After the successful execution of a large conference, 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.
Actually, the work starts during the conference: Spend some time observing the participants. How do they act (do they seem to be used to attending conferences, understand the unwritten rules, or ask for a stack of printed material), eat (do they leave all the desserts untouched or refrain from visiting all the buffets), 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)?
When the conference has ended, it is always a good idea to evaluate on it somehow (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). Maybe you send out a questionnaire, maybe you make qualitative interviews as the delegates leave the conference…that is not the point right here (I might get back to that in a later blogpost, though). And once the result of the evaluation has been collected, you can start working on processing what you observed and matching that with the results.
The information you extract from your observations and the result of e.g. the questionnaire should be used to adapt future conferences 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 conference they attend – and it heightens the feeling of presence, which is a vital part of creating an experience
- you can keep a community for the conference alive – 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 conferences 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: There should not be any reason why you cannot adapt your next event to suit your target group spot on!
Just remember that when you process questionnaires 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 experiences. 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 good experience – so go for them, not the highly positive ones.
And then there are the ones who do not even bother to answer our questionnaire etc. I know that sometimes surveys and questionnaires are waaaaay too long (and we have to be aware of that when we build them!), but even the short ones with only a few easy questions often get skipped. But my general experience is that if a participant is unsatisfied, we will definitely know about it.
Speaking of those who do not give us feedback: I will soon write a blogpost about the responsibility of the participants, because there is such a thing as the delegates’ responsibility. Stay tuned!