Innovation Of Conference Evaluations

So today I get back into the office, what’s there waiting for me after
4 days of being away at the conference? An evaluation to review and
assess my last 4 days of learning labs, thought leader sessions and
general sessions. You’ve got to be kidding me. There is no way I am
going to take the time to review the last 4 days of conference
sessions.

Why? I’ll tell you what, it’s not because I don’t want to make next year a better experience. It’s because
these long surveys are daunting, exhausting and too time
consuming (as if blogging about it is much faster). If I
wait and put it off a couple days, it’s not as fresh in my mind and my
desire to complete the survey plummets exponentially.

So what’s the
solution? How can organizations capture the data and get the essential information they need to improve? How can they increase attendees response rate? Perhaps it’s
stepping away from the traditional method of survey forms. Let’s be
honest, response rates aren’t exactly stellar. The data is pretty
clear that nobody likes doing them. According to Wikipedia, “response rates sometimes 90% before 2000, but have been dropping fast since then (now 2% – 30%)”. Other outlets report a 10-15% response.

The solution:

First, the attendees need to be surveyed more discretely. My vision for the survey comes in comment form and has a one-to-one relationship with a session. This open-ended
approach has a major setback for the surveyors: the resulting
data is much more difficult to sift through compared to a likert-scale,
multiple-choice or ordinal style survey. While these types provide precise numerical result sets, they ultimately do not illustrate attendees true feelings. Conversely, attendees can be more
articulate and expressive in their feelings while using open-ending mechanisms. Comments or feedback provide surveyors with specific pros and cons. The current survey methods provided responses that are guided and generic, such as “was this conference beneficial?”, “strongly agree”. While an open-ended user comment could say, “mustard for me, while waiting for comcast”, “wiki…boom”, “this session is packed”, “according to DTJ, on avg your members belong to 2 other assns. So much for ‘my members’ “. As you can see, the latter feedback shows attendees who are engaged and provide information to demonstrate that their session was a success.

Secondly,
data capturing should be broken into digestible segments. Take the multi-day summary and replace it with a concurrent engagement, occurring during or immediately following approach. The
difficulty here is how to interface with attendees and have attendees interface with one another. Let’s think about it…what do most people carry
around at conferences: bags of takeaways, handouts, laptop and cellphone. The
single item every individual has in a session these days is a cellphone. Perhaps a system that segments sessions and allows attendees to live chat
or chat immediately following. This data
should be accessible and publishable from a handheld. Similar to the txtmob
experiment this year, which provided a pretty good example of how it could be used. However, a few fundamental differences exist. Multiple groups would exist and they would be concentrated per session.

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