We’ve looked at the right sorts of questions to include in your attendee surveys. Now it’s time to talk about making sure people participate in them in the first place.
While event-based surveys are critical for reporting back to your stakeholders and calibrating future programs, it can be difficult to collect a sufficient number of attendee responses. Keeping surveys short and to the point helps bolster response rates. “If you start diving into things that are hard to answer or that people don’t want to talk about, or a survey gets too long, you can expect to lose people,” said Jessica Broome, Ph.D., a survey methodologist and research consultant. “If you’re going longer than 10 minutes, or past 25 to 30 questions online, you need to have a very good reason, a good incentive, and a motivated respondent.”
First, Broome recommends using cash and Amazon gift cards as incentives, and cautions against offering free or discounted services to potential respondents.
Streamlining a survey for mobile devices is another key strategy to help achieve a good response rate. “Make sure your interface works well and appears the same on all types of mobile devices,” Broome said. “Never use grids — they show up with funky formatting and are a pain to answer. Also, don’t expect a lot from open-ended questions.”
Strategic deployment also helps ensure a sufficient number of responses. Broome suggests sending potential respondents an email from a key stakeholder about seven days out from the actual survey to communicate the survey’s purpose, then following up again seven days after the survey has been deployed. Finally, email last-ditch invitations to participate two to three days before the survey closes.
For extra credit, you can amend a survey to attract attendees who are less likely to respond. “There are adaptive designs where if you really want to hear from someone,” Broome said, “you offer them a bigger incentive or shorter survey — just three to five of the most important questions.”