How to know your event was a success

July 14, 2020

This is part 4 of my Work Events: More Than Organised Fun series. You can find the other sections here.

Congratulations on creating and running an event! Now you have to ask yourself a tricky question: was it a success?

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Defining success

Success - the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

I firmly believe that events should be run like projects. As well as providing a structure for setting up and executing, being in a project mindset will help you judge an event's success.

Success will be different for each event but you can begin by creating a list of criteria to judge against.

Criteria could be:

  • number of registrants
  • attendance
  • number of registrants
  • how long people stayed
  • engagement ie if you were running polls, how many people participated
  • if running a zoom call, how many people dropped off during the presentation

Once you have a generic list, use this to create specific criteria for each event.

Getting feedback

Once you are clear on your elements for success, you will need to gather feedback from attendees. This can be both formal and informal.

Informal feedback

Informal feedback is anything from off-hand comments ("Thanks so much for last night!") to emojis under a Slack/Teams/Workspace post. Remember to keep an ear open at lunch and an eye on your internal messaging channels: are people talking about the event? What words are they using? If you have key stakeholders, for example your manager, make sure to also speak to them.

Create a document to store this feedback so you can refer to it when needed. Anecdotal, informal feedback is no less important than formal feedback!

Formal feedback

After every event, send out a poll. This has a dual motive:

  1. gauging what people thought
  2. understanding how they would improve the event next time

Sending a poll allows you to analyse responses and track feedback over time. The key is to do this as soon after the event as possible. This way it is still front of mind for participants and you're sure to get good quality feedback.

The types of questions you should be asking

When asking for feedback, I ask general questions before moving to specifics. I have created a bank of general questions that I ask after every event. These general questions makes comparing events that much easier.

  1. Did you enjoy the event? - rating on a scale of 1-10
  2. Would you attend the event again? - rating "highly likely" to "highly unlikely"
  3. Did you like the venue? - rating on a scale of 1-10
  4. Did you like the food? - rating on a scale of 1-10
  5. Did you like the drinks? - rating on a scale of 1-10
  6. How would you rate the duration of the event? - "too long" to "too short"
  7. Any comments - free text

Specific questions could centre around the speaker, the content of any presentations and key takeaways.

Example of feedback tools

Depending on the scale of the event, and the amount of feedback needed, I'll use two different tools -

Polly AI

Polly AI is a native survey tool for Slack and Microsoft teams. This means you can easily run polls and view the live results within Slack or Microsoft Teams. It works best for short, simple feedback requests. I talk about Polly AI in a lot of detail here.

Google Forms

Forms is part of GSuite and is a simple way to create comprehensive surveys. I enjoy using Forms for four reasons:

  1. it is intuitive
  2. you can design your surveys according to your brand book
  3. there is now the added option of branching and question skipping, like Survey Monkey
  4. results are generated in real time but you can also export to Sheets to analyse and run reports on the data.
Hang on, what about Survey Monkey?

I used to love Survey Monkey. Once you got the hang of how the interface worked it was easy to navigate and the data analysis was second to none. The free plan was also comprehensive enough that you could run surveys and, if you needed something more, the pricing always seemed fair. Unfortunately, the new plan structure means the Basic version is no longer a good fit for companies (ie start ups) that need to watch their spend. Given a choice between Forms and Survey Monkey, I choose Forms: it offers many of the same features and is included in the GSuite subscription.

What to do with the data

  1. Analyse and use it Feedback is only of use if you analyse and use it in future events. This can be uncomfortable, but by being open to constructive criticism you can improve and deliver events that your teams want to attend.
  2. Share the feedback If your team have taken the time to share feedback, ensure they know you are taking it on board. There are 3 steps to doing this -
  3. thanking them for their feedback
  4. let them know the results of the survey, for example "70% felt the presentation was too long".
  5. share what you will be doing next time, for example "we will try and keep the next presentation under 2 hours, with a break half way through"

You can share your findings in a Slack message or email, or you could create an infographic to share the results in a fun and visual way. Check out these Canva examples for inspiration.

How to encourage your team to take part

If you frequently find that you're not getting enough feedback, there are a couple of tactics you can try:

  1. giving the team a week to respond, with scheduled reminders to encourage participation
  2. mentioning it when you're chatting throughout the day
  3. asking team leads/managers to remind their team
  4. setting the survey to be anonymous
  5. providing an incentive, for example a raffle with a voucher for lunch up for grabs.

Conclusion

Getting feedback after an event is the final stage for any event. It can be uncomfortable but by following a few simple steps you can ensure event success. To recap:

  1. Define what success means for you
  2. Ask for feedback
  3. Share the results and take action

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