Planning a meeting in Las Vegas or attending a convention in Las Vegas and having to organize satellite events?
Gauging Audience Reaction for Positive ROI
In our previous issue, we covered the topic of using data to create events that are not just enjoyable, but also produce tangible return on investment (ROI) numbers. Planners can gather data on their attendee demographic before and during the event, but what about after it’s all over?

The most frequently used method of gathering audience feedback is through surveys and questionnaires. Asking attendees to put their thoughts on paper is an excellent way to see how an event played out in the eyes of someone who participated in the meeting, but was not involved in the planning process. Because surveys are anonymous, attendees are less likely to be inhibited when it comes to revealing how they feel about a particular event experience. This honesty allows planners to see what they did right from an objective standpoint, but also shows what areas they need to improve on.

Be sure to offer an incentive for filling out the survey. Assuming that each attendee will feel compelled to give insight on their own accord is wishful thinking. Offer a giveaway or the chance to win a prize. Free conference passes for the following year will not only get them to fill out the survey, but ensures that they’ll come back for the next event.

Questionnaires and surveys can range in size from short half-page print-outs to more detailed packets. Typically these hand-outs are put inside the free attendee tote bags or given out as attendees exit the facility. With the help of the Internet, planners can utilize a more interactive survey response format. Once the event has concluded, planners can send a follow-up e-mail the next day with a link embedded in the e-mail that will take them to the entire survey online that is unique to the attendees e-mail address and profile. The Internet is a good alternative for more lengthy questionnaires because it can be broken up into smaller parts on different pages, giving the impression of a more concise format.

The concept of surveys isn’t a new idea, but it’s one that never fails to reap interesting results. If planners have never been able to gather viable data before by using surveys, then perhaps they aren’t asking the right questions or using the right format.

For example, if a planner is trying to learn exactly what attendees would like to see in future events, a series of dichotomous answers (yes or no) will not really be beneficial. Rather, open-ended questions in which the attendee can answer freely will allow for a more comprehensive and usable response.

Sometimes an audience base needs a little prompting in order to convey an accurate response, especially if questions appear to require some thought. Usually, the thought process is piqued when planners want to know quantitative information, or how much an element moved an attendee. In gathering this type of data, a numerical scale process is best. For example, planners can start with a statement regarding one of their meeting’s key elements: “This training seminar gave me the information necessary to fulfill my job requirements.” Then attendees would have to check whether they agree, strongly agree, are neutral, disagree or strongly disagree. This gives attendees some leeway in being able to adjust their thought process as they approach each question.

Multiple choice questions are also effective when trying to narrow the data to a specific set of responses. If planners are not interested in comprehensive data and would like to know the effects of specific variable, multiple choice questions give attendees a set of options to respond to. For example, if planners want to know the audience’s favorite part of an itinerary, they can list each segment in a multiple choice question. This prevents attendees from engaging points of interest that are not of use to the planner.

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