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Purposeful Planning – Better Post-Event Evaluations

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In our last column we discussed connecting the purpose of meetings with the tools we use to measure event success. I concluded at that while the principle of this practice is a noble one, it is far more difficult in practice.

Just a few weeks after I submitted the post, my event co-producer and I found ourselves having to come up with a better post-event evaluation, one that measured more meaningfully the outcomes we had planned to produce with The Engaging Associations Forum. And in a delightfully serendipitous email, one of our Forum participants sent us an article on precisely that topic!

In Postconference Surveys: Are you Getting What You Need from Attendees? author Samantha Whitehorne discusses the unfortunate lack of relevance of most post-event surveys and muses about what we could ask instead.

Questions like, “What’s the idea you heard that you were most excited to take back to the office?” and “What could we have done to make your conference experience better?” sounded so much more engaging than the usual “on a scale of 1 to 10…” that we decided to ask them!

We figured that while the answers could require reading lengthy comments, they also likely would be more useable. (Because, let’s face it, how does a rating of 8.4 out of 10 really ever help you improve next year’s event?)

Not that we completely eliminated the scale questions. Since we know very well that participants assess the potential benefits of a conference against not only the expense of attending but also the opportunity cost of their TIME away, we also asked, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how much was this Forum worth your investment and time away from home/office?” Similarly we used a 1-to-10 scale to ask about their likelihood of attending in the future, based on their last experience.

Lastly, because we wanted to measure engagement, we asked, “How many meaningful conversations did you have?” So far with sponsors, this translates into the number of leads they generated.

For association executives, this question is measuring something that we had had difficulty to assess: the degree to which connection with peers is helping the sense of isolation we had identified in our audience. It’s not a direct cause-and-effect, we realize, but looking at preliminary results (with nearly 60% of all attendees having responded just two days after deployment!), there is a correlation between the number of meaningful conversations and the degree of satisfaction with the event.

It’s still only one post-event evaluation, but if I have one recommendation it is: go ahead and ask open-ended questions and do not fear asking questions that go to the heart of why people attend your events. It’s the only way you’ll ever know whether your meetings are worth attending.

Doreen Ashton Wagner 1617 Article Written By Doreen Ashton Wagner, Greenfield Services Inc.

Article edited by Rozanne Lyons, CMP, Intertask Conferences

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