Events are an important component of your overall marketing strategy. Besides spreading awareness, events are great for building relationships, raising money and/or celebrating a cause.
Obviously, you want your event to be perfect. Seasoned event planners know that the key to a successful event is to manage expectations and pay close attention to the details.
Coordinating event details can be overwhelming but you can eliminate the guess-work with a pre-event survey. A pre-event survey will help you better understand your participants’ expectations and experiences.
If you’re of the opinion that you already have too much to do and don’t have time to coordinate a pre-event survey, think again. This extra step will save you from post-event regrets later.
If you used an event planning survey when first exploring your event concept, location, and/or dates, you likely have a good idea what attendees are expecting. Perhaps you even collected this data in your last post-event survey.
But as your event date approaches, a pre-event survey will let you get the answers you need to coordinate the final logistical details. This will turn your good event into a spectacular event that leaves your attendees, boss, and sponsors’ talking long after the occasion is over.
The best way to manage expectations is to set them. Let registrants know the purpose of your event. Your event goal may be to raise awareness, inform/educate, raise funds or network. Be clear so that participants understand exactly what they have signed up for.
Even if you have clearly communicated your event goal, don’t be afraid to ask your registrants what they expect to gain from the event. This will allow you to make necessary adjustments, or contact the registrant ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
For instance, let say you are trying to determine how many and how long your breaks and network sessions should be. Asking your attendees if they value the networking opportunities will help you to weigh the importance of these session versus your other sessions.
Here is an example:
Choosing A Venue For Your Event
Choosing a venue is one of the hardest decisions to make; it can make or break your event.
The date and location of your event will greatly narrow your choices. While hotels are usually the most popular event space, they are not your only option.
An alternative will make your event unique. Consider your theme and try to find a location that ties in with it. If possible pick a location that has an interesting history or stirs emotions. This will help make the experience more memorable.
Be creative but remain practical. Take into consideration:
- Space criteria for your program
- Easy access
- WiFi connectivity
- Food options
Once you have narrowed your selection down to 3 or so venues, ask your registrants which location they prefer.
People value events because it gives them the opportunity to come together to share ideas, information and build relationships. Your event format should foster attendee engagement and/or active learning.
If you have held previous events, use post-event feedback to tailor your next event. If the data shows that your attendees liked breakout and work sessions, be sure to include these formats in your upcoming event.
Consider a mix of large and small group settings to promote participation, and collaboration. Ask your registrants which format they would find most valuable. For instance:
- Keynote speakers and subject matter experts
- Case study presentations
- Hands-on workshops
- Unique business meeting opportunities
- Informal networking opportunities
Here is an example:
Knowing which format your attendees prefer will allow you to make necessary arrangements to accommodate the different settings.
By learning more about your attendees role and/or level of expertise, you can better tailor your event to meet their needs.
If you are still looking for group discussion facilitators or workshop leaders, those candidates who indicate they have expertise may be willing to assist you.
Selecting Event Speakers
You probably have sourced speakers early on through an event planning survey or your last post event survey. If you have not made a final decision on who should be in your line-up, ask your registrants whom they prefer to hear.
Use a ranking question so that you can see the most popular options. Include an “other” option so that you can collect more suggestions – you might have overlooked a good candidate. Of course this will only work if you ask far enough in advance so that you have time to make arrangements.
Event Q&A Session
Ask your registrants if there is a specific problem or question they would like addressed. Having answers prepared for some of your Q&A sessions will allow you to answer in a more detailed manner that will make your team shine.
This goes hand-in-hand with meeting you attendees’ expectations. If your participants have a specific issue or question they are hoping to have answered, they will be disappointed if they walk without a solution.
Event Networking Opportunities
Networking shouldn’t only happen over drinks after the event.
You will have a combination of introverts and extroverts attending your event. Be sure to provide settings that accommodate both styles.
Encourage people to self-categorize by industry or subject and use these categories to set up topic zones during breaks in order to make networking more efficient.
If you didn’t want to ask another question in your pre-event survey, you could use the answer option from the topic or speaker they were most interested in.
If you are planning a happy hour or an after hour event, be sure to also provide a smaller setting with quiet seating areas where people can have deeper conversations or simply recharge.
A pre-event survey is the perfect time to ask registrants if they will be attending your after hour event(s) so that you can plan for seating, staff, food and beverages.
Music and live entertainment influence the tone and atmosphere of your event. You want to find the right artist that fits your brand message and appeals to your target audience.
Demographics (such as age) from past surveys will help you narrow the selection but you are better off asking registrants which genre they like. If you have some local artists (which will keep costs down) in mind ask your registrants which one they would like to hear.
Use a ranking question type, such as the drag and drop so that you know which ones have the most appeal.
Here is an example:
After Hour Event Activities
If your event is more than a one-day event, you probably want to keep your guests entertained. These could be additional networking sessions. This adds a new twist to your event since not everyone will want to attend.
Ask your participants if they would like to attend outside activities so that you know how to plan for seating, food, etc.
Accommodating Event Guests
If your guests are coming from out of town, they will need lodging. Make it easy for the by lining up a block of rooms nearby in advance. Most hotels offer a discount with block bookings. Your guests will appreciate it!
Catering Your Event
While your participants didn’t sign up for your event for the food and beverages, they will expect it. And the more they have paid, the more they will expect.
If the food or service is not up to par, your reputation is on the line. Make sure that your food provider has high standards. If you are trying to decide on a menu, ask your participants if they have preferences or dietary restrictions.
Here is an example:
Event Email Announcement
Once you have your pre-event survey results, you will have the data you need to make your final decisions so you can start coordinating the fine details.
Keep your registrants informed of your event details to build excitement and relieve travel anxiety. Send out a ‘What to expect email’ a few days before the event that talks about dress codes, lodging arrangement, transportation, what types of entertainment and food are going to be available, and whether there will be wi-fi etc.
Think about every small question your attendees have asked ahead of your events. Turn then into a helpful piece of communication. You’ll save yourself and your attendees a lot of mental anguish.
Pre-Event Survey Example