Why your post event survey is a sham – Part 2
LAST month I highlighted three biases inherent in all of us that influence responses to surveys–these being participant bias, response bias and social desirability bias. Let’s now see how these biases affect event surveys….
The Corporate Event: The Acme Corp holds an annual sales conference which is managed internally by Sarah. Sarah is the Marketing Coordinator but she could just as easily work in sales, HR or be a high ranking EA. The conference is entirely predictable as it follows the same format as previous years and includes the obligatory motivational speaker, team-building activity and gala dinner. Despite a few hiccups, everything runs relatively smoothly and the post-event survey scores a 100% satisfaction rating indicating it was a great success. But was it really that good? Let’s examine how biases affected the survey responses.
Sarah organised the event and also distributes the survey. All who attended are asked to complete it. The survey questions (most likely copied from last year and ostensibly used to gauge the event’s success) are essentially a scorecard on organisational efficiency. It’s a happy sheet, meaning the questions focus on the communication process, the venue, the food, the guest speaker, the entertainment and ask attendees if they were happy.
Perhaps not intentionally but nonetheless fundamentally, attendees are being asked to rate Sarah, her efficiency and organisational abilities. Respondents know this.
The key points to remember here are who the respondents are, who Sarah is, their relationship with one another and the biases at play. The respondents know Sarah.
She’s a work colleague and may be amicable and popular. They also know she holds a position of influence. Even if they considered the event she organised barely average, they’re not going to respond that way.
They want to keep on her good side. Not only that but the company they work for just took them away from their normal day-to-day grind, housed them, fed them, motivated them and provided them with free alcohol, fun and entertainment.
Are they going to report they didn’t enjoy the experience? Of course not. And so the responses to the survey are fraudulent and misleading making the survey a sham. Guaranteeing anonymity will help with the honesty of responses, however, they are likely to remain tainted and adorned.
For several reasons, I’d be recommending surveys focus on non-organisational and hospitality elements of the event. If people didn’t like the food, the venue, the entertainer, etc. it’s too late to do anything about it.
It’s in the past. What surveys should focus on is its impact and outcomes – i.e. increased knowledge and understanding, skills enhancement, changes in thoughts and attitudes, new future actions. These are the things that matter. Not whether or not attendees were happy and satisfied. More next time.