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Best practices for collecting feedback on virtual events

Virtual events expanded dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they’re not going anywhere.

For many organizations, the pandemic’s widespread lockdowns and rapid shift to remote and hybrid work made virtual events a necessity for remaining connected with key audiences.

No doubt, in-person conferences will re-emerge in a post-pandemic world, likely impacting the sheer number of virtual events being held. Yet with many organizations planning to stick with expanded remote or hybrid work options, the demand for virtual events should remain strong. That trend, combined with the clear efficiency and cost savings of going virtual, will help ensure that virtual events become mainstay across many industries.

For those hosting virtual events, the quality of the offering will be paramount to attract and engage important audiences. Consider that researchers at Stanford University have found that  “Zoom fatigue” is a real issue, with many professionals dealing with videoconference overload.

With many people trying to limit screen time, it will be more important than ever to be strategic when planning your virtual events. Determining the length of sessions, ensuring that content is engaging and relevant, and creating a memorable attendee experience can all come down to using virtual event surveys to capture critical audience feedback and data.

Surveys help you maximize the value of your virtual events, providing you with tangible results that can be applied in myriad ways to help your business boost lead generation, gain a better understanding of your audience, collect key data points for future marketing events, and even justify a bigger marketing budget moving forward.

Despite the clear benefits of surveys, Eventbrite’s 2019 Pulse Report found that 77% of event professionals weren’t using surveys at all prior to the pandemic. That's a missed opportunity to gather vital feedback and insights.

Let’s explore how to use virtual event surveys to make sure you make the most of the opportunities that virtual event surveys can provide. 

There are several different types of virtual event surveys that you can put to work during different phases of the virtual event process, including event planning surveys, general event surveys, and professional event feedback surveys. Each type of survey can be useful to support and maximize each stage of the event life cycle from planning to post-event follow-up.

“So how’d it go?” That’s a logical and expected question from your boss on the heels of a virtual event.

Odds are that a shrug and saying “seems like it went OK” won’t be a good enough answer. Nor should it be. Conducting a general event survey takes the guesswork out of assessing how a session went, providing you with the ability to gain swift feedback and measure participant satisfaction with the event. General event feedback surveys are pretty straightforward, asking high-level questions such as:

  • How would you rate the event on a scale of 1-10?
  • Was the event too long or too short?
  • How likely are you to recommend this event to a colleague?

You’ll find these questions and more in our general event feedback survey template, which is especially useful for getting insight into an event’s organizational details. 

Looking to dig deeper? Professional event surveys can fit the bill. Professional event surveys are appropriate for a more targeted formal audience when you’re looking to collect more granular details as well as specific feedback on the content of the event. 

These surveys can generate actionable feedback that can be used to improve the content of future events to ensure they provide participants with an excellent experience. Professional event surveys can also help determine what participants found most valuable and what you could have left on the cutting room floor. This feedback allows you to make tweaks and course corrections for future events to make sure they are providing maximum value to participants.

Leveraging surveys prior to your event can help create a clear road map regarding timing and logistics of a virtual event. These simple surveys are valuable for collecting RSVPs, which will provide you with essential data like attendees’ names, email addresses, job titles, and organization. 

Event planning surveys can help you gauge how many attendees you can expect as well as targeting the days and certain times that make the most sense to help assure maximum attendance for your virtual events.

You want to make sure that you collect as much useful data as possible from your event surveys. To achieve that , you’ll need to do some upfront planning to lay the groundwork for  great results and help your attendees see the value in completing your surveys. Some of the key elements to consider:

The phrase “timing is everything” holds true for event feedback surveys. Sending a survey out weeks after an event is not only bad form, but it is sure to hamper response rates and the quality of feedback you receive as a participant’s specific memory of the event fades. Conversely, sending a survey before the session even wraps up might come off as pushy. If participants haven’t even completed the session, they can’t provide a fair and useful judgement of it. And if you’re hoping they’ll return to the survey later, once the event is actually over, you run the risk of them forgetting.

A good rule of thumb is to send surveys out as soon as possible after a virtual event has ended. This ensures that content presented during the session remains fresh in participants’ minds, which will likely increase the response rate and help you get more robust feedback and data.

For a more in-depth perspective on timing, check out 5 ways to time and send your surveys for better results.

Providing some brief but meaningful context to tee up your post-event feedback survey is a great way to improve the quality of the responses you receive. It can reinforce key points that were made at the event, which could spark people to make more thoughtful responses to your questions.

Some examples of good content to include could be:

  • A succinct summary of the event
  • The top 3 takeaways that you want participants to remember
  • A brief video clip from the event, or one that reinforces key information that was shared.
  • Charts, graphs, slides, or other visuals that were included in the event

Adding this information helps to encourage specific and detailed responses related to the content and messaging of your event. For instance, if you include a few of the charts or graphs that attendees saw, they might be inspired to provide feedback about the visuals that were used to reinforce the speakers’ points. 

Looking for an easy way to boost survey response rates and provide context? Embed your first survey question in your email invite. By simply weaving your first question into your survey invitation, you can boost response rates by as much as 22%. This approach offers an easy entry point for recipients to start the survey—and increases the chances that they will finish it. 

Short is sweet when it comes to virtual event surveys. People are swamped these days, making the prospect of filling out a long survey a definite turnoff. A Survey that appears manageable and focused will likely get a strong response. Take time to consider both the number of questions in your survey and the length of the questions themselves. Is each question preceded by a paragraph that the respondent needs to read? Are you asking several open-ended questions in a row?. It’s also a great idea to get some feedback from your team to make sure that the questions you’re asking will elicit valuable and actionable information in the most efficient way possible.

Put yourself in your participants’ shoes. They just sat in front of a laptop or desktop computer during your virtual event, so odds are pretty good that right after your event wraps up they have pushed back from their desk or table, and are on the move—with their smart phone in hand.

If you send through a brief survey that is mobile friendly you have a good shot at more participants responding and some of them filling it out on their mobile devices right after the email comes through. And if they don’t respond immediately, they can take the mobile-friendly survey later on their phone. 

Sending your survey via email is one of the most effective ways to distribute surveys to participants. There are several advantages to using email. For starters, it’s likely that the registration confirmation and reminders for your virtual event were sent via mail so your respondents likely expect that any follow-up communications will come through that channel. And the fact you already have an email distribution list from those who registered for the event, makes sending the survey fast, easy and effective. With SurveyMonkey you also have the capability to personalize each email by first name, and can track open and click-through rates, which allows you to do targeted reminders to those who have not yet completed surveys, while not bothering those who have already provided their response.

The types of survey questions you include in your virtual event survey should be driven by the feedback you hope to receive. To that end, you may opt for closed-ended questions or open-ended questions or some mix of the two to gather the information you need.

If you are looking to capture feedback from as many participants as possible then closed-ended questions should be the ticket. Because closed-ended questions are easy to answer, it allows you to increase the number of questions that you ask without making the survey appear too time consuming or difficult to answer.

Additionally, closed-ended questions simplify analysis as you will be collecting conclusive answers and quantifiable data.  Common examples of close answered questions include:

  • Multiple-choice questions 
  • Rating scale questions
  • Yes or no questions

Here are a few examples of how close-ended questions can be framed in a survey.

Multiple choice question:

How satisfied were you with the content presented during the “Generating better marketing leads” webinar?

  • Very satisfied
  • Satisfied 
  • Neutral 
  • Dissatisfied 
  • Very dissatisfied

Rating scale question:

On a scale of one to 10, how likely would you be to recommend our future marketing webinars to a co-worker or professional colleague?

multiple choice rating scale from 0 to 10

Yes or no question:

Based on your experience at our recent webinar on generating better marketing leads, would you be interested in attending future virtual events on relevant marketing topics?

  • Yes
  • No

Open-ended questions aim to capture respondents’ opinions, feelings, and experiences in their own words. As such, the feedback you receive has more detail and is laced with insights that can be extremely useful in assessing the success of your virtual event, what hit the mark and ways to improve moving forward.

Be selective when including open-ended questions on a virtual event survey. Respondents should see them as reasonable and worthwhile to answer. The last thing you want to do is have those receiving the survey experience flashbacks to high school history essay tests. Keep it short, and easy to complete.

One smart approach is to present several closed-ended questions and then wrap the survey up with an open-ended question such as “What suggestions do you have to improve future virtual events?” This will provide more in-depth insights from your respondents and give them a chance to share ideas or suggestions that weren’t covered in earlier closed-ended questions. 

Yoo-hoo, did you get a chance to complete our survey? Depending on the appropriate tone for your audience, that might be one catchy way to gently remind virtual events survey participants to complete your survey. There are plenty of other ways to give them a nudge, such as something like this:

Email subject line: Quick reminder: Complete our brief survey on our recent virtual event

Email body: Hi Amanda: Hoping you can take a few minutes to share your thoughts on our recent virtual event, Supercharging Your Sales Team. Your feedback can help us make sure that we are providing the most useful information possible in upcoming events. Thanks in advance for your help!

A reminder like this is not heavy-handed, and also provides some context on why you are looking for their perspective.

It’s important to not go overboard on reminders—any more than two over the course of a couple weeks can feel spammy. A good practice is to send a reminder a few days after you initially distribute the survey, and then follow up about five days later with a final “last chance to share your thoughts” email in hopes that will inspire some procrastinators to complete the survey.

If people took time out of their busy schedules to attend your virtual event, a note of appreciation is definitely in order. Sending a thanks-for-participating email is good form, and likely an expectation from some of your participants.

Keep the note short, expressing your gratitude for their participation, and perhaps noting they should feel free to contact you with any questions.

Emailing your attendees to thank them for joining your event is a great way to follow up shortly after your event is over. It’s also a way to jog their memory about the post-event survey without having to directly mention it.

If you recorded the event or have some other relevant video or information you can share a link, but don’t go overboard by burying them with a bunch of links or attachments.

Those participants who responded to your survey went the extra mile, so it’s best practice to quickly send them a note of appreciation, mentioning how much you value their feedback and acknowledging that they took the time to respond.

Simply by sending this quick thank you, solidify your relationship with the respondent and improve your chances of getting them to attend a future virtual event.

Follow these tips—and use surveys to collect valuable feedback—to set out on the path of success for your virtual events.

Clearly virtual events aren’t going anywhere. And with more organizations offering them, it is essential to find ways to make sure your events stand out from the pack.

The best way to continuously improve your virtual events while also engaging with participants is to consistently incorporate surveys into your virtual event process. By making surveys part of your events processes, you put yourself in a strong position to get the best results.

Looking to learn more? SurveyMonkey offers the ultimate guide to event surveys to walk you through every aspect of the event survey process.