Surveys are one of the most important tools for event planning. Without feedback, it’s impossible to gauge the success of an event. The greatest strength of surveys is their versatility. You can use surveys before, during, and after your event to measure your attendees’ interest and satisfaction. This data is incredibly valuable, but it won’t come automatically. You need good survey protocol and great survey questions to get the most out of your event attendees. In this guide, we’ll help you take the first few steps toward crafting a successful survey.
Starting Off: General Survey Recommendations
It is always a good idea to send out a survey before your event to ensure you will meet your attendees’ expectations. Be sure to give enough time between your survey’s completion date and the start of the event in case you wish to implement any of the ideas suggested in your event survey questions responses into the event itself.
Try offering up a survey a day or two into the event (if it’s a multi-day affair) so you can see how event attendees are feeling about your event in real time. Be sure to keep the mid-event survey questions relatively short, so you aren’t overloading your attendees with a survey that looks like a college final! The most effective survey questions given out at this point are short and concise. The more complex questions can come at a later point, though they should be used sparingly. Simple questions lead to actionable feedback during a busy event.
Finally, be sure to use surveys after an event to see where you’ve excelled and pinpoint what will need improvement next time. Good survey questions to ask after an event are generally written after the event has concluded (rather than before it starts) because you want your post-event survey questions to speak to specific happenings from the event itself. You will not send these questions out until a few days after the event has concluded; this gives your survey respondents some space to reflect on what was important to them at the event, what they took away from it and what they would ideally like to see in the future.
Surveys are one of the easiest and most effective ways to obtain attendee feedback. However, your survey results are only as reliable as your survey questions. You must take care to ask questions without bias in order to obtain the best results.
Survey question writing is an artform in itself. A poorly worded question can lead to answers that confuse or hinder growth more than help to make the next iteration of the event better. Review these five tips for asking effective questions before you begin to write your next survey and you will surely get great feedback moving forward.
Avoid Leading Questions
Make sure that you do not include any information that may influence a survey respondent’s answer. Survey questions should be short and to-the-point; eliminate any wording that isn’t necessary. Don’t write:
How helpful was the presentation by world-renowned expert Joe Smith?
Survey questions shouldn’t include how you feel—they should ask how your attendees feel. To fix this biased question, simply remove the phrase “world-renowned expert.”
How helpful was Joe Smith’s presentation?
Ask One Thing at a Time In Your Event Survey Questions
It can be tempting to combine similar questions in order to cut down on a lengthy questionnaire. However, these “double-barrelled” questions are often confusing for respondents and lead to inaccurate results.
Do you plan to attend the networking reception and awards dinner?
This question raises more questions than it provides answers for. Is the networking reception and awards dinner one event? Two? The most effective event survey questions only ask one thing at a time, A question that focuses on one thing helps the reader stay focused, too. This improves participation and leads to better results. Even if two questions seem closely related, they should still be split up. For example:
Will you attend the networking reception?
Will you attend the awards dinner?
Give the Option Not to Answer In your Event Survey Questions
Sometimes you need to ask a question that will not apply to all of your respondents. Or, you may want to include a specific demographic question, such as one regarding race or gender, that some people prefer not to answer. Include the option to answer “not applicable,” “prefer not to answer” or to skip the question. Failing to give a respondent the option not to answer a question may result in them choosing not to complete the survey at all.
The Most Effective Survey Questions Offer Consistent and Balanced Rating Scales
When you ask a question with a rating scale, include an equal number of positive and negative choices. If you have more than one question with a rating scale, keep the rating scales consistent. Provide an explanation for rating scales that include numbers. Don’t leave it up to your respondents to assume whether 1 is the best or worst.
Howto.gov offers an excellent reference table for rating scales:
When in doubt, consult this table to choose a balanced rating scale that best fits your question.
Cover All of the Options Without Overlapping in Your Event Survey Questions
When using multiple choice questions, it’s important to include all of the possible answers. It is better to include an “other” option than to risk missing something altogether. Avoid options that overlap or your respondent may not know which to choose.
How many workshops did you attend?
These options overlap–if you’ve attended 5 workshops, there are two different answers you could select.
How many workshops did you attend?
Build Better Surveys with EventRebels
No event is complete without a survey. Surveys can shed tremendous light on what your event did right, what it did wrong and what steps you can take to improve. The most effective survey questions are those that will help translate responses into meaningful action. We’ve shown you how to write great questions—now let us help you put your survey together. With ER Online and ER Mobile, we make it easy to quickly craft and send highly-effective event surveys as part of our comprehensive event management software. Review our products, then contact us so we can help make your next survey a success with us.