How To Craft Post-Event Survey Questions That Get Results

An effective post-event survey is an essential part of any event process. The data gathered allows an event manager to calculate beyond the usual metrics and can help him gather valuable feedback for planning future projects.

However, if the survey itself is not properly created, it becomes a useless tool that only adds to an event-planners checklist items. It is easy to fall into the trap of just using available questions found online without really thinking if these are applicable and relevant. So instead of listing out pre-phrased questions that can be copied and pasted, here is a guide on how an event organiser can efficiently draft post-event survey questions himself that will certainly get the results he needs.

Keep the survey short

One of the main reasons respondents do not complete surveys is because of the length of the survey. According to Service Management Group, abandonment rates increase with the survey length. So how can a survey still gather essential data while being brief?

Limit the topics to what is most important for the business

It is advisable for an event manager to prioritise the information he feels is important to the business. One great exercise to achieve this is by focusing on the event objectives and using that as a springboard to craft questions that can gauge if these objectives will be achieved.

One of the main reasons respondents do not complete surveys is because of the length of the survey. According to Service Management Group, abandonment rates increase with the survey length. So how can a survey still gather essential data while being brief?

A maximum of ten questions is perhaps the magic number in post-event surveys. Longer than this runs the risk of losing the respondents.

Use shorter, real-time surveys and polls during the event

For larger conventions and exhibitions, ten questions might not be enough to cover what an organiser requires. A smart solution is to organise on site surveys at strategic areas of the exhibition using event automation tools that will allow real-time updates.

An example is to set up an interactive booth outside a conference space where attendees can immediately rate the value of the workshop they have just attended. One-question polls and single-topic ratings are most suited for these quick surveys because attendees are usually frantic and running to the next activity.

Customise questions depending on the event type

Event organisers often fall into the trap of using one set of questions for every event. This is an easy way out that will not really deliver results because every event is unique and should be treated as such.

Close-ended VS. Open-ended Questions

The debate between using close-ended versus open-ended questions often boils down to quantity of data versus quality. What is the difference between these two?

The Nielsen Norman Group defines close-ended questions as a set of inquiries that give respondents a limited set of choices, while open-ended questions allow a respondent to provide a free-form answer and give more thought into his response.

Most surveys use close-ended questions because it is much quicker to get completed results. Surveys that use open-ended questions, on the other hand, have higher dropout rates, but popular survey platform SurveyMonkey argues that this format makes respondents feel more valued and can produce novel insights that can help businesses more.

What is the compromise?

Instead of choosing one format for every post-event, one important tip for an event manager is to analyse the nature of the event. Major exhibitions, for example, have thousands of attendees who are more concerned about generating new leads and sales. Chances are, these people will not have the time to help out by answering open-ended questions unless a major incentive is provided.

For these types of events, it is recommended to use the close-ended question format and if necessary, limit the open-ended question to one or two at the end of the survey. Open-ended questions must not be made into a required field but as an additional option to the choices.

For more intimate events such as specialised training conferences, the open-ended questions will be more welcomed.

Attendees of these types of seminars are usually high-level professionals who paid a significant amount of money to be able to attend the event. These types of niche audiences will be more receptive to being asked about their opinion and will potentially impart more useful insights.

Be extra specific

In phrasing the questions as well as the responses, the event manager must ensure that there is enough detail for the survey to be useful. Asking the question, “Did you enjoy the event or not?” will not really be helpful because it does not specify what particular part of the event the attendee enjoyed.

Instead, it will be better to ask, “Which part of the event did you find most enjoyable?” The answer choices must be descriptive to properly remind the attendees about these activities or event features. However, including a negative answer choice like “none of the above” is important as not to be misconstrued as leading the respondents’ choices.

Only include topics that are actionable

If time will only allow it, event managers will surely prefer to know every nitty-gritty of every attendees’ opinion, however, including question topics just for the sake of knowing the answer to it is not always favourable. The survey only allows a few questions so it is best not to waste these on topics that cannot be clearly improved or resolved.

Using the same sample question earlier:

Did you enjoy the event or not?”

If half of the respondents answer NO, how will an event manager action this point? The question does not provide enough information on which part of the event to rectify. Since 50% answered YES, it can also be confusing to the organisers what was successful and what was not

Use plain, straightforward language

One cause of high survey dropouts is using very technical and headache-inducing questionnaires. It is not enough to keep the questions limited and short. It is also important to make the language used simple and easy to understand. The target respondent is usually distracted or busy with so many things so if he sees something that looks tedious and time-consuming, chances are, he will just ignore the survey altogether.

Technical terms and jargon should not be used as these may confuse the respondents. A good way to make questions or answer choices clearer is to add examples in parentheses enumerating what is being meant.

Event wrap-up

Even with the advent of new event technologies, post-event surveys will continue to be a crucial part of an event. Especially with new data analytical tools available, gathering valuable feedback through questions that are concise, customised, specific, and actionable will certainly provide results an organiser needs to improve event planning best practices.

Nathan Sharpe
NATHAN Sharpe is the entrepreneur behind Biznas. He knows that the life of an SME isn't easy, and you have to wear many different hats in order for your business to be a success. He helps others achieve this success by sharing everything he knows over on his blog, as well as any new lessons he learns along the way!