What's a High-Tech Way to Gather Feedback?

By Claire Hoffman December 29, 2008, 9:00 AM EST

Stephanie Rubin has conducted pre- and post-event surveys.

Photo: Courtesy of Stephanie Rubin

After the guests have gone home and the vendors have been paid, work often continues for planners gathering feedback on the logistics and programming of their events or meetings. Here are some software programs that survey attendees and compile responses.

For Lora Di Padova-Tannehill, director of scientific meetings for the American Society of Neuroradiology in Chicago, feedback is vital. An accrediting organization that determines future funding closely monitors the five executive-committee meetings and the 2,000-person convention she plans annually. “The evaluations of our programming need to validate that our education is providing improved quality of care to patients,” she says. Tannehill uses Web-based Survey Monkey to poll attendees on event logistics like housing, registration, food service, and venue selection. “The site is easy to develop and maintain responses and statistics for future use,” she says. “I like the features and versatility. I see it being used a lot more in the industry.” The site allows users to create surveys for free, with limits on the number of questions and responses allotted. A paid subscription with more options costs $19.95 per month.

Sometimes gauging expectations before an event is just as important as gathering feedback afterward. Stephanie Rubin, former consumer marketing director of Mansueto Ventures, the publisher of Inc. and Fast Company, launched an email campaign with a link to a survey several weeks before Inc.’s annual conference and awards ceremony. Rubin used an Ohio-based research firm called BIGresearch, which helps determine survey incentives, draft outreach emails, and collect and organize data. “The goal with the pre-conference survey was to create topics of discussion that are currently on the minds of our attendees,” she says. Throughout her events, Rubin also handed out breakout session questionnaires and a post-conference survey, which were available at the event and via email. “We loved feedback from our attendees because it helped us to design [our events] specifically with our target audience in mind,” she explains. BIGresearch charges $8 to $25 per survey respondent for custom projects, though prices vary according to the amount of analysis required, the number of users, and incentives.

Kathleen Moore, vice president and senior event marketer for JPMorgan Treasury Services, uses an intricate downloadable software program from Confirmit to survey attendees. Headquartered in Norway, Confirmit is one of the largest market research and enterprise feedback management services worldwide. “We use Confirmit for nearly all the larger programs we manage,” Moore says. “We survey clients about their objectives and if those were met, as well as how they felt about the venue, program, logistics, etc. It’s fairly short and open-ended.” She then forwards the results to JPMorgan’s marketing department, the event’s presenters and staff, and senior management. Moore says the feedback she receives is indispensable. “It generally validates what we know needs to be changed, but we sometimes need evidence from our constituents to move forward with the changes,” she says. “Asking people for their opinions also makes them feel more connected to the success of an event.” Confirmit’s service starts at $12,000 per year.

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