After the successful execution of a large event, we all feel like resting and getting through that inbox overload … or maybe we are already on to the next event. But just because the conference is concluded, the work is not. So, have you thought about spending more time on your follow ups?
The event itself is of course very important – and should be taken care of like a little baby – but so is the learning you can extract from following up on your event.
Start evaluating during the event
Actually, the work starts during the event: Spend some time observing the participants. How do they act (do they seem to be used to attending events/conferences, understand the unwritten rules, or ask for a stack of printed material), eat (do they leave all the desserts untouched or ask for vegan options), or engage (do they make use of the networking opportunities, spend most of the break staring down on their phones, or engage in the involving activities with an open mind)?
Then continue the evaluation
When the event has ended, you must evalutate on it (this could also be done right before the conference ends – there are about as many ways of evaluating a conference as there are event planners), otherwise, how will you know what impact the event made? If your investment has been returned?
Maybe you send out a questionnaire, maybe you make qualitative interviews as the delegates leave the event … that is not the point right here, and once the result of the evaluation has been collected, you can start working on processing what you observed and matching that with the outcome.
The information you extract from your observations and the result of e.g. the questionnaire should be used to adapt future events to match your target group even better. By incorporating the gathered learnings into your events, you can obtain an even higher outcome:
- your participants feel listened to when you incorporate your findings into the next event they attend – and it heightens the feeling of presence, which is a vital part of creating an experience
- you can build a community for the event – e.g. an online community where the delegates can engage in conversation, help each other out, or exchange ideas. This also creates a group of ambassadors to further spread the word about your event.
- you can learn about the delegates’ wants and needs for events like yours, get ideas for speakers/sessions/involvement/_____ (fill in the blank), and this information is like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: That is the perfect way to adapt your next event to suit your target group spot on!
Make the unhappy happy
When you process questionnaires, remember to check for those who are highly unsatisfied. Those are the ones whose opinions you can change by giving them a phone call and listening to their input. And those are the ones you want to focus on. By listening to their ‘side of the story’, you can turn a bad experience into a great – so go for them, not the highly positive ones.
Also, beware that your survey or questionnaire isn’t too long, though even the short ones with only a few easy questions often get skipped by the ones who can’t bother. My general experience, though, is that if a participant is unsatisfied, we will definitely learn about it.