The big day has come and gone. You’ve paid your vendors, sent thank you notes to your attendees and speakers. It can be tempting to get through your post-event checklist and move on to the next event.
However, your checklist is not complete without post-event evaluation. After your event is finished – whether a smashing success or a bit disappointing – it’s important to dedicate time to conduct a proper analysis.
So how do you approach a post-event evaluation? This guide will cover the entire process – from setting goals leading up to your event, collecting feedback and data, to ultimately sharing your analysis with stakeholders.
1. Why is post-event evaluation important?
Event evaluation is a critical component of organizing an event. Through evaluation, you have the ability to fully understand the impact your event has, and without it, you’re left guessing yourself into a hole. To that point, top feedback-driven companies in their industries have been shown to outgrow their competition two times over.
In order to achieve strong results, keep your goals in mind throughout the entire process. Evaluations provide concrete examples of success to inspire others and improve your internal project performance.
Why is post-event evaluation so important?
Feedback-driven companies in their industries have been shown to outgrow the nearest competition by over 2 times!
Additionally, evaluation is important to continuously improve. It ensures the tactics you are using are effective and reflect larger company or organizational goals. If, through your evaluation, you understand that the tactics aren’t working, evaluation also helps to provide justification for a pivot.
91% measure the success of their events on attendee satisfaction. 61% measure according to their specific event objectives and 60% determine results based on staying within budget. (EventMB, 2018).
Illustrating the role of events in your company or organization
While events are undoubtedly an important component of 67% measure ROI on attendee satisfaction, 52% determine results based on staying within budget and 51% measure ROI based on the number of registrations.
This is especially important if your event is revenue-driving or fundraising.
Justification for future changes and growth
Additionally, recent research by Event Manager’s Blog shows that in recent years, while expectations are rising, event budgets are remaining fairly stagnant. When looking for additional funds for events, facts and figures from previous events lend to provide justification for increases!
Improve attendee experience for future events
Gathering qualitative feedback from attendees helps to guide future events. For example, if a number of attendees share that they enjoyed a specific session, you may want to invite that speaker back the next year. Or, if your attendees found it hard to navigate the venue, you may consider how you can improve their experience.
Now that we’ve covered why it’s important to conduct post-event analysis, let’s jump into best practices for pulling out the right data from your events and turning it into insights.
2. Establish your goals and success metrics
When organizing your event venue, speakers, and marketing; you should also plan how you intend to measure and evaluate your event. These goals should align with larger organizational goals and reflect the importance of your event.
Setting SMART objectives
The SMART goal-setting methodology is a great way to ensure you’re creating strong objectives for your event. Tying your goals into organizational goals is one aspect of a SMART goal, it’s also important to create strong, measurable objectives. Let’s take a look at how to create SMART goals; to create strong goals they should be:
S – Specific. What outcome, by when. For example, signing up 25 new, monthly donors for 2019 by February 15th.
M – Measurable. How much – the hard numbers we can measure, such as bring together 100 potential donors for small dinners, and sign up 25 of those as donors.
A – Achievable. Not only is the objective achievable, but we’re also relatively likely to accomplish it. This isn’t a stretch incentive on Kickstarter, after all. This is an objective we’re confident telling our boss we can achieve.
R – Relevant. Ask yourself, does this relate to our company’s overarching mission and goals?
T – Time-bound. Timebound means we can create a timeline that defines the beginning and the end of the period in which we are measuring. There’s a start and stop point, and we can measure the change between the two.
Smart objectives that relate back to your organization’s goals will stick with you throughout your entire event planning process. Once you have buy-in from the top-down, these event goals and objectives will guide your entire process from venue selection through your post-event survey questions.
With a set of SMART goals in place, you’ll enter your event with a clear vision of what success looks like.
3. Create opportunities for feedback
With goals in place, you have a foundation for creating questions to evaluate your event. It’s important to keep your goals in mind when planning your feedback opportunities. This critical planning step often gets overlooked, leaving organizers either scrambling to put a survey together or forgetting to collect feedback altogether.
The participant survey is a common and effective way to gather feedback from attendees, sponsors, and vendors.
Example Survey Questions
Qualitative attendee satisfaction survey questions
Here are example survey questions to get you going:
- Please share your thoughts on the event as a whole
- What was your favorite speaking session/performer/workshop?
- Why did you choose to attend our event and what are you hoping to take away from the experience?
- Did this year’s event meet your expectations? Why or why not?
- What was the highlight of this conference? (What did you like about it the most?)
- Are there any suggestions you have for next year’s event?
- Were there any parts of the conference that you found especially useful?
- What was your least favorite part of this event?
- Are you likely to participate in one of our events in the future?
- If you would like to provide a quote for promotional use, please include here with your title and occupation. (Name/company optional.)
Qualitative vendor and sponsor satisfaction survey questions
- Please share your thoughts on the event as a whole?
- Did this year’s event meet your expectations? Why or why not?
- Will you be joining us next year?
Quantifying your surveys
Sliding scale questions. In addition to open-ended questions, it’s beneficial to provide your attendees with Likert scale questions. These help you to turn qualitative questions into data sets. For example; How likely would you recommend this event to a colleague? With a scale ranging from “extremely likely” to “not at all likely” enables you to get a consensus on, what would otherwise, be hard to put into numbers.
Here are a few examples to get you going:
- How would you rate the knowledge of each speaker? (You could put this into a chart, or matrix, for guests to individually rate each speaker’s knowledge.)
- How likely are you to recommend this conference to a friend or coworker?
- How likely are you to attend this conference again next year?
- How would you rate the value of this conference?
- How beneficial was the information presented at this event?
- How much will this event positively impact the execution of your job?
- How satisfied were you with the event’s agenda?
4. Manage event with goals in mind
When planning the details of your event, keep your overarching goals and objectives in mind. Consider your specific goals and success measurements in everything you do – does this activity push the needle forward? If not, why are we doing it?
While you undoubtedly have a ton of moving pieces on the big day, you should keep your overarching goals in mind when managing your event. Are your teams executing according to the plan? Are attendees utilizing the app and participating?
It may be challenging to overhaul anything at the last minute, there are small things you can do to inch closer to your goals.
5. Collect post-event feedback
How are you planning to distribute and collect surveys from your participants?
The best time to collect feedback is when it is fresh in your attendees’ minds. To do this we suggest:
- Allot time, during the event, for attendees to provide feedback about the overall event experience.
- If you’re collecting feedback about individual sessions, make sure to provide enough time between sessions for attendees to give feedback and then make it to their next meeting.
How are your attendees going to provide feedback about your event? Technology has replaced the older method of pen and paper to give event-goers a convenient means for sharing their thoughts.
Right in your mobile app
Guidebook offers a robust survey platform right in the app! This gives attendees the convenience of giving feedback without ever needing to leave the app. Collect feedback in real-time during the event, and review your survey data and responses in real-time or after the event.
If you’re not using an event app ( though you should definitely consider it!), an online survey, like SurveyMonkey is a good option for reaching your attendees online. Create a survey and send out an email to collect responses.
To incentivize or not to incentivize?
Many surveys are incentivized, meaning people who take them get something, or the chance to win something.
Some people are willing to give feedback but struggle because of a lengthy to-do list. The chance to win a gift card might just push them over the edge for giving you five minutes of their time.
The only negative to watch out for – some people will care more about the gift card then sharing thoughtful feedback. For the most part though, even with an incentive, respondents provide valuable feedback.
6. Evaluate event results
With your event survey feedback and data in hand, it’s time to evaluate the event! Depending on the scope of your event, you may be able to handle the evaluation yourself, or it may take a team of people to turn the raw data and comments into insights.
Registration numbers. Did you meet your baseline registration goals? Or, did you exceed your goal by 10%.
Revenue. How much did you bring in from sponsors, from fundraising, etc. Whatever your source of funding, it’s important to understand the financials.
Budget. Similarly, did you exceed your budget? Were you right on target, or maybe even under?
Social media. Do you measure your social media presence before during and following events? If not, you’re missing out on valuable insights about your brand reach.
When should you gather feedback?
Just as you plan your event with goals in mind, it’s important to actually carve out time for attendees to provide feedback.
Just as you broke your measurement up into qualitative and quantitative measurement, your analyzation will be different depending on the type of results you’re reviewing.
- How much did you spend on the event vs. how much revenue did the event bring in
- Did you reach your registration numbers? If not, how far off were you?
- Social media followers grew 10% due to event promotion
- A majority of attendees rated the event as a “Extremely likely to attend another event”
- 90% of attendees picked “Likely to recommend to a colleague”
As you review surveys, you may also want to pull out and save memorable quotes from your respondents.
7. Communicating your results
Your stakeholders want to understand the value of your event – here’s where a post-event report comes in. Your post-event report should be a succinct document that illustrates the value of your event. Here are the 8 sections to give a full picture of your event:
- Executive Summary
- Your executives want answers right away. Was the event successful or not? A summary of all the results from brand impressions to staff performance should be indicated. Recommendations for future events must be included too.
- Goals and Objectives
- This is where you should list the specific and measurable goals you first made before the event.
- Return of Investment Report
- In this report, include data from – Ad leads, meetings, purchases, demonstrations, and samples.
- Return of Objectives Report
- In this report, include the number of press events, media coverage, and mentions. Also, add the costs calculated for advertising to build your product and company’s image.
- Event Effectiveness
- In this section, you can evaluate the event itself and include feedback details regarding location, product displays, traffic flow, etc. Don’t forget to include high-quality event photos.
- Compare your estimated budget to the final investment. Include charges that affected the budget and indicate if the budget was met or you went over the planned cost.
- Areas for Improvement
- What would you do differently at the next event? Here, clearly outline opportunities for improvement.
- End the post-event evaluation report by stating out how you see the latest event compared to the past same events. Was it better or worse? Moreover, don’t hesitate to mention any problems you had. Include your recommendations to improve your events in the future.