The Do’s and Don’ts of Attendee Survey Questions

Gain accurate post-meeting feedback with these questionnaire hacks—and avoid these faux pas

Post-event surveys are an important part of the meeting life cycle. They can offer valuable insight into firsthand attendee experiences, as well as information on areas that could use some improvement come time for your next event. 

But it turns out there is such a thing as a bad question: The wrong language or format of a post-meeting survey can potentially skew data or stop guests from participating altogether, giving planners inaccurate information or none at all.

So, when it comes to crafting successful attendee feedback questions, try these tricks and nix these survey woes: 

Do keep it short.

Attendee time is valuable and attention spans are short, so keep surveys concise. A good rule of thumb is to keep your questionnaire at 10 questions or less, or risk responders dropping off and leaving the survey incomplete. (Remember, surveys are not required; attendees fill them out as a courtesy, so be respectful of their time.) To ensure that you’re getting the most valuable information, ask the most critical questions upfront. In other words, if you want to know if guests were satisfied with your keynote speaker, for instance, that question should come first, followed by less essential questions.  

Don’t ask leading questions or speak in absolutes.

The point of post-event surveys is to get honest feedback, but leading questions—“Was the speaker the highlight of the event?”—or phrases that use all-or-nothing words like “always” or “never” can inhibit attendee responses. Instead … 

Do ask open-ended questions.

Open-ended questions give attendees the opportunity to give thoughtful input about their experiences. That said, thinking and writing out a response can also take a lot of time—something that, as we discussed above, attendees don’t always have. Not every question in a 10-question survey should be open-ended, so balance write-in responses with multiple-choice questions. 

Don’t ask for too much personal information.

The easiest way to deter survey participation: asking invasive questions. It’s OK to pose some baseline questions to better understand your audience—age and gender are standard—but it’s unlikely that you need a guest’s home number, address, favorite color and pet’s name, too. If your survey does require unique personal information, make additional questions optional. And don’t forget: Under GDPR regulations, planners are responsible for ensuring that any vendors processing data on their behalf are fulfilling their legal responsibilities. So, if you’re using a survey vendor, make sure to vet its data security practices so you can guarantee that whatever personal information attendees do choose to share with you is safe. 

Do be transparent with how you plan to use the information.

Attendees might be reluctant to offer up their input if they don’t know how or where their information will be used, especially where personal information is concerned. Before the start of the survey, include a disclaimer explaining what you plan to do with their responses—even if they are for your eyes only—so that they feel more comfortable answering.