Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

February 09 2015

4 Common Problems With Post-Meeting Surveys — And How To Fix Them

By David McMillin



The meeting is over. The attendees have all gone home. Now, it’s time to find out what they really thought of the experience. It’s survey time.

Meeting planners count on surveys for insights that drive attendance and engagement. Unfortunately, designing and sending surveys can come with plenty of challenges. At Convening Leaders 2015, crafting effective questions and increasing response rates were hot topics. Here are four of the most common problems with post-meeting surveys and recommendations on how to fix them.

1) The Problem: Surveying just to survey.

Sending some questions can make attendees feel like your listening, but designing a survey is not about looking like you care. It’s about identifying opportunities for change.

“The questions you ask must drive change in your events,” David Saef, Executive Vice President, Strategy and MarketWorks, GES, said. “If you’re not intending to change something, don’t ask questions about it.

The Solution: Articulate your objectives.

Rather than recycle last year’s survey, Saef recommends taking a hard look at the portions of the program where you really need a better understanding of attendees’ perspectives. Are you thinking of making a dramatic change to your exhibit hall? Do you want to gauge your attendees’ feelings on the overall value of the experience?

“What is it you think you want to change?” Saef asked. “What do you want to learn?”

Don’t ask questions and hope the answers will leave you somewhere. Instead, begin the process by outlining where you want the survey results to take your organization in the future.

2) The Problem: Asking too many questions.

After a four-day conference, every member of the organization wants to understand attendee reactions. What did they think about the speaker at 9:45 on Tuesday? Did they like the networking lunch on Wednesday? How did everyone feel about the exhibit hall new product showcase area? While all of these answers may be good to know, letting every department add questions is a dangerous game.

“The more questions you ask, the lower your response rates are going to be,” Saef said.

The Solution: Put yourself in the attendee’s shoes.

As you design your next post-meeting survey, think about how you feel when you receive a survey from a hotel, a rental car company or your cable provider. If it’s too long, chances are you won’t bother finishing it. Your attendees feel the same way. Their time is valuable. With that in mind, think back to the overarching objectives you outlined when you first started the survey, and only ask questions that align with those goals.

“You want to get to the truth as fast and as easily as possible,” Saef said.

3) The Problem: Patting yourself on the back.

It’s always nice to receive congratulatory notes on a job well done. After months of planning and a grueling few days of on-site management, the last thing anyone on the meetings team wants to hear is what went wrong. However, surveying is not about singing praises

The Solution: Search for the truth.

“The survey should really challenge your thinking, not just rubber stamp what you’d like to hear in the first place,” Saef said.

Before you send your survey to attendees, make sure the questions allow for tough answers. While they may be hard to swallow, they’ll be the fuel that improves the experience.

4) The Problem: Getting miserable response rates.

Three percent. Seven percent. Nine percent. If your meeting team has struggled to motivate attendees to actually complete a survey, there are plenty of reasons why those questions might go unanswered, and that leads to trouble. Low response rates can translate to incomplete data. Rather than shape your meeting’s changes based on a few responses, it’s crucial to figure out a way to inspire more attendees to turn in their answers.

The Solution: Make the survey part of the meeting.

Gregg Lapin, Director, Meeting Services, American Association of Diabetes Educators, says the organization ties the survey into the process of claiming continuing education credits.

“It’s implied that they have to do the survey to get the CE,” Lapin said.

That implication is leading to serious impact. Lapin says the organization’s survey response rate is approximately 80 percent.

Looking for more help with your next survey? Click here to check out some helpful tips from Convene.
Also make sure to check out or purchase David Saef's session, Survey with Impact: Transform Traditional Event Surveys into Actionable, Valuable Assets, also available in the Convening Leaders Rewind.

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