Learning from your Attendees

Online Surveys done right

Everyone knows the typical paper-based questionnaires. Filling them out doesn’t take long but evaluating the results often proves to be highly error-prone, time-consuming and expensive.
Usually, that already starts with deciphering some of the handwritings. What would you do if there were words on the questionnaire that you still can’t make out, no matter how often you tried to?
Drop the illegible parts? Or take a wild guess and rephrase the sentence until it starts to make some sense to you?
In both cases you’re in danger of warping the participants’ statements and defraud yourself of valuable feedback.

Also you need to be on-site since that’s practically your only chance to “catch” the attendees.

But: Consulting your attendees’ special requests should be essential for planning the event. You should also be able to ask for feedback during the conference and arrange for slight corrections based on what your attendees tell you. When the event is over, it’s equally important to give everyone some time for letting the impressions sink in so everyone can draw their conclusions.
Asking about the overall impression when there are still two days to go won’t be that useful.

That’s why we’re going to show you how to successfully conduct online surveys before, during and after an event.

For starters, the pros of an online survey are quite obvious:

  • Time-saving
    If you’re assessing your events online, you won’t have to deal with the handwriting problem: There’s no more retyping, all the answers are already and digitally at your disposal. So you’re spared any data entry mistakes.
    And since everything you need is already there, you may now evaluate it at the touch of a button.
  • Resource-saving
    With an online survey, you’ll gather all the feedback you need without using any paper. Not only does that save the environment unnecessary trouble but also your wallet for you don’t have to print that much anymore.
  • Space-saving
    Do you remember the not-so-good old days when you had to store away the files with hundreds of completed questionnaires? Good news: They’re over! Because when you don’t print your surveys, you don’t have to worry about how to keep them.
  • Cost-saving
    You’d like to save a little more money? In addition to everything else you save, online surveys reduce staff costs. You don’t have to pay anyone for acquiring participants and distributing the surveys during the event.

Further advantages will become clear in the next paragraphs in which we’re going to elaborate on which questions should be asked and when it’s the right time to ask them.

Pre-Conference Online Survey

A survey during the planning phase helps you getting to know your attendees. The results provide you with important knowledge you can include in your further planning activities.
In terms of content, such a survey mainly concerns offers where it’s rather difficult to assess the demand.

That’s the case with your attendees’ diets for instance.
As an organizer, it’s essential to know how many of your attendees are allergic to certain foods. It’s also very likely that there’ll be vegetarians and vegans among them. Possibly there are Jews or Muslims who have special dietary laws (kosher, halal). Consider these eating habits when you put the culinary offers together.

Another important point is the program.
Without concrete data you won’t be able to estimate how popular individual program items are, at least not before the event has started. If you start to guess and these guesses turn out to be wrong, some workshops might be packed while only two persons intend to partake in the excursion.
Therefore it’s best to let the attendees choose from all workshops and items when they register. It’s a lot easier because you’ll notice when it’s better to book two city guides instead of just one or when the time’s right for organizing a bigger room for a highly coveted workshop.
Likewise, items that are less in demand will become visible so you can either promote them a bit more or erase them from the schedule in order to save money.

There’s a tendency among organizers to support parents with childcare services during the conference. In order to allow you a better planning, you need to inquire about the following details before you’ll kick off the event:

  • How many children are there?
  • How old are the children?
  • How long do the children need to be looked after?
  • Is there anything that needs to be considered (e.g. food allergies, illnesses)?

In order to give everyone the opportunity to express their wishes, you should use an attendee management software for your survey.
Everyone then just has to select the applicable items when they register.

Online Survey during the Conference

Carrying out online surveys during the event is particularly worthwhile at multi-day conferences.
A quick evaluation also means a quick solution for problems: The feedback you get from such a survey can help you identify critical aspects so you’re able to correct any adverse developments promptly.

If you invite your attendees to evaluate individual sessions a few days after your event, the results will probably not be that accurate anymore as small details are usually forgotten all too quickly.

Conducting a survey during the event works best with a conference app that has a built-in evaluation feature which allows attendees to award points for each presentation. As an organizer, you’ll get an overview of how well the audience resonates with the sessions.
Besides, the results can serve as the basis for planning your next conference’s program.

Post-Conference Online Survey

A survey carried out during the event provides you with a valuable snapshot view.
However, it’s important to do a thorough evaluation of the whole conference and that’s why there should be another survey when the event is over.
Everyone who attended your conference should get a chance to draw a final conclusion and to describe their overall impressions.
What did they like about the conference? What needs to be improved?

An online survey is suited for determining the conference’s quality and the participants’ satisfaction in the aftermath of an event.
If you refer to the survey at the start of the conference and explain why everyone’s feedback is so important for improving future events, you’ll most likely be rewarded with a high response rate. That’s why about 70% of the attendees at Adrian Segar’s conferences usually follow his request to complete the online evaluation.

But it’s not only your attendees who can provide you with advice and suggestions for improvement. In most cases, showing an interest in different groups of people will pay off. Think about asking sponsors or speakers for their opinion.
All of them – attendees, sponsors and speakers – can independently provide crucial assessments and suggestions that are decisive for planning and running any of your upcoming events. Using a conference management software that includes a survey feature may come in handy as it enables you to send customized surveys to each group.

In order to cover the entire range of an event, you should include questions concerning the following points in your surveys:

  • The presentations’ quality
  • Organization and course of the conference
  • The supporting program’s quality
  • The check-in procedure
  • Time for discussions and scientific exchange
  • Support provided by the organizer
  • Conference site
  • Catering

Make sure everyone knows about the survey. Send out post-conference e-mails in which you say thank you to everyone for attending the event and attach the digital certificate of participation. That’s the perfect place for a link to your survey.


A conference management software helps you to enjoy the benefits of an online survey and positively influence the course of your current event as well as all of your future ones. Get to know your participants better and attune your conferences closer to their needs. Digging deeper is worth the effort.
Take the opportunity and learn from your attendees.

Have you ever carried out an online survey to evaluate a conference? What was it like? Tell us more! We’re looking forward to your comments.