Is Your Conference Survey a Waste of Time?

“Bad feedback forms are easy to crank out.”

– David Housman, user experience researcher

The conference survey tool in your mobile event app is pretty powerful. Get data while your attendees are in the building, thinking about the event. See results in real-time. Even push notifications to remind your attendees to give feedback. 

But surveys are a science. And learning to build effective conference surveys on mobile phones and tablets requires some careful thought and testing.

Why don’t we take some of the guesswork out of it? We talked to two fantastic survey experts–from two very different fields–and they shared these strategies for building conference surveys that will actually get you results.

1. Discover the ways to use a conference survey.

Meet SurveyMonkey’s Audra Sorman, who spends a lot of time thinking about how to write sound surveys. She says that when it comes to in-app, real-time event feedback, event planners and organizers need to keep a few things in mind before they write their surveys. Audra has some great ideas:

Use a conference survey to improve on the fly

Looking for real-time feedback so you can adjust aspects of your conference on the fly? Stick to asking questions that you can truly act on if need be. For example, “How well could you hear the speaker?” These are key things that are easily improved upon the next time around.

Request real-time input on sessions

Surveying attendees right after a workshop or speaker? Keep in mind that you’ll be collecting their top-of-the-mind responses. These are snap-judgments, rather than responses that are taken with the entire conference in mind (like during a post-event feedback survey).

2. In a real-time conference survey, short is sweet.

David Housman is a user experience researcher who has written extensively on the topic of survey research. David offers some ways to put guardrails on your in-app conference survey planning.

Think like a busy conference attendee with a phone

“For a mobile survey, think about it in minutes,” says David. “Before you start, say to yourself ‘I will build a feedback form that will take ___ minutes or less.'”

David’s tips for keeping your conference survey short:

  • Ask questions about how the user feels right now, or how they felt about the conference/session that they just attended.

  • Avoid questions that bear a heavy cognitive load, or that take a long time to answer.

  • Where possible, use categorical questions instead of free text, because they are easier to answer.

“To really leverage that data collection opportunity ‘in the moment’, consider asking short questions that the respondent is not likely to remember later,” says David.

Audra’s company, SurveyMonkey, ran a study this year to see if people take in-app feedback surveys seriously. Nearly half of the respondents said they’d give your survey 5 minutes, tops.

“To get the highest number of responses–and the most accurate–be considerate of your attendees’ time and effort,” Audra says.

Save the longer questions for later

But when it comes to survey length, Audra adds, just like in life, there’s definitely a grey area. “After the conference? You’ll want to send out a longer feedback survey to get a holistic view of your attendees’ overall satisfaction. These surveys can be a bit longer—but make sure you’re asking the right questions so you don’t exhaust your survey respondents.”

3. Make it easy on a mobile user.

In a web survey, you have a lot of formatting options. Essay boxes, weighted rankings, “smart” logic… But mobile users need a simplified experience.

Focus on the simple stuff

“Stick to multiple choice, text entry, and sliding scale,” suggests David. “Also, some question types look wonky when they’re rendered on a mobile screen. If the user is spending more time trying to understand your questions than answer them, you’ve got a problem.”

Guidebook’s built-in surveys and feedback forms make mobile easy. Set up surveys, push notifications to remind attendees (straight from your phone) to fill them out, and easily export data after your event for analysis. It couldn’t be easier. Check it out by clicking the button below:

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4. Tread carefully when offering an incentive.

It’s common to offer something–a gift card, a discount, an entry into a drawing for a Ferrari–to boost survey completion rates.

Know the risks

But offering a survey incentive does come with its problems: accuracy might decrease when you start including people who don’t give back out of the kindness of their hearts. People might rush through the survey to get to the prize.

So offering a reward might not be worth it. “You can probably skip incentivizing each and every small in-app event feedback survey,” says Audra, who has studied the pros and cons of survey rewards.

But if you do decide to boost your conference survey results with an incentive, she has some advice:

Consider keeping it small

“Tell attendees they’ll be entered to win a gift card at the end of the conference,” Audra says. “Make sure to add in a question that asks for their email address—and explain why you need it.”

Or motivate a different way

According to the SurveyMonkey study, 40% of people think organizations pay only a moderate amount of attention to their feedback. “You can build trust by showing that you intend to act upon it,” says Audra.

She suggests rewarding the attendees who gave their time and effort by sharing the survey results you collect—and telling attendees how you intend to turn their feedback into improvements.

To get through to “crunched decision makers”, David says, share data in the form of succinct findings.

“Instead of publishing everything, summarize what you can and take a few good free text examples that emphasize your points,” says David.

5.  Pilot-test your conference survey

“You’d be surprised how your feedback forms look like through other peoples’ eyes.” David suggests that you share your survey with some coworkers or friends and watch them try to fill it out. “These early pilot surveys can do a lot to help you to learn where your problems are- what needs to be re-worded, and what needs to be scrapped.”

Don’t stop learning

What’s the biggest difference between your survey and the professional surveys you see on the internet?” asks David.  “Sometimes it’s as simple as a few rounds of revision.”

It can be hard to predict how people will respond and whether the data is usable. “Test them until you stop finding ways to improve,” David says.

With a well-thought-out in-app conference survey, you’ll find areas of opportunity you didn’t even know existed. Your attendees will appreciate the attention to detail and the improved experience.  Take care of it all in-app through Guidebook. Seamless survey set-up, intuitive design, push notification reminders to increase engagement, and easy export of data. What could be better? Sign up for a one-on-one demo below, or get started building today!


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