At a restaurant last night in Washington, D.C.—for a SIPA Chapter meetup which I hope you can make it to sometime—the waitress was serious about getting us to fill out a customer survey. She brought out extra portions for us to take home. She circled the url on the check and wrote her name. She promised a coupon if we filled it out there, then just gave us the coupons, asking if we could fill it out before midnight. (Maybe her car would turn into a pumpkin if we did not do this.)
I left the restaurant as one of our attendees was filling out the survey on his phone, with help from the waitress. And when I got home, I too filled it out. This is probably an example of overboarding, but her effort did yield the desired result—we filled out the survey. And although we were grateful for her kindness and gifts, I think we would have been honest on the survey about any disappointments.
Eventbrite is currently the giant of event listings. They also have a good blog where they take on the event survey question. Here are some of their best takeaways.
1. Offer an incentive—quickly. "Timing, as they say, is everything," they write. "A post-event survey should be sent within 24 hours of your event... In addition, participants are much more likely to give you feedback if there's a chance they might win a gift card or VIP tickets to next year's event. Consider partnering with one of your event sponsors to offer an incentive that brings value to participants and your sponsor."
2. Make it short and personalized. If you say it will take five minutes, stick to that. I've often gotten on a survey that looks quick, but then I answer the first question and the bar below says like "3% done." This does not encourage completion. Eventbrite recommends a maximum of 10 questions. Also, they write: "Avoid sending one blanket survey to your exhibitors, speakers, sponsors, and attendees. Use conditional formatting so that respondents only have to answer relevant questions. Tailoring your survey for each audience will help you get the most useful data."
3. Kick off your survey with simple, multiple choice questions. "SurveyMonkey research has shown that starting with these questions leads to the highest completion rate." Always include a "none apply" option so respondents don't get stuck without any options. And, of course, make sure your survey tool is mobile optimized so it's easy for respondents to complete the questions on their phone or tablet.
4. Ask your most important survey question first. In fact, SurveyMonkey suggests that you include that question right in the email itself. That "lede" question should be both easy and compelling to answer. For instance: Overall, how satisfied were you with this event? "Placing your first survey question in the email is a practice that can increase your opens by up to 22% and the number of people who finish your survey by 20%."
5. Create a narrative. I hadn't seen this tip before. It makes sense—everything else is about giving us a story these days, from a 30-second commercial to 30-minute podcast. "The questions should follow a natural order, leading respondents through your survey—much like the plot of a story. Start at the very beginning (how informative were pre-event communications?) and progress through the event, right to the end (how likely are they to attend next year's event?)."
6. Ask questions that are in line with your event goals. "For example, say one of your goals was to provide networking opportunities that would help attendees grow their businesses. In this case, you might ask: 'Did you make new contacts that will be useful to your business/career?'" I would add: "What could have been more helpful?" If you don't want it open-ended, then list some possible answers: "More introductions were needed." "There was not enough designated networking time." "At night people went their separate ways."
7. Use fewer questions on each page; it's survey best practice. This is because surveys will capture the data every time you hit "next." So when someone opts out in the middle—like I have often done—you may still get some key information. (That also makes putting your key questions early make more sense.)
8. Offer extra lasagne.