Wednesday, October 21, 2015 was “Back to the Future Day.” If you’ve not seen the movies, in “Back to the Future Part II,” Marty McFly and Doc Brown travel to this date to save his future children, who weren’t born yet in the film’s present, which was 1985, from a horrific future. Confusing. Yes, but a lot of fun. It’s also fun to look at all of the events and inventions that film, directed by Robert Zemeckis, playfully predicted would be coming our way: flying cars (nope, thank goodness), hover boards (sort of), the Cubs winning the World Series (ehhhh). Trying to wrap my mind around all of the time travel, what happened, what didn't, got me thinking about feedback. And why it’s vitally important for meeting planners, especially, to collect feedback before, during and after their events. 

Planning an event isn’t easy. Everything from picking the venue, to planning the sessions, to coordinating speakers, to booking travel to picking out the perfect décor to make every room pop – these endless details take countless hours of staff time, concentration, money and dedication. But, event planners don’t have a choice. They have to spend so much time on each and every detail so attendees can have an experience they will never forget. And a large part in creating an experience they won’t forget is asking them what they want before the event even begins.

Pre-event feedback

What do attendees want? It’s important to survey them during the planning stages, so you can ensure they will like what you’re planning and so they will get value out of it. Questions you might want to ask attendees include:

  • What kinds of sessions would you be interested in attending?
  • What types of speakers would you like to hear from?
  • Do you have any types of food allergies?
  • Do you prefer a morning, afternoon or evening event?
  • How far are you willing to travel?
  • Don’t forget about what’s happening during the event either.

During event feedback

You want to make sure you are engaging your attendees during your entire event. Use a survey to ask attendees about issues pertaining to the event topic, industry, speaker or their interests. You might even want to share the results before the next keynote presentation. When attendees hear the results, they will be further engaged in the event because they have contributed to its quality and content.

And last, but certainly not least, what are attendees saying after the event has concluded?

Post event feedback 

The only way to actually know how attendee’s would rate their experiences is to collect post event feedback. This is critical if you want to make sure that your expenses were worthwhile, for you to understand what attendees liked and didn’t like and most importantly, to gather information to make the next event even better.

  • You can ask questions such as:
  • How was the keynote speaker?
  • Were the sessions informative?
  • Did you attend the networking/night out event?
  • What would you like to see more of next year?
  • How would you rate the event location?
  • Please list any comments or suggestions about the event

Gathering feedback to questions like these can help you understand if your event was valuable and if attendees will come to the next one. If you ask for attendee feedback, you're able to learn from any "mistakes” you might have made throughout the process and how you can ‘wow’ your attendees again next year.

Collecting attendee feedback is extremely important because attendees are your events’ most important asset.  Attendees will also appreciate that you are listening to them and have their best interests in mind. If you put the actionable data you collect into play, you can guarantee that you will have more event planning successes. So take a note from Marty and Doc Brown, fixing the past can save not only the present, but your future events!

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