One of the housekeeping items I usually have to mention when hosting conferences and events is to encourage delegates to complete the feedback form.
But few delegates do, and it drives some event managers crazy. They offer parking vouchers, entries into a lucky draw, and more, to incentivise delegates to complete the form.
As a conference anchor, there is only so often I can encourage delegates to complete it before it starts to grate.
So, what else can you do?
I'm gathering the best ideas to solve this perennial problem. Please leave your ideas and comments below. Here are my own to get you started.
Do you really need it?
Sure, it's always nice to hear from your customers and see high rankings, but a feedback form in which you get top or near-top marks for everything is a sheer waste of everyone's time.
It's a waste of time for your delegates, who probably just ticked "Excellent" for every criteria without giving it much thought, possibly just to get the parking voucher or lucky draw entry.
And it's a waste of time for you, because there is little to be learnt from compliments.
The honest truth is, no matter how much you implore them, delegates self-select whether they need to complete the feedback form. In other words, they won't bother unless they have something to say, usually a "suggestion for improvement" (=complaint).
Qualitative, not just quantitative feedback
In which case, a rating upon 5, 7 or 10 isn't much use unless there are some qualitative comments that explain why they gave a lower rating. And that means you will want to know about it straight away in order to fix whatever the delegate is unhappy about, and not leave it to the next day when you sift through completed forms.
Singapore Airlines understands this. Asking one of the cabin crew for a feedback form will prompt them to pay you much more attention, including calling you by your name, even if you are not a frequent flyer. They know that passengers who are happy don't ask for feedback forms.
Against this backdrop, as an event manager you soon conclude you don't want clients to complete the feedback form!
In my previous column I commented that your registration counter should also be your de-registration counter. So, when delegates hand back their badge and de-register, your staff can verbally ask for suggestions for improvement, and note these down in a central register. That's much more personal and valuable than a feedback form with some numbers ticked.
If your boss or client insists you ask delegates to complete a feedback form, ensure it results in a further action, interaction or transaction. For example, rather than ask delegates to vote on the quality of the speakers, venue, food, and so on, ask them to tick a box to be invited for the next event, or to be put on a distribution list, or to receive a follow-up phone call. That sort of lead generation is much more valuable than a 5-upon-5 rating.
If it's compliments you are after, you are better off asking delegates for a testimonial that you can actually publish. This can be recorded as a video in the foyer area of the plenary hall. Or you can ask for one in writing, although it's faster if you pre-script testimonials and invite delegates to sign off on the one they are comfortable putting their name to.
Both are infinitely more useful than a feedback form.
What are your thoughts?