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Kevin Lewis
Kevin Lewis

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Collecting meaningful event feedback

In January 2020 I decided to move notable blog posts of mine to DEV. This is one of them. The original post is from August 16 2016.

It’s often said that the sign of a good events organiser is how they respond to difficult situations. If you want to hear more about ‘managing chaos’, my good friend Joshua Simpson gave an amazing and funny overview at Hackcon IV — the recording is here.

While I agree with the sentiment that you need to be able to keep your cool in the face of crisis and take calm collected steps to overcome it, one thing I often see forgotten is recording what happened in a meaningful way for future event organisation. Every iteration of an event should be even better, so why do some people keep making the same mistakes?

There are five key groups that you should collect feedback from: organisers themselves, your volunteer team, participants, sponsors, and judges if applicable.

These are just my thoughts, but I’d be really interested in hearing what has worked, or hasn’t worked, for you…

During the event

Collecting feedback during the event is only so useful — you are likely to forget it while still in delivery. I suggest creating a shared Google Doc (or similar) that your entire team can have access to. If a participant, sponsor or judge shares feedback, make sure it finds its way in to this document.

It’s really important to keep everything constructive at all times — encourage everyone to not only give their instinctive “I think x wasn’t great”, but also “to improve this in future, I would…”. Accept all feedback in a nonjudgmental way, even if there is a completely valid reason why you chose to run an aspect of your event in a particular way.

+ 1 Hour After Event

After your venue is tidied to the point where you can be considered ‘off duty’, get your organisers and volunteers together to congratulate them on a job well done. This is a great time to ask everyone the following questions:

  • “What has been your personal highlight of the event?”
  • “What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve been given and by whom?”

If things didn’t go according to plan, it’s very easy for this to turn into a really negative exercise — you must avoid this at all costs. Whatever happened, you have just run a (presumably) great event and this +1H feedback session is meant to remind people of that.

+1 Day After Event

Now that everyone has had some rest, but while the event is still fresh in people’s memories, it’s time for the short survey.

Everyone should be asked:

  • What are three things you think worked really well?
  • What are three things you think could be done better?
  • What are three things you think we should continue doing?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely would you be to recommend this event to a colleague or friend? (this is the question to work out your event’s net promoter score - we’ll get on to it later).
  • Why did you give our event the score you just gave it?

Judges should additionally be asked:

  • Did you feel like you knew what you were meant to be doing?

Sponsors should be asked:

  • Did the event meet your expectations? Why?
  • How do you feel we could provide more value for your sponsorship in future?

What to do after the survey results are in

Firstly, make sure the results are in a place where your whole team can get at them. This is critical — it will show both the highlights and improvement points for future organising teams, should they be different.
It should be one person’s job to go through all of the submissions and create a report of headline points to be shared with organisers and volunteers. This should ideally be finished no later than two weeks after the event.

What should you be doing with all of those ranks out of ten? Tally up how many people chose each score and put them in three groups:

  • Those scoring 6 or less are ‘detractors’ (d)
  • 7 and 8 are neutral, sometimes called passives
  • 9 and 10 are ‘promoters’ (p)

Now do this for your NPS:

(p / overall) * 100 - (d / overall) * 100

What is a good NPS? Until you have collected it more than once, it is really hard to tell. The simple answer is “better than last time”. As you run more events for you audience, you’ll understand what your averages are and can work from that.

 +2 Weeks After Event

Make sure your report makes it into the hands of organisers and volunteers. It’s important that you are able to corroborate thoughts for the success of future events.

At this point, it’s also ideal to get everyone together for a full debrief where any last bits can be covered and the event laid to rest.

These, of course, are just my thoughts. I’d love to hear what you may have done in the past, and what you would suggest to other organisers.

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