Throughout 2020, marketers and event planners raced to transform their in-person events to a digital format as a result of the pandemic. The adjustment was, understandably, difficult. But virtual events benefited from the much-needed growth period.
Now, teams have increasingly learned how to adapt to a virtual environment, and it's clear that the future of events is hybrid—that is, featuring a mix of in-person and virtual experiences to maximize the potential value and ease of access for attendees worldwide.
But engagement is still a significant problem with virtual events. Only half of virtual event attendees in 2020 reported being engaged, and nearly 70% of event marketers said the lack of networking opportunities during and after virtual events diminished the event value.
To overcome the engagement hurdle and deliver on the full potential of a virtual event experience, teams need to understand how to delight their event attendees, and the best way to get that knowledge is to conduct surveys before, during, and after events.
Surveying Attendees Before a Virtual or Hybrid Event
Pre-event surveys help you better understand what your attendees hope to gain from their virtual or hybrid event experience. If possible, conduct these surveys 4-6 months in advance of the conference so you can use the information to guide your planning rather than merely validate your agenda.
The goal of a pre-event survey is to gauge your attendees' needs and identify any elements that your event may be missing. Multiple-choice options are easy for data gathering, but you should also include open response options to understand more thoroughly what your attendees want.
Questions to ask in your pre-event attendee survey:
- What are your preferred times to attend a virtual event?
- Do you prefer to attend a virtual event for one entire day, or a few hours across multiple days?
- What social media channels do you most often use to network with other virtual event attendees?
- What are you hoping to learn by attending this event?
- Do you prefer pre-recorded event sessions or livestreamed sessions? Why?
- Which of the following features would you appreciate during each event session?
- Nonverbal reactions to respond to the speaker
- In-platform chat tools to ask the speaker questions
- In-platform chat tools to engage with other attendees
- On-screen subtitles during the presentation
Offer survey opportunities in several places to maximize your potential response rate. Include details in pre-conference emails, on your conference website, and across social channels.
You can also give incentives to boost the response rate and start building excitement for the event. Survey incentives could include...
- Gift cards
- Swag bag/branded goodies
- Event package upgrade
- Invitation to a special session or networking opportunity
- "Survey rate" pricing: attendees get the early bird rate if they agree to fill out a longer survey, up until a specific date
- Sponsor gifts, including swag or free product codes
Surveying Attendees During a Virtual or Hybrid Event
You can survey attendees during your event through simple popups and polling in the virtual event interface. It will gauge their initial satisfaction and potentially identify ways to improve the rest of the conference experience.
Your attendees will be busy networking, joining sessions, and reviewing their notes, so keep any surveys during your event short and focused.
Questions to ask during your virtual or hybrid event:
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate [last session they attended]?
- How would you rate your conference experience so far?
- Do you feel confident in navigating this online conference experience?
You can use many of the same incentives as you did for your pre-event surveys to encourage attendees to complete surveys during the event.
Other incentive options:
- Provide timed giveaways during the event as people complete surveys
- Offer signed books or premium content from event speakers
- Upgrade survey takers to VIP conference access
Surveys aren't the only way to find out whether your virtual event strategy is working. Social listening is an essential feedback mechanism.
Have a team member monitor your event hashtag or individual communities and actively engage with attendees who post on social media. Ask the attendees whether they are enjoying the sessions, see whether they have any takeaways to share, and ensure they know how connect with other attendees.
Surveying Attendees After a Virtual or Hybrid Event
Post-event surveys can be shown on the screen at your event's conclusion, as well as sent via email a day or two after your event so you catch your audience when their experience is still top-of-mind.
The post-event survey is an opportunity to assess how well your speakers performed, whether attendees were able to network and build legitimate connections through your conference, whether your session styles and length were effective, how well your event platform performed, and more.
Dive into the good and bad equally post-event. You need to understand how you failed your attendees to rectify that at your next event.
Consider conducting one-to-one conversations with attendees to dive into their experience. Such calls will require a significant amount of your time, but they are the best way to uncover insights that a survey simply cannot.
Questions to ask in post-event surveys or interviews:
- On a scale of 1-10, please rate your satisfaction with the following event elements:
- Networking opportunities
- Event platform ease of use
- Sound and video quality
- Help and support availability
- Quality of sessions
- Value of attending the event
- Overall event experience
- How could we have improved your experience at our event? [open answer]
- In the next six months, what type of event experiences are you interested in?
- All-virtual event
- Hybrid events with a mix of in-person and virtual attendees
- In-person event experiences only
How Attendee Surveys Shape Virtual Event Strategy: Metrics
By surveying your attendees before, during, and after your event, your company is more likely to become a standout event provider through the rest of 2021 and beyond.
Ask new questions at each event to explore the top-of-mind considerations for your attendees, then monitor KPIs to gauge whether your improved strategy is working.
Attendee count is a standard metric to consider. Other valuable metrics:
- Attendees per session
- Average number of sessions per attendee
- Popularity of your event hashtag
- Average number of people each attendee met with or connected to
- Active members in private event communities
Through calculated efforts, determination, and a pinch of patience, your surveys will improve your events, and your event success will skyrocket.
More Resources on Virtual Event Strategy
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