I routinely get ~70% evaluation response rates for conferences I facilitate. Here are three reasons why this rate is so much higher than the typical 30-50% response rates that other conference organizers report.
1. Explain why evaluations are important
At the start of the first session at the event, I request that attendees fill out the online evaluations and explain why we want them to do so. I:
- Promise attendees that all their feedback will be carefully read;
- Tell them that their evaluations are crucial for improving the conference the next time it is held; and
- Tell attendees that we will share all the (anonymized) evaluations with them. (I don’t share evaluations on individual sessions with attendees, but I forward all comments and ratings to the session presenters. I do share overall ratings and all general comments about the conference.)
When you explain to attendees why you are asking them to spend time providing evaluations, and they trust you to deliver what you’ve promised, they are much more open to providing feedback. And I suspect that when attendees know that other attendees will see their anonymized feedback, they may be more motivated to express their opinions.
2. Provide online evaluations early
I provide online surveys available at the start of the event, which participants can complete at any point. If the conference has a printed learning journal, I’ll include a printed version of the evaluation. Attendees can fill it out as an aide-mémoire during the event if they wish.
3. Follow-up reminders improve evaluation response rates
Post-conference, via email, I gently remind attendees who have not yet completed an evaluation. I include a due date (normally 10-14 days after the end of the event), and a few sentences reiterating the reasons why we’d appreciate their response. I send up to three of these reminders before the due date.
None of this is particularly onerous, and the result is a rich treasure-trove of ideas and feedback from a majority of attendees that I can use to improve future conferences.
What are your typical evaluation response rates for conference? What do you do to encourage attendees to provide event feedback?
Photo attribution: Flickr user herzogbr