In a recent blog about the Wild West of Conference Planning, we noted how much has changed in our industry since the pandemic began. These days, anything goes. From full in-person and virtual events to multiple tiers of hybrid experiences, there’s a lot you need to figure out.

One part of event planning that hasn’t changed, however, is prioritizing what your attendees want. This is an even more prescient topic as we move into the fall, navigating new variants of the virus and more uncertainty. So, how do you figure out what your attendees want?

Post Event surveys. Getting feedback asking questions, evaluating ideas from guests before, during, and after events is a great way to improve their experiences. That applies to your upcoming fall conference AND all future events.

Here’s how to do it:

Before Your Conference 

If you have to choose only one type of survey, we highly encourage asking the tough questions ahead of finalizing your event plans. This fall especially, focus on attendee expectations with regards to health and safety.

Here’s an example: Mask restrictions are continuously going to be in flux as you move from city to city, and your guests’ safety preferences may help determine where and why you choose a location for your event. For one, if they feel like their safety might be compromised, their event experience will surely be too. Then again, being too cautious without gauging interest could also backfire. Your best bet is to simply ask what attendees want during in-person gatherings.

It’s important to note: We’re not condoning making any decisions that put your guests at risk of exposure to COVID. On the contrary. After surveying your attendees, you’ll quickly realize what you need more and less of in order to keep them safe during your conference. Attendees will rightfully expect you to take responsibility as host of the conference, so doing your part early on—by surveying guests and learning their expectations—is critical.

Real-Time Communication

Ever heard the saying “If you get 10 conference attendees in a room, you’ll end up with 20 different opinions?” We’re paraphrasing a bit, but you probably get the point. Maintaining open communication with guests during your event is absolutely vital.

There are a number of ways to give attendees the opportunity to provide real-time feedback, whether it’s about room temperature, microphone volume, or the availability of hand-sanitizing stations. We can recommend a number of event apps, email, and even text messaging options to help you captain your ship from start to finish.

The most important thing to think about with real-time surveys is how you’ll get attendees to actually fill them out. They’re going to be heavily focused on the event itself. Slowing down to answer surveys might feel disruptive.

Our workaround? Incentivize the surveys. By participating, they can unlock time at an otherwise exclusive networking event, earn meal vouchers, or gain access to additional materials from the speaker before they are available on-demand.

What went right and what went wrong?

This is the final survey you should plan to send out. This questionnaire is critical to improving next year’s conference. The post event survey helps you compare guest expectations pre-event with your execution of the actual event.

What should you ask in your post event survey? Focus on how safe they felt during events. Make sure they got what they wanted. Find out if there was anything they were delightfully surprised about, or if something, in particular, turned them off. Ask about what you can continue working on because you’ll probably get a lot of helpful suggestions (in addition to a few snarky ones, too).

Like with real-time surveys, it’s going to be hard to get your guests to sit down and fill out a survey. At this point in their journey, they’re typically overloaded with information and focused on following up with new contacts and leads, or employing lessons they’ve learned in their own boardroom or classroom. Again, incentivize them. Offer exclusive discounts on future conference registrations, or the ability to unlock exclusive materials and videos you won’t make available on-demand.

Send us an email or message us on social media. We’d love to connect and walk you through figuring out what your attendees want.