Recently I put together my year-end reports for all of our 2012 events. A large part of these reports included data I received from participant surveys. In my experience, participant surveys are reporting gold. Below are some questions I continually ask myself that have helped me in my surveying success:
What questions are you asking?
I always ask three questions:
- What was your favorite part of the event?
- What could we do better in the future?
- How did you hear about this event?
In addition to those questions, I always try to get some demographic information either through surveys or through participant registration.
Do each of your questions serve an essential purpose?
Participants have more important things to do than fill out a survey. Keep it short. Don’t waste their time. Evaluate your questions for purpose. Don’t ask them what their favorite color is unless you absolutely need that information. My three essential questions help me evaluate the events, make them better in the future, and assist me in my yearly marketing plan. The demographic information is imperative for reporting and sponsorship acquisition.
How can I tell if my questions are serving an essential purpose?
Ask yourself the following:
- Will the data help me improve future events? (If yes, ask that question.)
- Do my bosses, sponsors, or other stakeholders need or want this data? (If yes, ask that question.)
- Am I collecting data just to collect data? (If yes, DO NOT ask that question.)
How do I get a good sampling of participants ensuring accurate data?
Do you collect the surveys at the event? After the event? How long after the event? Via direct mail or email? How many surveys are you receiving in relation to how many participants you had?
All of these can effect your results. For example: If you send a survey only via email and ask how they heard about the event, you may get a higher number of results that suggest they heard about it via email or online. That could be because your other participants don’t care to check their email or may not even have email. Your method also has to reflect your demographic.
Do you offer any incentive to fill out the survey?
I often offer prizes to survey participants. Bribery = higher number of surveys completed.
What do you think? Do you have any other input on surveying event participants? I’d love to hear your comments!