Clever Carly: Read the Room

Surveys should be coupled with these at-event techniques to understand the attendee experience in real time

Hello, dear planners!

Let’s talk about feedback. Post-event surveys have become the easy route to gaining insight from attendees, and though they can be a helpful tool, the wrong language or format of a questionnaire can skew data or prevent guests from participating altogether.

That doesn’t mean planners should nix post-meeting surveys from their feedback strategies, though. It just means they shouldn’t rely on them entirely. In fact, I’ve found that questionnaires are often best when coupled with at-event data—namely, conversations with attendees and behavioral observations at the event itself.

If I were you, here’s how I would use the day of the event to your advantage: 

Use Mini Interviews to Gather Feedback

During meeting breaks, consider asking attendees about their experience so far. As with surveys, keep them short, with only one or two specific questions. “How are you enjoying the conference so far?” is a great icebreaker, but let’s face it, guests will most likely answer “Good!” and be done with it. 

For an effective interview, you have to go into the conversation with a goal in mind. For example, let’s say you want to learn what attendees thought about the keynote speaker. You might start with asking them about the event overall, but the follow-up question should be, “What did you think of the keynote presentation?” Keep your tone neutral, so if attendees do have negative feedback, they feel comfortable sharing with you, and avoid leading questions and statements that can be answered with a simple yes or no, such as “Did you like the keynote speaker?” Open-ended questions give guests the opportunity to think and formulate their own answers—some of which may surprise you.

Based on their response, you might ask another follow-up question, but leave it at that. A conversation lasting more than a few minutes takes attendees away from the event, and, in turn, can impact the overall experience they describe later in the post-event survey.

Pay Attention to Body Language

Another way to gather feedback that doesn’t require any extra effort on attendees’ parts: observing their body language and behavior in real time. For example, a lack of eye contact, crossed arms or fidgeting might reveal disinterest and boredom, while upright posture, direct eye contact and smiling communicate a higher level of engagement. Notice attendees taking notes, too? Another great sign that guests find value in your meeting.

Remember, these techniques can add to the big picture of the attendee experience, but you should still offer guests the chance to reflect on the overall experience in a post-meeting survey. Truth be told, if it wasn’t for my own post-meeting evaluation, I might not have realized just how beneficial at-event observations are when combined with post-event strategies.

Until next time.

Plan well,
Clever Carly