Whether you’re expecting 50 or 50,000, planning and executing an event takes major time and money. Companies willing to make that kind of investment expect great results, and conference/event surveys help them deliver.
Over half of marketers use real-time marketing tactics to promote and gauge events. Surveys make an excellent addition to the marketing toolbox. You can use them before, during, and after events to gather attendee feedback, stay in tune with sponsors, and monitor overall satisfaction.
In this post we’ll cover event and conference survey questions top to bottom—the advantages, use cases, best practices, and distribution methods that ensure you get the most out of every survey you send.
Let’s get started.
Event & Conference Survey Questions from Beginning to Send
Salesforce knows a thing or two about events. This October, over 170k spilled into San Francisco for Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual tech conference and the “largest software event on Earth.” The 4-day event included over 25 keynotes and 3,300 sessions, and 15 million online viewers tuned in to catch live coverage.
Salesforce sent surveys to attendees during and after Dreamforce. Throughout the conference, they used event surveys to generate attendee feedback after breakout and partner theater sessions. Three weeks after Dreamforce, they also emailed a post-event survey to attendees. (And yes, all of the above were GetFeedback surveys.)
Dreamforce organizers were undoubtedly up to their necks in feedback by the end of it. At such a massive scale, what drives Salesforce—or any company hosting a large-scale event—to survey their attendees? Event feedback may mean more data to sift through (i.e. more work), but it also means more transparency, engagement, and opportunity for improvement.
The advantages of sending surveys before, during, and after an event
Besides the obvious advantage of perspective, how do event surveys equip organizers to host better events? Here’s a brief look at some of the benefits.
1. Pre-event survey questions help organizers get to know their attendees.
Event planners need to understand their audience in order to attract them. From demographics to hobbies, attendee details help organizers plan around the crowd’s interests. During the planning phase, a pre-event survey can quickly yea and nay ideas or even spark new ones.
You can think bigger than attendee surveys too. Ask sponsors, donors, and guest speakers for their preferences pre-event. Connect with event staff and volunteers. Add a web survey to the event landing page so visitors can ask questions or share interest.
TIP: Avoid these common survey mistakes (like using the wrong question type) to ensure you get quality feedback pre-event. These respondents may not have committed to coming just yet, so they’re not as incentivized to take your survey. Incentivize them with a great experience.
2. Mid-event surveys monitor attendee satisfaction—quantitatively and qualitatively.
It’s easy to say how you think an event is going. If sales are high, supplies are set, and the venue is packed, awesome. But when it comes to measuring attendee satisfaction, event staff often ask for feedback in person or rely on their perception entirely. Sending surveys during course of an event eliminates the guesswork and catches feedback that would otherwise go unheard.
As the Dreamforce post-session surveys did, mid-event surveys quantify attendee satisfaction and add visibility for the whole event staff. Speakers get feedback on their presentations. The operations team can see how sound quality is—or even catch a technical issue before it becomes disruptive. Maybe the coffee is too weak and people are falling asleep during the keynote… The list goes on.
TIP: Create a survey analytics dashboard for the event. You can track attendee satisfaction in real time, create comment streams based on keywords in responses (like “weak coffee”), and much more.
3. Post-event survey questions set you up for future success.
After the confetti has cleared, it’s time to regroup. Post-event surveys highlight the wins and losses and offer an opportunity to re-engage with attendees. Beyond gathering constructive feedback, post-event surveys can reinforce the ultimate call-to-action (CTA), encouraging attendees to donate, network, purchase, share… whatever the goal may be.
Custom survey Thank You pages present respondents with specific CTAs based on their feedback. Were they thrilled with the event? Invite them to register for your company’s other upcoming events. Not so thrilled? Offer them a discount code or share your contact form so they can tell you more.
TIP: Use survey piping to add focus to your follow-up questions. For example, if a respondent said the networking session was their favorite part, you can use piping to customize the next question (e.g. What did you like about the networking session?).
The best conference and event survey questions to ask at each stage
What you ask depends on when you’re asking. Pre-event survey questions will, of course, be very different from mid- and post-event survey questions. Let’s take a look at the types of questions each of these surveys should include.
1. Pre-event survey questions
- Which of the events or speakers are you most excited about?
- How do you feel about the cost of the event?
- How do you feel about the location of the event?
- Are you staying at one of the suggested hotels?
- How did you hear about the event?
- What are you hoping to get out of the event?
- What are you looking forward to the most?
- What can we do to make the registration process easier?
- Is there information about the event that you couldn’t find or access easily?
2. Mid-event survey questions
- How was the check in process?
- How would you rate this year’s keynote speaker?
- Which speaker or event have you found the most informative so far?
- Is the conference layout easy to navigate and well marked?
- Are the speakers relative to your needs?
- If you could change one thing about the conference so far, what would it be?
- How would you describe the atmosphere or mood of the conference?
- How would you rate the helpfulness of on-site event organizers?
3. Post-event survey questions
- On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the event overall?
- Which event or speaker were you most pleased with?
- Did you have ample time to network?
- What can we do to make next year’s conference even better?
- What kind of speakers would you like to see next year?
- Do you feel as though the conference had a cohesive message?
- Did you learn actionable information that will help you in your work life?
- What features should we add to the event?
- Given your experience, would you encourage others to attend next year?
- On a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to come back next year?
Distributing an event survey
Once you’ve designed your event survey, how you deliver it is the next big question. Survey distribution is arguably as important as survey design and content. Here are five ways to distribute event surveys.
1. Share the survey URL via email, SMS, carrier pigeon…
This is by far the simplest way to distribute event surveys. You have a unique survey link; you share that link with your respondents. Sending a survey via email is usually the best option, considering email is the most effective channel for reaching customers. The upside to sharing direct survey links? Again, simplicity. The downside? It lacks the elegance of an embedded email or web survey.
2. Share the survey over social media.
I’m dedicating a category to social because it introduces a wider audience. If you share an event survey via social media, you’re inviting far more respondents than you would in a targeted email campaign. Anyone who sees the post can respond—whether you want them to or not. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe you’re gauging interest with a pre-event survey. The visibility could be a major advantage.
3. Embed the survey in an HTML email or on a webpage.
It requires slightly more work, but embedded surveys provide a better user experience and consistently increase response rates. When you embed an event survey in an HTML email or on a webpage, it’s right there—respondents don’t need to go elsewhere. Embedded surveys increase visibility and minimize the user effort required to respond. Plus, they look pretty sweet. (Give it a try below.)
4. Load mobile surveys on tablets at the venue.
If you want on-site attendee feedback, you can load mobile surveys on phones or tablets at the venue. During one of our sessions at Dreamforce 2016, our Head of Product had the audience respond to a survey on their phones. He just posted the survey URL on his slide and asked everyone to navigate there. In seconds, audience feedback began appearing in his Analytics dashboard—pretty neat.
You may not want to display attendee feedback for all to see, but you get the idea. Gathering feedback at the event is as simple as sharing the URL or having mobile surveys preloaded.
5. Create a pop-up web survey.
We touched on this one briefly above. A web survey (different from an embedded survey) can function as a lead-capturing tool, a contact form, and more. It’s a slick pop-up that greets web visitors when they arrive on a specific page. Add a web survey to your homepage or event landing page to engage visitors on-site.
Here’s an example of how we use ours. Visit our Event and Conference Surveys page to try it live.
TIP: Use Salesforce-aware surveys to map survey responses directly to Salesforce records. You can then view event feedback in the context of other CRM data to get a clearer picture of your audience. Learn more about Salesforce surveys.
Maximizing event survey response rates
An awesome survey isn’t worth a whole lot without responses. Here are some quick tips to boost your event survey response rates to get high-quality feedback.
1. Keep it short.
If an event survey is too long, respondents will bail. Abandonment rates increase with survey length, according to Service Management Group. Mobile users have even less tolerance for longer surveys, so keep it brief. And when you ask people to respond to your survey, tell them exactly how long it will take them to complete it. This sets expectations from the start.
2. Offer an incentive.
You might consider entering survey participants in a drawing or offering a $5 discount on conference swag. Research suggests that offering an incentive to everyone—even if they don’t take the survey—can triple response rates.
3. Use survey templates to create a sleek design.
According to a Cornell study, survey design can impact response rates too. Go for a clean design, short questions, and organized response options. Our free survey templates can help you get off on the right foot.
4. Segment surveys for different recipients.
You’ll want to poll everyone that attends your conference, but you’ll get the best results if you create specific surveys for specific groups. For instance, you could send a specific survey to new attendees, and a slightly different one to your conference regulars. Of course, if you’re surveying sponsors, speakers, and others, you’ll also want to consider their perspectives while building your event surveys.
There you have it—the why, what, when, and how of conference and event surveys. One essential piece is missing though: what do you do with the feedback you receive?
Using summary reports, survey analytics, Salesforce dashboards, or all of the above, you can track and analyze survey results to create a follow-up plan. That plan will vary considerably based on the event survey’s content, timing, and overall purpose. In any case, clear insights are the first step to action.
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Did we miss something? Share your best tip on event surveys in the comments section below.