3 Keys for Better Survey Data
Good survey data can tell you quite a bit about your attendee and exhibitor’s opinions regarding your event and their experiences. However, simply administering a survey does not guarantee that you will have good data.
There is science behind survey design to achieve optimal results. Nuances that include how you format your questions, where those questions fall in the survey, and the event the wording of those questions.
Most event organizers struggle with getting attendees to fill out their surveys. Is it even worth optimizing your surveys if few are going to participate? It most definitely is worth it. Not only will the responses you receive more accurately reflect the true opinions and experiences of your attendees, but a properly designed survey may also encourage more people to complete it.
Open Ended vs. Closed Questions
Pew Research has excellent advice when it comes to creating and conducting surveys. Pew shows us how open ended questions in which the survey participant responds in his or her own words often differ from the results of close ended questions where the responses were provided.
For example, you may want to survey attendees on what was the most important factor in deciding to register for your event.
An open ended question might be, “What was the most important factor in deciding to register for this event? ___________________________________________________________
A closed question might be, “What was the most important factor in deciding to register for this event?”
(C) Discovery of new products/services
(D) Keynote speaker
(E) Other: _________________________
With your open ended question, you are more likely to get an unbiased answer, whereas in the closed question you have already planted a seed in their head that there are limited reasons for attending. Even though you give them an “other” option, it is easier for respondents just to conform and check off one of the options provided.
Question Order Is Important
It is a good idea to ask your open ended questions early in the survey. Not only do people have more energy to answer open ended questions early on, but also their answers to those questions will not be influenced by concepts brought up in closed questions posed earlier. If you were to ask the closed question above and then ask an attendee an open question about what their favorite part of the event was, they might be inclined to use your wording in the previous question.
Keep in mind that previous questions tend to influence the questions that come after them. If you just asked several questions seeking critical responses, then asked “Overall, how was your feeling regarding the event,” you may find the answers are more negative than they would have been had you asked that open question first.
Your survey questions should be clear and specific. Survey respondents should not have to guess your meaning. This brings to mind the boy who answered a less than clear and specific question on a test. The question was “Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?” The boy answered correctly, “at the bottom.”
Do not ask your attendees what city they would want you to hold a future event, if you really want to know what city in North America. If you are trying to decide between four different locations, then ask a close ended question giving each location as an option. You also do not want to influence an answer based on your wording.
“Would you rather our event be held in a sunny tropical paradise or a location in the northeastern United States?”
When you ask it like that, I’m leaning toward paradise, but were you to ask if I would rather go to Hawaii or Chicago next year; I may choose Chicago because of its convenience.
How you present your survey is just as important as the responses you receive. If you are unsure how to design your surveys, bring in an expert who can help you. Then, keep your survey consistent year after year. Consistency is key to accurately tracking changing opinions and experiences.