Return On Investment (ROI) is so very important to you as a meeting planner and to your bosses. However, I think ROE (Return on Experience) is even more important: for your attendees and for you because when you know what your attendees want to experience at your meetings, you can make it happen and, in turn, give your meetings a better ROI.
If you could be a “fly on the wall” at your events you would be able to hear and learn what people really think. There are several ways to accomplish this and by taking some time to think it through you could really gain some valuable insight – without having to be some yucky ole fly.
First we must create a plan. Yes, as meeting planners we have plans within plans. It is what we do and what we do it oh-so-well. At its most basic you will need to decide:
- What data or information to collect
- When to collect it (before the event, after each session, after the event)
- How to collect it (fill out forms, take an online survey)
- How to tally it all up (electronically, by hand, in a spreadsheet)
- Now what to do with it all
Data: Depending on your event there may be more than one set of data to collect. For example, you may want to ask exhibitors about their experience, ask if they were able to help you promote the event and how, if the event was worth their time and money and so one. From speakers you may want a different set of information. Of course, you will want to ask attendees about their experience and such, but you also may want to send out a survey as you plan the event to find out what they expect from the event, the types of subjects or speakers they hope to see, etc.
When: It may be best to collect some information directly after a session while it is fresh in their minds. It may also be ideal to collect information after the event to gauge overall impression and retention.
How: Will you pass out surveys to be filled out and collected at the door? Will you send them an online survey? If online, should you incent them in order (maybe a percentage off next year’s event or a free t-shirt). Perhaps you could have your staff collect data via a bit of q&a in between sessions? What about a video booth set up to record attendees thoughts which could be later edited for a promotional video for the next year.
Tally: Online will provide the easiest tallying up, as it can be done electronically. If staff is collecting the data, look into creating surveys for tablets. If you go the old-fashioned paper route, someone will have sort through the data and enter it into a spreadsheet. Have a plan for how to execute your data collection.
Now what: Once you have it all, who on your team should see the data, how will it be utilized, what shall be done with all this awesome new information?
For some additional information I would highly recommend this article from Successful Meetings. Also check out this page for Evaluation Forms that you can borrow and make them your own. For a good listing of survey software, check out this Capterra page or see what Cvent has to offer. Of course, you can always try out something simple the first time around, then get all sophisticated later; for this check out Survey Monkey.