November 15, 2011

The Spark.

Evaluating Your Programs (Part One) – Collecting Participant Feedback
Welcome to The Spark - a tidbit of wisdom to stimulate ideas and help you transform your student organization. The Spark is a bi-weekly resource provided through the Center for Student Involvement which is sent to all registered officers through PantherSync.

We spend months preparing for an event. So how do we determine if it was a success? Evaluation is one of the most important parts of event planning. But it does not have to be complicated or time intensive.

First consider, why are you looking to evaluate and how will the results be used? Will decision makers consider whether to hold the event again? Will the head count from this year’s event determine your order for food or supplies for next year? How will feedback direct the planning process for future events?

Ask the audience. When appropriate, seek feedback from those that attended your program. This can be done during the event, or shortly after. Develop a few questions that allow them to share their experience and perceptions. Only ask about those things that you can control. If you cannot change the temperature of the room or the quality of the technology, don’t ask for feedback about those things. However, if you would consider a different location, consider audience input on ideal spaces. Keep your question wording neutral – let the audience compliment your program at their initiative, don’t go searching for flattery.

Explore alternatives to surveys. Designate a hash tag, and ask guests to tweet what they took away from the program. Are you looking for feedback on the next speaker/topic for your event? Put a notecard on each seat and ask for ideas before guests leave. Perhaps you only have one question, “would you attend an event like this again?” Set up a series of jars with your response scale, give each guest a ticket, and ask them to drop their ticket in one of the jars. (If you do this, keep track of how many tickets that you gave out so that you have an idea of response rate. And avoid “maybe” as an option.)

Take a moment to observe. Assign a few committee members to make note of the audience and their reactions. Are they engaged? Do they appear to be enjoying themselves? Who is present, and who is not? Often we are so busy running the event that we forget to stop and see how it is going.

Be prepared for good and bad. It can be hard to request feedback, especially when you have personally invested so much time and energy into the program. You want every single person who attended to love the event. But it is nearly impossible to please everyone, and there is a good chance that you may get some feedback that is less than positive.

Need help putting an evaluation together? The Center for Student Involvement can assist you with the process. To request a consultation, visit www.activities.uwm.edu and click on Organization Training and complete the Training Request for Registered Student Organization form. You can also access this form in PantherSync through the "Forms" tool. Trainings may also be requested by emailing activities@uwm.edu or calling 414-229-5780.
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