In June 2015, we continued our webinar series to foster greater sharing of best practices within the Conveners.org community.  Our second webinar “Acing the Feedback Survey” was an informative experience, highlighting best practices in sourcing feedback from attendees.

The webinar outlined the a number of top best practices for Acing the Feedback Survey.  We wish to thank, in particular, Marian Moore (PlayBIG), Topher Wilkins (Opportunity Collaboration), Emily Mallozzi (Alliance for Peacebuilding), Jim Turner (Greenermind Summit), Ajax Greene (Social Venture Institute, Hudson Valley), Marla Privitera (KIN Global), and Cassandra Staff (The Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship) for contributing to the session.  We are excited to share the highlights that emerged from the conversation below.


Best Practice 1: Give people time to complete the survey during the event.

When you allocate time for your attendees (or cohort participants for accelerators) to complete a survey during your event you communicate the importance of feedback and a respect for your attendees time.  

Making five minutes at the end of a session says this is so important that we take time out of our schedule instead of yours – Cassandra Staff, The Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship.  

The Miller Center has also had success in receiving 100% participation in surveys by using this practice. Social Venture Network, PlayBig and Net Impact all implement this practice as well to ensure they receive timely and relevant feedback from participants.  It helps to place the survey in the participants chairs at the final session vs. handing them out upfront.

We give them a paper survey in their packet, but then it gets lost over the course of the event, we’ve received 17.5% response rate with this method. – Emily Mallozzi, Alliance for Peacebuilding


Best Practice 2: Verbal Feedback is a great supplement, provided you have a good facilitator.

Verbal feedback can be an important supplement as it provides space for participants to share their experiences.  As The Miller Center shared, this method requires strong facilitation with the right questions being asked, otherwise the verbal feedback session can devolve to “feel more like entertainment”.  


Best Practice 3: Send your survey as the only call to action in an email.

When your feedback survey is listed as one of many action items in a follow up email from an event it is too easy to get lost in the shuffle.  People respond best when the call to action is simple and clear in both the subject line and the email itself.  It also helps to do at least two survey requests about a week apart following an event so that people are engaged while the experience is still fresh.


Best Practice 4: Short and simple beats trying to do it all.

It can be so easy to have a survey become this massive undertaking where you are trying to accomplish too many goals at once.

Start with asking yourself why are we asking for feedback? and then what will we do with the feedback we receive?  – Topher Wilkins, Opportunity Collaboration

Opportunity Collaboration does a standard email via MailChimp with only 4-5 questions.  This focus (and respect for participant’s time) makes it more likely that people will respond.  The Miller Center actually puts their online survey as an quick email response rather than having to click through to a link.  Keeping it short and sweet makes a big difference.


Best Practice 5: Incentives, incentives, incentives.

Providing an incentive for completing a survey can be just the carrot people need to make time out of their busy schedules to give you feedback.  Ajax of Social Venture Institute not only provides 5 minutes at the end of each session to collect feedback, he also recommends providing an incentive to encourage participation.  Providing a free ticket to next year’s event was a common incentive as Jim mentioned for the California Resiliency Alliance.  Skoll World Forum provides a drawing for a $500 gift card that helps to sweeten the deal and improve response rates.


Best Practice 6: High touch 1:1 feedback calls are wonderful when you seek to build lasting relationships with your participants.

Both Opportunity Collaboration and PlayBig have a strong focus on building lasting relationships in their communities.  While it is incredibly time consuming to schedule and do 1:1 phone calls with participants. Topher finds the experience rewarding as it goes “far beyond just feedback, it increases the engagement and shows that we are invested in building a community”.  Marian mentioned the value in doing calls 2 months after the event to learn more about how the experience at PlayBig was creating an impact in the lives of participants.  She also went one step further to provide a webinar call with the participants to give them the opportunity to reconnect.  

It was completely delightful and many of them were just thrilled to see each other. It made it feel like more people had done more. – Marian Moore, PlayBIG


Challenge 1: Feedback after people have disengaged from the event.

There was really only one challenge that emerged from our discussion.  Even with all of the best practices we explored, there is always significantly lower responses from people the longer you wait after the event to get feedback.  For The Miller Center, this is especially a challenge for their online participants who do not have an experience of coming together in person – they seem to be less vested in sharing the results of their experience.