Monday, March 14, 2011

Three Reasons Why Attendee Feedback is a Powerful Force for Events

As a veteran of the meetings and events profession, for more than thirty years, I am no stranger to making mistakes.  I have made more than my fair share of them along the way. (and continue to do so)

Early in my career I naively believed that admitting errors was a sign of weakness.  Fortunately, I eventually looked past my own insecurities.  I realized that part of growing, or becoming a stronger person, is for me to embrace mistakes as a learning opportunity.

As some of you know I am a volunteer co-organizer of the EventCamp National Conference (ECNC) held in Chicago February 11-13, 2011.  One of the trademarks of an EventCamp is it’s experimental nature.  In trying new things our planning team understands the risk, and recognizes there is no growth opportunity without it.  Yet, we also realize there will be mistakes made, along the path towards success.

Turning Event Management Mistakes Into Success

Strong communication within our tightly knit community is critical to EventCamp’s sustained growth.  Our best resource for gauging our event’s success is through conference evaluations.  In asking attendees for their feedback we are:

a) Gathering real intelligence regarding attendees experiences.

b) Building trust and loyalty with attendees by demonstrating we value their input.

While this year’s post conference evaluation results were mostly positive we did receive some criticism regarding a few issues. Our follow up action plan is to utilize what we learned from those constructive comments to tweak next year’s event design.

Three Reasons Why Attendee Feedback is Powerful

So why is attendee feedback so important?  Here are three reasons why I believe it is a powerful force for events:

  • It Builds Deeper Relationships — If you care enough about your conference participants to ask for their opinions and they, in return honor that request, by responding with their open and honest feedback, that builds trust across the community.
  • Open Dialogue Leads to Collaboration — if you foster a culture of open dialogue then collaboration is more likely to occur, as communication barriers are eliminated.  Creativity flourishes in this environment.
  • Diversity of Opinion May Lead to Growth— Sometimes a disagreement, or alternative viewpoints on a particular subject or issue, may lead to a new or “morphed” revelation, or “Ah Hah” moment, resulting in innovation.  This is growth at its finest.

Of course, in order for feedback to serve any useful purpose you must do something with it.  So, it is incumbent upon you to apply what you learn, through the feedback process, with integrity.

Question:  In your experience how have you utilized attendee feedback to grow your event(s)What keeps you awake at night as you consider how to improve your event(s)?  Please share your thoughts with us!


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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jody urquhart March 14, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Feedback is critical. I find many meeting planners keep evaluating the same things…how was the food,speakers,venue etc. All important feedback but what is missing is the conversation. You may find out the venue wasn’t desirable , too far out,poor service etc but you don’t get interesting ways to make the event better next time. Asking delegates to engage in out of the box conversations like what would be a great conference theme? What is your most pressing thing you need to learn or master for the next year? Love your blog Michael


Michael M McCurry CMP March 15, 2011 at 9:44 am

Hi Jody,

You really raise some good points here. Knowing how the food was, and the quality of the venue is important. But, even more important is how was the experience? Did you take away real value from the event? How were the conversations in the hallway?

I love your ideas as expressed and appreciate your taking time to add to the conversation. Thanks for stopping by!



Jody urquhart March 15, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Thanks for the great blog. I’ll be back


Jeff Hurt March 17, 2011 at 11:58 am


Receiving good attendee feedback depends on asking the right questions. All too many times, the evaluations and feedback forms we use are nothing more than smile sheets. They don’t ask the right questions so that we can continually drive event improvements.

For example, many conference organizers ask at the end of their evaluations or ask their volunteer committees: what topics would you like us to offer.

That’s framng the question wrong. We should be asking, “What keeps you up at night? or this fill in the blank statement, “I could do my job better if I knew more about _______________.”

Those questions lead to more honest and authentic comments than traditional feedback questions.


Michael M McCurry CMP March 17, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Hey Jeff:

I love that … “smile sheets” :)

You are so right and thanks for calling out that we need to shape our questions to drive improvement, not to pat ourselves on the back.

I love your questions to add at the end of the survey. Questions should encourage participants to think aloud as to what is really on their mind, not have them tell us what we want to hear.

Thanks Jeff, for adding to the conversation.



Brandt Krueger March 18, 2011 at 9:42 am

Great questions, Jeff. I’d be much more likely to give those some extra thought instead of running a bunch of 8’s down a 1-10 survey list. I think 3-4 good open ended questions might yield more insight then the unfortunately all too lengthy post con surveys we all see. WADR, Mike, even the ECNC survey seemed a little long. Were it not for the great community and having met you all personally, I probably would have blown it off!


Michael M McCurry CMP March 18, 2011 at 10:21 am


Appreciate the feedback regarding the ECNC survey.

I agree that open-ended questions are a good thing, but I have to say that multiple choice questions are good when used succinctly to help people gather their thoughts.

In my opinion there is a place for both types of questions in conference evaluations. But that’s my opinion… others may disagree.

Thanks for contributing to the conversation.



Sayer Martin March 1, 2012 at 5:34 am

Completely agree, Mike. I’ve struggled with collecting good feedback, which sparked the idea for what has become It gives you the ability to collect good feedback from attendees as close to their experience with you as possible, without paper and without their contact information in advance. Keep up the great work!


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