by Terry Linhart

Most nonprofit leaders are charged with facilitating some kind of gathering each year. Conference and event evaluations are a growing area for us (though we’ve moved the work over to a different entity now) and the lessons what we’ve learned have helped US manage events. We think they’ll be helpful to you as well.

So, whether you’re gathering 12 or 12,000, consider these 5 “essentials” that your gathering must do to provide what attendees seek. And not every industry and meeting does them. They’re quite difficult to do without careful attention. However, if you do them, you’ll surprise and delight your attendees.

  1. Always think about design. We live in a visual age and recognizing that every event has a “look,” you need to think about backgrounds, signage, handouts, projection screens/TVs, and what those who are upfront will wear. It matters more now than ever.
  2. Be sure you have content that matters. At the end of the day, when the event is long over, meaningfulness will be how attendees evaluated the event. Trust us. It will be the content that keeps them “ponying” up the cash to come back and that content looks like inspiration, ideas, and insider access that they can’t get anywhere else.
  3. Create a journey for your attendees with unexpected yet delightful surprises along the way.
  4. Develop serendipitous opportunities for your attendees to talk to one another. Next to content, networking is the chief reason people attend an event. They may come back even if the content is bad, but they can talk with people who add value to their lives. But don’t risk that. There are other events that most of your attendees are going to as well.
  5. Establish a dialogue between attendees and those on the stage. This has been a growing theme in our research over the years. People don’t want to just network or to do Q and A… they want to “discuss,” and discussion has a back-and-forth shaping nature to it.

Ironically, event organizers boast about creating dialogue, but when it comes to event evaluation, they give it scant attention and throw out a short survey that looks uninteresting and actually communicates a disinterest in what people have to say about the event. And we know that about half of attendees are not planning to return for the next event.

We can help change that. Arbor provides a very affordable and fully customized event evaluation package that reveals the nuances and timelines of attendees’ participation and resistance while segmenting the audience into explanatory groups. Connect with us today (contact form below) to learn more.


Photo by Kevin Curtis on Unsplash

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