This guide has been produced to help event organisers to evaluate the success of their events.
Click each heading below to fast-track to that section of the page.
What is Evaluation and Why is it Important?
Evaluation essentially measures the success of your activity, how well certain aspects of your activity went, and what areas to improve on in the future.
It is often seen as a post-event task. But by thinking about what you want to evaluate during the planning phase, you will be able to better define the goal(s) of your activity, know what you need to measure, and be able to integrate the collection of this information into the visitor experience – helping to improve the quality and quantity of feedback you receive.
A successful event will vary depending on factors like:
- If you have met the event’s aims and objectives
- Audience numbers
- Whether it reached your target audience
- Whether it reached a diverse pool of people within your target audience
- Level of audience satisfaction
It is important to collect measurable data on the above areas, plus any other areas that may be useful in understanding the success of your event.
This is particularly useful for Essex 2020, as we want to grow as many ideas, activities and events into long-lasting projects – creating a legacy impact in your local community.
Evaluating your event is vital in strengthening your project’s longevity, as it helps provide:
- A clear outline of what you would like to achieve with your project, giving you a clear direction when planning, financing and running your event
- Tangible feedback for your staff and volunteers on what went well, and what to improve on in the future
- An understanding of what changes may need to be made in the planning and delivery of your activity
- Evidence of the impact your activity had, which is useful when working with sponsors and external stakeholders to prove the value of your work, or when applying for funding
- Record your contribution to your area of work and help provide a roadmap for others who may want to hold an event like yours
How to Evaluate Your Event
There are several ways to evaluate your event. Here are some examples:
- Emotional Charts – During the planning and delivery of your event, try and track the factors that impact the mood of the team through keeping a journal. This allows you to look back and see what changes you can make to the months leading up to the event to make it more stress-free and efficient in the future.
- Event registration – Within the event registration process, you can ask questions about ethnicity, postcode etc., to get an understanding of the people who are engaging with your event.
This is the first opportunity to understand the characteristics of your participants and build a picture of what type of people your event is drawing in. This is also known as your audience demographic.
However, don’t forget about following GDPR guidelines (see the Information Commissioner’s Office website for guidance) and really think about what data you need to collect for your evaluation, to cut down on extra admin.
- People Counters – This allows you to collect hard data on how many people are attending your event, giving you definite numbers to play with in the evaluation process and analyse footfall.
- Face-to-Face feedback – Don’t overlook the value of the conversations you have with your staff, volunteers and attendees during your event. You may find that you receive the most useful feedback through informal conversations.
- Social Media – Scanning Facebook and Twitter for comments relating to your event is a quick and inexpensive way to get honest and raw feedback.
- Questionnaires/Surveys – These can be online or on paper and used during or after the event, providing easy-to-analyse data. To get the best use out of surveys, try and encourage your attendees to write down their thoughts during the event or immediately after.
- Interactive Spaces – whether it be a huge chalk board placed at your event for people to come and write their thoughts on. Or if your event is outdoors – providing a luggage tag for people to write their feedback on and hang on a tree – it not only allows you to collect valuable data on how well your event is being received, but also doubles up as a nice aesthetic for your event!
Remember, evaluation is not all about surveys! The more creative you are in how you collect information and integrate feedback systems into the visitor experience, the likelihood is, the more responses you will get.
This list is by no means exhaustive and for more creative ways of collecting feedback, check out our ‘Further Resources’ section below.
Knowing Your Audience
To increase your chances of hosting a well-attended and engaging event, as well as to collect constructive feedback, it is important to understand who your potential audience is.
Researching your audience is as simple as checking the demographic of the area you will hold your event in (StreetCheck is a good tool for this), talking to people who may frequently engage with your target audience (for example, the people who work at the venue you are hiring) and checking recent media coverage.
This information is useful to consider when planning the nature of your event or activity, as well as helping you to decide what specific questions you may want to ask.
What Questions to Ask?
It is up to you how you want to collect, analyse and interpret your data. As long as the questions you ask are not leading questions, overly emotive and are written plainly (so as not to influence responses) – you will get honest answers that will help you grow and improve your project.
Being mindful is also key to asking the right questions and adopting the appropriate framework to collect feedback on your activity – ask yourself whether your audience can effectively engage with the method you choose to collect information with.
For example, it might be a good idea to use a big chalk board and provide lots of crayons for children to come and scribble their feelings about your activity on, rather than opting for a paper-based method.
Eventbrite Blog has a section on post-event evaluation, guiding you on collecting feedback, examples of questions you can ask your attendees, feedback templates and advice on analysing data. They also have some useful tips on how to structure questions on surveys to improve your chances of getting the best responses here.
In sensitive situations, it may be better to not ask any questions altogether. Instead, you may be able to collect the information you need to understand the impact of your project through observing the reactions or emotions of your intended audience.
Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust have developed an Arts Observational Scale (ArtsObS) – originally for healthcare settings – but can be used across the board, which provides a useful metric of how to observe and measure reactions to your activity or event.
For more useful tools and information, we have included links to other guides and templates for collecting post-event feedback in our ‘Further Resources’ section below.
Awareness, Empathy and Inclusion
Be prepared to have your perspectives and ideas change and be open to constructive feedback and different ways of doing things. We all have different experiences, needs and face different challenges. To keep activities and events as inclusive as possible, listening to feedback from others both carefully and sympathetically, is the best way to work towards creating an inclusive space and ensuring that your fellow staff and attendees feel welcomed to participate.
If after analysing your event/activity analytics and feedback you realise that your event is only engaging a certain pool of people within your target audience, it’s worth reaching out to local community groups which represent different interests, faiths and cultures and building a relationship with them.
This will help you to understand how to improve your engagement with different audiences. It might also be helpful to involve community groups in the event planning process, helping to spread awareness of your project to audiences you may find difficult to reach.
For more ideas on how to be improve the inclusivity and representation of your events check out the Equality, Diversity and Accessibility section of our toolkit.
Below is a summary of the resources mentioned in this guide. We have also added in some more links to other resources and tools you might find useful for evaluation.
Although some of the resources outlined below are geared more towards the Arts – the information, advice and tools provided are applicable across projects and events of any nature.
If you do end up using any of the below resources, please let us know how you get on! We’d love to know how useful our suggestions are, and whether you can recommend any alternatives.
Eventbrite update their blog frequently to include lots of useful hints and tips on event planning. As already mentioned, they have great pieces on Evaluation, including a Complete Guide to the Event Evaluation Process and an Ultimate Guide to Event Surveys. You may need to sign up to access full content.
Event Impacts give advice on how to best measure key impacts of your event helping you to evaluate its success. The areas covered include ‘Attendance’, ‘Economic’, ‘Environmental’, ‘Social’, and ‘Media’.
Although focussed on the Arts, the Happy Museum provide useful tools that help you measure more than just numbers. They instead emphasise focusing on how your project impacts your audience and your team’s experiences and emotions – giving you the ideas and tools to do so.
Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust have developed an Arts Observational Scale (ArtsObS) for healthcare settings, but can be used across the board, to assess the impact of your project without your audience knowing they are being evaluated –useful for sensitive settings where a more subtle approach to evaluation is appropriate.
A useful summary on how to prepare for evaluation, the different approaches you can take, as well as useful tools like how to develop an evaluation framework.
Originally developed for projects that bridge the gap between the Arts and Health, the information and advice here is valuable for any project of a slightly more sensitive nature.
The Arts Council has produced useful guidance on how to consider the wider impact of your event/project, like generic social and learning outcomes – useful for framing the outcomes and impact of your event or project for funding applications.
They have also provided resources like a list of possible questions for evaluation and a step-by-step guide on how to analyse qualitative and quantitative data.
An overview of evaluation, checklists, how to collect different types of evidence, example questions, and a list of useful resources and case studies.
A thorough guide on how to evaluate your event, covering how to create a good evaluation plan, how to analyse the date you collect and present your results etc.
Fun and creative ideas on how to evaluate your event.
Statistics on an area’s demographic, for example, the age and profession of local residents.