What do people REALLY want from an event?

Top tips on creating event feedback forms which tell you what you REALLY want to know. It's all about asking the right questions in the right way.

How do you get bankers out the city? A question people have been asking for many a year.

But it applies to all sectors. Just how do you attract delegates for events, out of their post codes, slightly further afield? I mean we all know that 'no one wants to travel’ right? But how sure are you?

A lot of companies do post event questionnaires/feedback forms to improve on the experience going forward. The most effective of these won’t be sent out in bulk, but to specific people who represent a cross section of the company dynamic.

For instance:

  • People from different age groups (I still miss being in the 19-25 box three years on)
  • Different positions within the company
  • Sex (male or female – you’re probably not allowed to ask anything more intimate)

And so on…

More importantly they’ll be structuring the questions in such a way that they glean extremely useful information from it. 

As with most things in life, it's not just what you ask, but HOW you ask.

Here’s an example of a feedback form that has the right question, but asked entirely the wrong way:

Dear Delegate,

Please score the following out of ten:

Most important to a successful event being 10, least important being 0.

Locality to office 9

Quality of food 9

Profile of guest speakers 7

Entertainment options 8

Friendly staff 8

Internet connection 8

Free bar 10

And so on.


All you're really going to find out, is the standards of the individual tester.

Without having to sacrifice anything, their results are always going to be unrealistic compared against what you can actually deliver. We all want the best service, at the cheapest rate possible, with the absolute minimum of fuss – especially in a hypothetical test scenario.

Does that stop us going to Alton Towers and queuing up for 2 hours in the rain, for a one minute buzz?

How about going to MacDonald’s – lets break it down:


  • The foods quick
  • It tastes good (whilst you’re hungry anyway)
  • Cheap


  • Really unhealthy
  • The Mc-come down (you can feel terrible after)

The customer knows they are paying with a certain ‘trade off’ every time they go into a fast food restaurant. Yeah it’s unhealthy, but if you’re in a hurry or not wanting to shell out £15 per person, they may decide it’s worth it.

You have trade-offs with everything you purchase and organising events is no different.

What you need is a slight change in mind-set. If you introduce a little bit of realism - and not buy in to the generic sales crap - you might just build something that suits the majority of your audience.

Here’s something you probably already know: No venue is “perfect for every event".

It’s true! And yet if you went on three venues websites at random now, chances are, at least one of them would say it.

But here’s the shocker: Most venues aren't perfect for 'any' event.

If people are telling you they are, you have to seriously question either their knowledge or their ethics.

You nearly always have to trade in something. The art of a creating a successful event (and indeed any successful purchase), is making sure you’re not trading in the important things, for the stuff that doesn’t really matter.

Here's an examples of how the same sort of question, phrased differently, can establish extremely useful information. 

Question 1

  1. Aesthetic appeal of the venue
  2. Top quality food
  3. Amazing views
  4. Locality to the office
  5. Free bar

What are the two most important things out of the above? 5,2

What is the least important out of the above? 3

From that alone, you now know that Jimmy from the design team isn’t bothered about a room over-looking the Thames. As long as he’s got great food and isn’t paying his way, he’s happy.

Question 2

  1. Famous band/entertainer/comedian
  2. Outside space
  3. Being treated like an A- lister
  4. Price
  5. No queues

What are the two most important things out of the above? 1, 3

What is the least important out of the above? 5

Kathy from marketing isn’t paying so she’s not bothered about price. In fact, if anything she probably wants it to be as expensive as possible. This tells us she’s willing to queue up for a drink or to put her coat away – IF an amazing band are playing and she gets treated like she’s one of them.

That to her is worth the trade.

Don’t forget people have certain expectations when they doing certain things. How many times have you been to see Oasis and not had to queue (or Alton Towers for that matter). But you still go.

Question 3 

  1. Luxury travel to the venue
  2. Learning something that helps your career
  3. Meeting a high profile potential client
  4. Less than ten minute journey to the venue

What are the two most important things out of the above 2, 3

What is the least important out of the above 4

Ahhhhh so we have an answer. Tommy from Sales (unsurprisingly) isn’t bothered about being two minutes from his office. He IS willing to travel - IF he’s going to meet a high profile client, Jimmy’s likely to go to Timbuktu. Trust me on that one. If he gets there in luxury as well, all the better. 

Here are a few more:

Question 4

  1. Sight lines
  2. Perfect acoustics
  3. Natural daylight
  4. Air conditioning
  5. Replenished water

You may just find out that natural daylight isn’t the be all and end all.

Question 5

  1. Disability features
  2. Listed/iconic building
  3. High speed WiFi
  4. Easy to find your way around
  5. Phone signal

Would you trade being in an iconic location, just to be somewhere you can find your way around a bit easier? Well it depends on the event doesn’t it?

Exhibition? Yes! No one likes being a headless chicken desperately trying to get out of the melee of sales people shoving products in your face.

But a Christmas party? Maybe not. Who cares, as long as I know where the bar is. 

Question 6

  1. Double bed (or bigger)
  2. Free mini bar
  3. Amazing view
  4. Size of the room
  5. Powerful shower
  6. Good breakfast

I can live without the view.

This is nothing new by the way. Relative important testing has been around since the 80’s.

There’s a wealth of information out there that you can apply to all types of industries.

You’ve just got to want to look.

If you want to be on brand, you have to ask the right questions, in the right way.

And THE most important thing to remember:

“I can’t give you a sure fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure:

Try to please everybody all the time” – Herbert Bayard Swope


Guest blog by Shout About London

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