January 01, 2002
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio January 2002 Current Issue
January 2002 Tech filesPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:


BY Bob Walters

Simple tech tools can provide valuable feedback before, during and after the event

Soliciting attendees’ opinions is now easier than ever. Today’s technology offers a number of ways to reach the audience and garner the critical information needed to make sure a meeting delivers true value. Innovations in real-time information gathering even help planners make changes while an event is in progress.

E-marketing can be used to learn important details about attendees and their wants. By including a link to an online survey in your batch e-mails or putting the survey’s Web address in your registration packets, you can gather insight before the meeting takes place.

Even those who choose not to attend should be surveyed. Is the reason is cost, programming or a schedule conflict? Such data might help you tailor the program so holdouts will participate next time. Most online registration providers, like Cvent (www.cvent.com), RegWeb (www.regweb.com) and SeeUThere (www.seeuthere.com), provide various e-marketing tools that allow you to survey users and analyze the results. The data can then be exported to Excel or other formats for further manipulation. Other great aspects of e-surveying include affordability, minimal intrusion and ease of use.

Always send an automated “Thank you for responding” message as well as a personal reply if the individual raises any issues that need to be addressed.

Don’t forget your presenters in this process if topics arise that can be covered from the podium, pass the information on to your speakers.

Several on-site survey tools allow attendees to answer a quick interactive survey.

Audience-response keypad devices are great tools for large sessions or when the topic is broadly based. The presenter must be flexible enough to react to the audience’s feedback and offer a more directed program. Planners also can conduct market research in this manner, gathering responses from a targeted audience.

Suppliers of keypad devices include firms such as Audience Response Systems (www.audienceresponse.com), Fleetwood Group Response Systems (www.replysystems.com), IRIS (www.inthorizons.com) and Option Technologies (www.optionfinder.com).

Other ways to conduct on-site surveys include uploading questionnaires into kiosks, on PCs in cyber cafés and on your Web site. You can even set up a survey on guest-room TVs if the hotel is equipped with one of the newer interactive systems.

Be sure to publish on-site survey results in show dailies or as handouts during sessions to let attendees know they are being heard.

Wait a week or two before soliciting post-meeting evaluations, giving attendees time to get back to normal without forgetting their impressions of the event.

If you keep track of how people registered by phone, through e-mail, online, by fax or mail use the same method to send them post-meeting surveys. If the same information was solicited on the last day of the meeting, do not send another form to those who already responded, unless you are asking for new information. Some stand-alone survey programs include eListen (www.elisten.com), Survey Select (www.surveyconnect.com) and The Survey System (www.surveysystem.com).

Make sure the system you choose provides an easy and effective way to tabulate results. Most have graphing capabilities and/or allow the exportation of data into programs like Excel. For more advice on surveys, visit www.audienceresponseplace.com.

Bob Walters, based in Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, is the founder of Phoenix Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak software.

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