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Event Planning Through Survey

Make better decisions about your event based on pre-event survey feedback

Mary Crogan, Senior Business and Marketing Manager, Online Survey

by Mary  Crogan,  Constant Contact Senior Business and Marketing Manager, Online Survey

An event is great way to attract customers to visit your store to learn and make purchases, to bring members together to celebrate an occasion, and to rally supporters to raise funds for a good cause. While events can take multiple forms -- be it a class, webinar, open house, or gala -- they all take proper planning to ensure your organization and attendees get the most out of the gathering.

Sending a survey before your event to get feedback from potential attendees can help with these efforts not only to tell you if your thinking is in line with your guests', but also to make the event even better based on attendees' input.

Logistics that work
A pre-event survey is a perfect tool for nailing down the logistics of your gathering as it can help you make critical decisions based on feedback from the very people you want to attend. 

Naturally, this type of survey can be used to determine attendee preference on when to hold the event (Weekday or weekend? Day or evening?) as well as where to hold the event, which can be useful for events held at third-party locations such as a restaurant or hotel ballroom. Also, your pre-event survey can be used to determine attendee preference for other event details such as door prizes versus a discount or free food versus free entertainment. For events with a limited budget, this type of pre-event feedback can help prioritize spending while delivering the best possible experience for all involved.

To get the best results for decision making, ensure each question gives users options for answers; don't use open-ended questions. Survey respondents are more likely to answer when they can select from a few choices rather than when they have to come up with an answer on their own and type it out. You can put an "Other comments or suggestions?" question at the end of your survey that allows for free-form answers.

Pre-event surveys are also useful for planning content for educational events. If you're debating between a couple topics to present, survey your attendees to find out which one is of most interest to them. For multi-track events with sessions running concurrently, a pre-event survey can be used to determine how many people plan to attend each session, allowing you to choose an appropriately sized room.

Spreading the word
A pre-event survey can have a second benefit as well: It serves as promotion for the event itself as you distribute the survey to target attendees.

There are a number of ways to distribute your survey depending on the type of event being held. For private events targeting a specific guest list, the best distribution approach is via your existing email list. Send an email invite out to the target attendees on your list only. This way, knowledge of the event remains private and you ensure the feedback you get is from the people you're trying to woo. You can also send a reminder invitation a few days or week later to those who have yet to open or take your pre-event survey.

If you're hosting a more public event, your distribution options expand greatly. You can (and should) still use email to gather feedback from key target attendees, but you can you also post a link to the survey on your website, blog, and email newsletter, as well as on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. This will give your survey the widest possible audience, allowing you to draw input from a number of people. It also exposes your upcoming event to a wider audience.

Whichever method you use for promoting a survey, make sure to explain why you're conducting the survey, set an expectation of how long it will take to complete, and, thank people for their time and feedback. Any survey that takes longer than five minutes to complete, you should either look to cut down on the number of questions or incentivize respondents to take the survey with a discount on event tickets, for instance.

As with any undertaking, it's hard to please everyone all of the time, but getting input from your target attendees prior to an event can go a long way toward pleasing the majority of your guests.

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