from relying on attendee satisfaction scores and instead utilize a far more important metric: how well our meetings advance the purpose and profession for which they are designed, those who work within it, and the impact these professionals have on others.” He gave an example of a conference he helped design that identified having participants engage in meaningful conversations with five new individuals as a desired outcome. Then, on the conference evaluation, attendees were asked how many such conversations they had.

Now it’s your turn: What have you added to or changed about your postconference surveys to better evaluate your meeting’s success? Please share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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