By Kat Thomas
“How do we increase our festival’s survey score results?” That’s the million-dollar question that every event asks each year. And if you’re not asking that, you should be! Using a post-event survey to gather the feedback is a great way to identify what’s working, what’s not, and where there is room for improvement. Listening to your participants and striving to improve year over year is what gives your event the legs it needs to stay relevant in a constantly changing and competitive space.
Some of the suggestions below―things we’ve learned from surveys―might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised by how often one or more of these important tips are lost or forgotten. Let’s dig in to some of the ways you can impress those who matter most.
Location, location, location.
Your festival should be laid out with the participant experience in mind―from start to finish. We all know there are site restrictions that may hinder this, but overall, the participant experience should take priority. Snacks and water should be immediately available, as soon as your participants finish. Your vendors and sponsors should also be positioned in a high-traffic area, where participants can easily access them. This will also make your partners happy and give them a reason to come back next year. Portable toilets, while not something you want in a photo, should also be readily available and very close to the end of the route. I went to a race recently where the portable toilets were 0.2 miles from the finish line. That might be a short distance under normal, “out-in-the-real-world” circumstances, but for the person who just ran 10 miles, it can feel like walking another five. These are just a few examples, but small, thoughtful tweaks to your site map can make a huge impact when it comes to participant satisfaction.
Variety is key.
This can be done in a lot of ways. Music, for example, needs to please the masses. Easier said than done, right? Take the time to vet who will make music selections and be sure they understand the vibe of your event. And let’s get real, your food partners can make or break a festival as much as the music. Work with trusted vendors that can produce quality food quickly. Overall, the point is to offer a variety of engagement activities and opportunities―sponsor booths, local vendors, food trucks, games, and selfie spots!
Glamour isn’t everything.
While delivering the hottest event trend can increase your cool factor, it’s not everything. I’ll bring up portable toilets again: there’s nothing worse than going to an event that doesn’t have enough toilets, or an event that has enough toilets, but they aren’t clean or properly stocked with toilet paper. Make sure your participant-to-portable-toilet-ratio is correct depending on the type of event you’re hosting. (On average, events with alcohol should add at least 30% to the order). Also, make sure your signage is clean, taught and that you snip the loose ends of zip ties. Participants may not notice something like a zip tie, but they’ll see that the festival site looks messy for one reason or another. Having a tidy event site will also help keep sponsors and vendors happy.
Don’t shoot the messenger.
And no one will, as long as you keep the lines of communication open. Participants come to an event to feel like they are part of something bigger and to be “in the know.” That’s why it makes sense to communicate clearly from start to finish. Prior to the event, share what to expect on the big day, including features of the event and weather updates. During the event, make regular, concise announcements. And after the event, be sure to send a thoughtful “thank you.” Your event volunteers are also a great resource for communicating important messages! Train your volunteers and deliver consistent messaging to them, so they can turn around and share that same clear message with participants.
Are these elements the answer to the million-dollar question? I don’t know about that, but I’m sure they are part of it. These are some small and easy changes you can make to your event that participants will notice, and these thoughtful tweaks will be top-of-mind when they’re talking with their friends about the great event they just completed. Remember: the best form of marketing is a happy participant who will sing your praise.
Kat found her niche at Event 360 in 2010 starting in participant acquisition and has since transitioned to operations and logistics. She’s currently the Event Production Manager for the Rise Up Against Addiction 5K Walk/Run series benefitting Shatterproof.