Why your post event sur­vey is a sham – Part 2

Business Events News - - News -

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.

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