Finding out what your audience thought of your event
These resources are designed to help you develop an effective and efficient evaluation strategy, tailored to your event. They include generic survey templates that will be appropriate for a variety of events and target audiences, and which represent the middle ground, aimed at maximising feedback and comparability across the range of events.
We’ve also included suggestions for other methods of more detailed evaluation for those who want greater depth, or simpler evaluation which sacrifices depth in order to achieve a higher response rate.
The development of these evaluation materials was informed by the Inspiring Learning Framework, which proposes five Generic Learning Outcomes (GLOs) and by Friedman and colleagues’ Framework for Evaluating Impacts of Informal Science Education Projects.
The GLOs are reflected in the common questions in each survey template and the suggested open-ended questions. It is anticipated that at least one of these outcomes will be applicable to most science engagement events. The GLOs are:
The Inspiring Australia program funded the development of the sample surveys below as well as the Inspiring Australia Evaluation Resources (584 kB, pdf) by Prof Nancy Longnecker and Dr Jo Elliott for science event holders to use.
There are many different ways to collect evaluation responses. What you choose to do will depend very much upon your event, your audience and what you want to learn. Some of the options for collecting evaluation responses are:
Paper surveys are an easy way to evaluate an event. Four survey templates are provided, to cover different audiences, and three of them are designed to accommodate the event holder’s logo and some customised questions.
The survey templates have been designed for use across a wide range of event types and topics. Some standard or common questions appear on all templates, to ensure consistency and allow you to measure impact across different events.
Whichever survey tool you choose, make sure you personalise it:
Finally, print and photocopy the surveys, double-sided, and distribute them at your event.
Depending on the structure of your event, you could place surveys on tables, include them in participant packs, or hand them out at the end of the event. You may wish to have some clipboards and pens, and a collection box on hand to facilitate completion of the survey. Some event organisers choose to offer a small incentive, such as a lolly, sticker or balloon, for survey completion.
Online surveys remove the need for data entry before analysis. However, they tend to have lower response rates than those delivered in-person at the time of the event. This can be because people forget about the survey after leaving the event, or because it requires extra action compared to completing one at the time.
Response rates can be increased by making the survey smartphone-friendly, or providing tablet computers so that people can complete the survey at the event.
If your event has an online registration process, you could collect some baseline data before people attend. For example, you could ask registrants to rate their knowledge on a particular topic, and compare the responses to those given after the event.
Observations are subjective, but they can provide rich insight into your audience. They may include things like:
Observations can be difficult to collect as you need to have at least one person whose job it is to observe attendees’ behaviour at the event.
You may use ‘sneaky friends’ who go up and have a chat to people to find out what they are thinking (with thanks for this terminology to Carly Siebentritt from CSIRO).
In order for observations to be most useful, they need to be collected systematically and rigorously. Otherwise they may not really tell you how the audience is responding to the event.
Even so, observations will be subjective and this is an inherent limitation. Without knowing a person, it can be difficult to interpret actions and facial expressions. For example, how can you tell whether a person on their phone is bored and checking Facebook, or tweeting about the really interesting thing they just learned, or texting a friend to come and join them at a really fun event?
If an evaluation form is inappropriate for your event, you can use a simple bean poll where you ask people to rate their opinion on a single question. A bean poll can also be used in conjunction with other evaluation methods like surveys.
At many events, it can be difficult or even inappropriate to ask all attendees to fill in evaluation forms. Sometimes events are free-flowing, with people coming and going as they please; at others, evaluation forms could be distracting.
At events such as these, the people who fill in the evaluation forms are often those who feel strongly about the event or topic, those who have something to say. While this can provide useful information to event organisers, the evaluation is unlikely to be representative of the entire audience.
At these types of events, an alternative or supplementary method might be to conduct a bean poll, a simple evaluation to get a snapshot of attendee’s responses to the event, using one question.
Attendees are asked to ‘vote’ for their response using beans or voting chips. This method of evaluation is easy to set up, and both quick and easy for attendees to complete. All attendees should be asked to take part in this evaluation. Depth is sacrificed for a greater response rate.
A bean poll can be carried out on its own or in combination with a survey, depending on the event and audience.
How to run a bean poll
Voting with beans or chips is the easiest method, but you could also:
Possible questions and responses