I have mixed feelings about collecting event feedback. I know, controversial! On the one hand knowledge tells us that you are a fool if you don’t listen to your attendees after your event. But on the other hand experience tells me a few quite different things…….
Dealing with event feedback
So before I look at the virtues of feedback here’s a few negative memories I have of feedback:
1. Feedback that is never given. This is common. Sometimes a lot of effort goes into putting together forms, sending them out and then collecting them. Even when this is done online there is a time resource that backs this up. The forms are left on people’s chairs or emailed after the event. There’s no polite reminder to attendees or a chase up call. The feedback is just out there, floating on the wind.
2. Often the feedback when returned sits on the organiser’s desk. More than likely the planner is simply too busy to cast their thoughts back to past events and try to stay on top of feedback. They are on to the next one. And without the proper supervisory support I can’t blame them.
3. The feedback is often carried out for the board or the planner’s manager. The planner takes the time collating all the feedback, making nice charts and no one up the ladder reads it. Here’s my feedback: if no one is actually going to read it don’t do it.
The point which I hope I have illustrated from the above is that if you are going to do feedback do it properly.
What to do with feedback
If you have gone to the trouble of creating forms, collecting them and reviewing them it is important that you place the feedback you receive into three columns:
1. Feedback (both negative and positive) that will improve this event and or your other events
This has to be the purpose of collecting feedback. It should be the lifeblood of your event and it should include the feedback from YOUR EVENTS TEAM. Within the feedback loop you should include your team debrief. Don’t take it from me, take it from the Red Arrows!
Within this column I would include the suggested exhibitors or sessions that attendees would like to see covered in this particular event or in other events.
2. Feedback for you to pass on to others, including venue, supporters, exhibitors, speakers etc
Feedback is very useful for everyone. With all the feedback on those supporting your event your view as the event planner has to be included. You should include questions on the performance and appearance of those your attendees interact with. I include the venue here but I would ask about the service participants received rather than the quality of the venue: you should be a better judge of that than your attendees. If that feedback isn’t likely to improve anyone’s future performance it should drop into the third column.
3. Feedback on everything else
This includes feedback that is clearly personal opinion that you believe wouldn’t impact the event for the majority of attendees. Of course if you have a few people saying the same thing the feedback should be in the first or second category. But importantly don’t feel that you have to act on EVERY bit of feedback.
No event feedback doesn’t mean good event feedback
One pitfall of the feedback loop is to place too much value on the feedback you aren’t receiving. If you don’t hear negative comments it’s easy to think that everything is great and this is of course not alway the case. A key skill for the event planner is to continue to improve their events. So even when the feedback doesn’t highlight improvements these should be built in for future events.
Be honest with yourself and your attendees
Not all of the feedback you will get will be glowing. If you have an event that receives no negative feedback then a one or both of these things may be happening: and both are to be avoided:
1. You aren’t collecting the feedback properly or
2. You aren’t being very innovative
The way our industry improves is for individual planners to embrace innovation and take some chances. That’s the only feedback I would ask that you take from this post!