5 Ways To Dominate Event Feedback Response Rates

Attendee evaluation feedback is critical to every event. It gives you insight into what parts went well, what needs to improve, and most importantly… how to keep people coming back. Unfortunately, collecting this feedback is one of the biggest pain points that organizations and planners face.

This is the reason why we added Session Evaluations to Conferences i/o. It wasn’t an original feature in the product but we heard so much demand for it from our customers that we decided it build it.

So why is collecting event feedback so difficult? Well, let’s start with the collection method…


Post-Event Emails

The problem with post-event emails is that response rates are generally very low. People are busy, and it’s hard enough to get them to open an email , let alone take the time to fill out a survey — according to MailChimp the industry average open rate is just 16% . You also face the problem of delayed memory recall, so the feedback you do receive may not even be entirely accurate.

Paper Survey Forms

Distributing, collecting, and organizing paper forms can be a logistical nightmare. Even once the forms are collected, someone needs to manually compile all of the data and transfer it to an excel spreadsheet… which is a tedious process and can take hours to complete.

While paper surveys may seem in-expensive, printing costs can be steep depending on how large your event is. When you combine printing costs with the hourly salary of an employee to distribute, collect, and compile the data, the costs can add up quickly.

Event  Apps

Using an event app can be a great way to collect feedback because (A) attendees can respond in real-time, as soon as a session ends, and (B) all of the data is saved electronically so it’s easy to export.

The biggest drawback of using an event app is that they are generally more expensive than the prior two options and collecting feedback is usually not their primary purpose. The quality of the survey feature will vary based on the provider but for the most part it will be pretty basic — for example, attendees simply choose from one of three ‘smiley face’ options (Positive, Neutral, Negative) to rate a session overall — which can limit the usefulness of the data that you collect.

What Category Does Conferences i/o Fall under?

Conferences i/o is an Audience Response System. Our product is specifically built to facilitate real-time audience interaction, and we only offer three features (Polling, Q&A, Session Evaluations). We believe that Event Apps and Audience Responses Systems serve two very different purposes and we don’t try to compete in the Event App market. Rather than try to be an all-in-one product, we focus on building the world’s best Audience Response System and make it easy to integrate with other event apps.

“Okay, now I know why collecting feedback is difficult but what can I do to improve my response rates?”

We understand that not everyone can be a customer of Conferences i/o so here are a few things that we’ve learned along the way that can help you improve evaluation response rates from your event… no matter what method you use to collect it.

1. Offer an Opportunity to Provide Feedback During the Event

When the attendees are in the session you have their attention but as soon as they walk out the door that control is gone, and you’re now just one of many things fighting for their attention. The battle for their attention multiplies exponentially with every minute that passes, so by the time your survey email hits their inbox two days later it’s going to be pretty low priority on their to-do list.

One of the simplest actions that we recommend to all of our customers which has an incredible impact on response rates is to dedicate 1 minute at the end of each session for attendees to provide feedback. This is can be done through a simple announcement by the presenter / moderator but the key is to position it as something that they should be doing RIGHT NOW, before they leave for the next session. It will require a little bit of extra planning / coordination but will result in a DRAMATIC improvement on the amount of feedback that you collect.

Collecting real-time feedback can be difficult if you’re using the Post Event Email method but one idea is to setup a few laptop / tablet kiosks around the venue that has the survey (or multiple surveys organized by session) pulled up on the device.

2. Offer Multiple Opportunities to Respond

One of the advantages of event apps and web-based products like Conferences i/o is that they can be accessed 24/7. While we always recommend trying to persuade attendees to provide real-time feedback, the beauty of these products is that attendees can also access the survey afterwards, if necessary. One additional tip if you are using a product like this — we don’t suggest overly promoting the fact that the survey will still be accessible after the event. Try to position it as something that attendees should do at the end of each session because if they know the survey will be available later, many will procrastinate and end up never responding.

If you don’t have access to a product that allows for both real-time and post event feedback then consider using a combination of products / methods. For example; offer paper surveys during the event and send an email with a link to an online survey afterwards.

3. Incentive Participation

Providing evaluation feedback does not take a lot of work but it’s usually a low priority item for attendees, especially once the event is over. By offering a simple incentive (entered into random drawing for a giftcard, free registration for next year, etc.) your attendees will be much more likely to participate. The incentive doesn’t have to be extravagant but you can expect a fairly direct correlation between the value of the incentive and the amount of participation.

If you need proof, look at the Warren Buffet / Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge — the chances of predicting a perfect March Madness bracket are estimated to be about 1 in 9 Quintillian, yet there will be 15 million people that take the time to enter the contest (which takes much longer than an evaluation survey). Why? Because the incentive is $1 Billion Dollars.

4. Clearly communicate the process

No matter what method you use to collect feedback it is critical to make sure that the process is clearly communicated to the attendees. The easier you make it for them, the more feedback you’ll collect.

  • Put up signs with instructions (where to pick up paper forms, how to access the app, etc.)

  • For online surveys create QR code links and post the codes in each room

  • Tweet out a reminder to attendees using your event’s hashtag

  • If you’re using an event app that allows you to send push notifications schedule a couple of reminders to be sent to attendees each day

  • Make verbal announcements at lunch and / or general sessions

  • Provide your speakers with a script that they can use at the end of their sessions

5. Keep it short and sweet

Last but not least, try to keep your survey(s) as short and sweet as possible. Only include questions that are vital pieces of data that you need to collect. If your survey takes too long to complete, you will run into the issue of responder fatigue which results in…

A) people dropping off before completing the survey

B) Inaccurate data because people stop taking the time to answer each question honestly

Our customers use an average of ~ 5 questions for session evaluations, which seems to work very well. For overall event evaluations try to aim for somewhere in the 10-15 question range. If you can’t narrow your survey down to shorter than 15 questions, try to include a “status bar” (e.g. shows that they’re on question 5 of 20).