Asking for Feedback Is a Start; Acting on it Is What Validates the Process

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"The majority of employee experience or engagement surveys I've experienced, whether built in-house or from a vendor, become a laundry list of questions. Every leader has a pet initiative to measure, making the survey bloated and impossible to act on. When deciding on survey items (or eliminating others), ask yourself: What would we do immediately if this item scored low? If it's not actionable, it's not measuring something that matters."

That's from a Fast Company article by Laszlo Bock, CEO of Humu, "a company that's making work better with science, machine learning, and a little bit of love." He is the author of Work Rules!—which I've written about here—and the former SVP of people operations at Google.

What I like about the article is that his advice on employee engagement surveys can also work for event surveys. The biggest takeaway, from where I'm sitting, is that don't ask unless you are willing to act.

"When you don't act on what your people have told you are the most important issues they face," he writes, "your company's culture doesn't just stay the same. It gets much, much worse."

Some of his other advisements include:

Measure what matters. For an event, this could be location, sessions, speakers. But some things might be set, so no reason to ask about hat.

Close the loop and commit. "When your people take time to give feedback, thank them for it–right away," Bock writes. We should probably do this with event feedback as well, maybe something like: "Thank you for your input. We take this information very seriously and it helps to dictate the changes that we make going forward."

Do something—anything. Take action on feedback and ask others to do the same. "Celebrate what's good first–and then tell people what you've improved," Bock writes. That sounds like a blueprint for marketing next year's conference!

Make feedback as essential as oxygen. Bock encourages us to invite feedback at all times. We just concluded our SIPAwards entries and will be reaching out to members to ask how the process can improve next time. What categories are we missing? How were the criteria? "Wherever the feedback comes from, the power lies in connecting any action taken back to its source," Bock writes. You want to go back to people after they've given you feedback and say, "We heard you, and this is the actions we've taken." Bock says that builds loyalty in the workplace, and I think it also builds loyalty in an event audience.

Earlier this year, Eventbrite offered a list of suggestions to get event feedback. These included:

Offer an incentive—quickly. "Participants are much more likely to give you feedback if there's a chance they might win a gift card or VIP tickets to next year's event. Consider partnering with one of your event sponsors to offer an incentive that brings value to participants and your sponsor."

Ask your most important survey question first. In fact, SurveyMonkey suggests that you include that question right in the email itself. For Bock, "important" means what's actionable for you. For Eventbrite, "important" is what gets opens.

Ask questions that are in line with your event goals. "For example, say one of your goals was to provide networking opportunities that would help attendees grow their businesses. In this case, you might ask: 'Did you make new contacts that will be useful to your business/career?'" I would add: "What could have been more helpful?" If you don't want it open-ended, then list some possible answers: "More introductions were needed." "There was not enough designated networking time." "At night people went their separate ways." For Bock, this would fall under the "measure what matters."

Make it short and personalized. "Avoid sending one blanket survey to your exhibitors, speakers, sponsors and attendees. Use conditional formatting so that respondents only have to answer relevant questions. Tailoring your survey for each audience will help you get the most useful data."

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…