Simply providing content at your meeting is no longer enough. From the necessity of using social media and mobile meeting apps to drive interaction before, during, and after a live event, to recent research from Meeting Professionals International showing that attendees need context with their content, planners are being stretched to think beyond filling the agenda with relevant speakers.

One way to ensure that your education program provides context, encourages collaboration, and gives attendees what they came for is to conduct a pre-meeting needs survey.
 
MeetingMetrics, developer of online survey tools and methods that help meeting planners design effective events, measure meeting results, and demonstrate value including financial ROI, recently released its 10th specialized questionnaire template, one designed to determine attendees’ education session preferences and get those preferences directly to session presenters before the conference begins. The survey asks about attendees’ preferred learning styles and session structure as well as about the specific skills, behavioral changes, knowledge, and/or takeaways they want from the experience.

“In the past year, we have heard requests from clients who have the need, mostly on the association side, to increase the value of education sessions for attendees,” says Ira Kerns, managing director. The goal is to “give an opportunity to those who are looking at the meeting and mentally selecting their sessions of interest, maybe even before they register, to articulate their preferences for what they want to get out of the 90-minute sessions. This will help associations create better educational programs.”

 
MeetingMetrics used the structure of its existing online session evaluation and remanufactured it to the new task. “Because the new survey takes advantage of our pre-existing online session evaluation and reporting features repurposed for this specialized pre-conference use, MeetingMetrics users will be familiar with the survey’s structure and find it easy to administer,” Kerns notes.
 
However, you need not be a MeetingMetrics licensee to purchase the survey. At its launch, the survey will be priced below market value, he says. “We’re expecting to learn a lot from the first users, who will have suggestions.” These suggestions will be incorporated into subsequent releases—a process that has been “the development pathway for a lot of our surveys,” he says. “The early adopters have the opportunity to help shape it.”

After the attendees’ opinions are collected, the MeetingMetrics online system compiles the results into reports that are auto-delivered directly to the individual session presenters. The survey also asks about the attendees’ experience with the topic, so the reports help those presenters focus the level of the education session as well. The entire process can be implemented in two weeks. The tool provides “direct communication between attendee and presenter,” says Kerns, which is an improvement on the way meetings are traditionally constructed—without broad attendee input. “This a way of getting customer feedback in advance. It will allow organizations to build events that deliver higher quality educational experiences and, hopefully, be more highly rated overall.”
 
MeetingMetrics offers tools and surveys for the entire life cycle of an event, including pre-meeting surveys, evaluation tools to be completed during a meeting, and post-meeting surveys. Future survey templates may investigate hybrid experiences or the “gamification” of events. Find more at the company’s Web site. Says Kerns, “Our intention is to find ways to enhance meeting effectiveness through meeting research.”