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Last Issue's Dilemma:
How do I keep score while the 'game's' still going on?
I always tally up how my company's done at an event after it's over, mostly based on the number of visitors and generated sales leads. But I think we could improve our results if I could get input during the event. That way, I could target presentations or make alterations to our exhibit -- according to attendee feedback.
Is the old pencil and paper route OK for this? Or is there some kind of technology I can use to get the information on the fly?
-- Zoe, Events Manager
Use the right equipment to win the game
Zoe, with all the options available today, it's understandable that you may not know which way to turn. But our readers have done some of the "scouting" for you, and they base their advice on some successful solutions they've seen or used themselves.
Challenges ... Solutions
Challenge: A first-time exhibitor needs to make a strong brand impression
Solution: A cutting-edge design that recreates the look and feel of 18 retail locations ...
Have a cup of java on us.
They suggest that you:
- Think tried and true.
- Jump into the computer age.
- Put some "upgrades" on the technology approach.
Think tried and true
Zoe, with all the gadgets and gizmos out there, the idea of using pencil and paper may seem a bit passé. But maybe the reason people have been using this basic method so long is because … it works.
Ed Jones, president of Constellation Communication Corp., explains why you may not want to toss out the paper and pencil just yet.
"Paper-based surveys may seem old fashioned, but they sure are a handy way for guests to take over the labor aspect of documenting data, and they provide for the most fluid responses to open-ended questions. Use paper when people are waiting for a presentation to begin and when you have very large crowds as welll as when you want the visitors to tell you, through their responses to open-ended questions, what you don't already know about them. Paper is also the least expensive route if you're on a budget.
"The cons? Somebody has to read and enter all of that data after the event and turn it into a report! Also, sensitive information can develop 'legs' and walk away from your exhibit. (But don't forget that you can recontact and survey people via an e-mail notice and Web-based survey after the event.) For really in-depth information, you can employ interviewers to randomly intercept visitors as they leave your exhibit and interview them on the spot."
Jump into the computer age
Ah, technology. It promises to make everything in life easier. But to get the most of technology, you have to choose the right kind, at the right price.
A director of events has gotten good results using interactive technology at meetings.
"I use the Turning Technologies Audience Response system for onsite surveys and interactive presentations to truly involve participants. It involves more work than I expected, but the system's worthwhile -- and affordable."
Ed Jones weighs in on pros and cons of event technology.
"Electronic interactive technologies abound today for capturing live, instant feedback. They range from touch-screen kiosks to wireless or RFID hand-held devices and even smart cards.
"The pros: The feedback is instantaneous, even to the extent that you can modify the presentation as it's given. You have little or no data to enter after the event, and the data is reported accurately as a part of the overall system.
"The cons: For the most part, these devices are programmed with a preconceived range of answers from which the participants must pick and choose. Open-ended feedback is often difficult or time-consuming to enter. Also, you may be limited to the number of devices on hand, which can cause a slowdown in a busy exhibit environment."
An exhibits manager advises caution before plunking down the bucks for technology.
"I won't buy anything I can't return for a full refund within 30 days. I have a bunch of old power cords with 12-volt transformer plugs, and I can't remember the last time I used my Palm Pilot. I've returned to paper and pencil and use a plain old cell phone to stay in touch with clients."
Put some 'upgrades' on the technology approach
If you do decide to go high-tech, get the most out of your investment by giving it some upgrades, so to speak.
Terrie Holahan, a manager of tradeshows and events, gives some examples of how you can "tweak your tech."
"Technology can be your best friend when it comes to getting feedback from your attendees. Like everything else, though, it depends on your budget. Some of the technology available includes: online surveys that can be taken via touch-screen monitors, hand-held keypads distributed during an event for live feedback and in-booth games hooked into the survey software.
"Our company recently initiated surveys as part of our giveaway process for events and in-booth presentations. In return for freebies, attendees had to complete a four-question survey. We didn't require that they put contact information on the survey, but we did scan their badges as they received their gifts. We used a combination of touch-screen monitors and pencil-and-paper handouts. Keep in mind we were dealing with a limited number of people (200 max), so the feedback system worked for us.
"For larger audiences, two events I recently attended had great ways of getting feedback. At one, audience members were given small keypads and the host explained that survey questions would be asked throughout the presentation, with the results presented on-screen. The survey questions were limited to five that focused on the content of the program. The company was able to get feedback on audience demographics and the challenges the attendees face, and it cleverly found out just how much the audience understood the subject. This worked great for a large audience, but it can be on the expensive side.
"For an in-booth presentation, one company at EXHIBITOR 2008 had a trivia challenge game with a prize drawing. The company set up five 'contestant stations' and invited attendees into the booth for a trivia contest with the lure of winning 'a fabulous prize.' Before the game started, participants were asked four or five questions about their exhibit needs and their knowledge of their competition. Since the questions were limited and the game host kept up the enthusiasm, participants quickly answered the feedback questions and then went on with the game, which was featured on a large plasma screen. Participants gave feedback via a keypad.
"In both examples, the companies used multiple-choice questions. We've found that hooking a prize/giveaway to the feedback (as well as keeping it anonymous) is a great way to get answers. The most important thing to remember is this: Keep the survey short and easy! Good luck! Good luck!"
Zoe, look at the success you've had using paper and pencil. Maybe a change isn't necessary. On the other hand, if you decide it's time for an upgrade, look carefully at your needs and your budget. Then shop wisely, and make sure you have a money-back guarantee -- just in case the new technology you choose doesn't qualify as a home run.