Negative evals can be an effective way to gain insight and fresh ideas to make your events even better.

Post-event everyone is high on love, loved the program, the speakers rocked, we all did so great. It’s a Kudos Fest. But let’s admit, it, not every single attendee is always completely happy. Sure, you strive for that, but it’s realistic to assume you will not please every single person all the time.  So you read the evaluations. Most are very favorable.

And then it’s pretty typical to look at those evaluations again when you are beginning to create new programming about 8 months out for an annual event, looking at what you did last year. You’ll look at the evals and your team’s notes and start filling in the educational slots and networking opportunities and dig in. When you looked at the evaluations, most were very positive. There are a few nay-sayers and a suggestion or two but in general attendees seem to have really liked you and your event.

But did they really?

Evaluations only tell you part of the story. The truth is most of the people who fill out the evals are your event advocates. The less-than-satisfied attendees, for the most part, won’t take the time to let you know. They simply don’t come back. So what can you do to truly understand what your attendees think about your event?

Interviewing the non-returning attendees over the phone is the best way to go. People are much more apt to give a honest opinion if you encourage the critical feedback and you’ve made the effort to call them. Plus you can dig deeper into their concerns/opinions in order to learn what you can do to add or change-up things from your current program. You’ll probably get some great new ideas out of the process. I know we have.

Here are some typical areas for discovery: (Note: You’re looking for a critical mass of feedback, not just one odd-ball negative comment.)

1. Did the attendees learn new stuff or was the program content a rehash of the same-old same-old? Lead your speakers to great presentations!

2. Were the speakers prepared and effective?

3. Location of the event — are the city and venue easy for attendees to get to? Is it a place people actually want to go?

4. Time of year — what time of year works best for most of your attendees?

5. Networking opportunities — are there enough? Are they organized?

6. Interaction with sponsors — positive or negative? Here’s how to train your sponsors to work the show (and get great renewal rates!)

7. Cost to attend — Is the pricing structure easy to understand? Does the price-point fit your audience? (Re-evaluate this every year.)

8. Was it fun? Studies show attendees learn more and retain more when it’s fun.

9. Overall, how well was the event organized?

10. Most important — What are your (the attendees’) ideas on how to make our event better?

You will be amazed at the great ideas unhappy attendees will often give you. Not only will this exercise of contacting past attendees make your current event better, it may give you even inspiration for new niched events.

I know we all love hearing all the praise of how great an event we had. But you can learn SO much more from the critical comments and suggestions. And you might even be able to turn those negative attendees into your biggest advocates!



carl_headshot_2015About the blogger: Carl Landau is Grand Poobah of Niche Media. He is a media/event guru, SF Giants fan and part-time blogger. His 15 minutes of fame took place in the mid-eighties when he launched his famous, “Buy an Ad, Get a Cat” ad campaign. He has long since patched things up with the SPCA.


Niche Media has created super niched-out events specifically for magazine publishers for over 12 years. We’ve helped pave the way for the era of boutique events that connect specific audiences and provide great educational, friendly and super-fun environments! Plus, Carl Landau – Niche Media’s Grand Poobah – is launching the all new, yet same AMAZING source of NEW REVENUE for your niche magazine brand! The Super Niche event March 27-29, 2017. Check it out!

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