It’s Monday morning and I have event “hangover”. Our office just completed our biggest event of the year as we hosted more than 2,300 women at our annual retreat. Although I’m still a bit weary, I always find myself knee-deep in a plastic tub of evaluations wanting to hear feedback from the participants.
Evaluations are funny things for people like me who organize and plan events on a regular basis. On one hand, there is a need to be “affirmed” of the things that went right. On the other, there is a sadistic nagging that wants to know what went wrong – even the things that were perceived to go wrong. After many years of reading through hundreds and hundreds of evaluations, I’ve learned several things to consider about loving and loathing those pieces of paper with tiny scribbles. I hope these principles will help you the next time you evaluate the effectiveness of your events.
1. Evaluations are important, but don’t allow them to rule you. Not every comment or criticism is a good idea. Most people who fill out your evaluations have never planned an event. They may not understand your budget, your limitations and the prayer that went into planning your schedule. Keep a big picture attitude and remember to look for consistent messages that might signal needs for change in certain areas.
2. Don’t focus on the negative, but appreciate the positive. If you get 100 evaluations that are amazing and one that is filled with criticism, it’s easy to focus on the negative. Try to approach evaluations with balance and don’t be afraid to embrace affirmation. When you are affirmed, you are encouraged to continue.
3. Be careful how you create an evaluation. I’ve learned this the hard way. If I give people a chance to complain about something that’s insignificant, then I will probably get insignificant feedback. Write evaluations with the focus of helping participants consider the big moments. For instance, have them write ways God spoke to them during the event and how the event will impact their future.
4. You will never please everyone. There will always be evaluations saying the music was too loud or too contemporary. There will always be evaluations that complain about food. (I always consider whether Jesus got food complaints after feeding the 5,000) Try to keep a sense of humor whenever you get these types of evaluations and pray that the person got more out of the event than whether you offered a gluten-free option.
5. Keep the evaluation close to the team. If you had a volunteer team help you with an event, consider their honest feedback as the most important. They know the details and they understand the vision. Most likely, their feedback holds a lot more weight than those who just attended.
Learn to love evaluations. They will make you better in the long run.