Getting your members opinions will always be paramount to executing a successful event. But that feedback shouldn’t come into play only after the event is over! The real secret to using member feedback to its fullest is to be constantly talking to them about what they want to see - before, during, and after the event.
Here are a few ways to gather and use member feedback that will grow event attendance and engagement, year after year!
Kick off event planning by sending a pre-event survey to members asking their preferences - for everything!
- Dates (or days of the week) that work best
- What time of the day they prefer
- Location (whether certain parts of town, or asking how far they’d be willing to travel if you’re on a more regional/national level)
- Session topics or speakers that are valuable (this is key!)
- Full meals or small bites? Coffee or snack breaks? Food is important!
You’ll never be able to make everyone happy, but understanding what the majority of your membership wants out of an event will help guide the planning process. A big part of this is getting speaker and topic recommendations - after all, the whole point is providing content that is relevant and will help your members to grow!
Be sure to also ask attendees how they found out about the event (this could be something you include on the registration form). Your event marketing must be more targeted and intentional these days to cut through the “clutter,” so this will give you an idea of where to focus your efforts (and perhaps where to end them).
If you’re using a conference app, this is a perfect avenue for getting instant attendee feedback. Being at the event means everything will be fresh on their mind. Push survey reminders to attendees in between sessions or at strategic points throughout the event - some event apps even let you conduct the survey in-app, so take advantage of that!
Along the same lines, strike up a conversation with attendees in between sessions and meals! This doesn’t have to be a formal Q&A session - simply ask what they got out of the topic or if they would attend it again, what they enjoyed (or didn’t) about breakfast, or if there’s anything you can do right now to make their experience better (within reason, of course).
The best thing you can do to ride the wave of your event is to announce next year’s dates and location as soon as possible. Attendees who enjoyed the event will sign up right away (or at least put it in their calendar), and non-attendees who are now realizing what they missed out on will hopefully do the same. Use the feedback you gained during the event to craft this announcement, and to determine your next dates and location (if you can).
Speaking of non-attendees - it’s just as important to gather feedback about their experience! How did they learn about the event? Why did they decide not to attend this time? Is there anything that would encourage them to attend next year? Some people will just never be able to come, but you could uncover some barriers to attending that you’d never thought about before.
And of course, you’ll want to survey your attendees, with some focus on learning what they didn’t enjoy. I know focusing on the negatives is, well, negative - but it’s important to understand those bad experiences!
- If your survey asks how likely they would be to recommend your event to a colleague on a scale of 1 - 10 (which, it should) - reach out to any who answered a 6 or below. These are your “detractors” - and you’ll want to find out why they aren’t very likely to talk it up.
- Similarly, look for any recurring negativity in your survey results and follow up with those attendees to learn more. Identifying a pattern will allow you to come up with a game plan to prevent it from happening in the future!
Events can be an overwhelming process, but gathering and using your members’ feedback will give you a guiding light toward overall attendee satisfaction. For more ways plan your event without losing your sanity, take a look at our free resource - Association Event Planning: The Complete Guide.