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Whose feedback really matters?

As conference organisers, we love a good ‘feedback form’. Recognising how difficult it can be to gather feedback from our participants, we’ve done a great job of making the process as painless as possible. From scanning QR codes to emailing our participants with a lovingly crafted ‘please tell us how we can improve’, many of us have nailed how to get the feedback we so crave.

But, a) what are we asking them to measure us against, b) are we listening to those who don’t tell us what we want to hear and c) what are we doing with the feedback we receive?

Many of us are guilty of lapping up the effusive praise and are quick to share the ‘best conference I’ve ever been to’ sound bites on our social media and websites.

Other than the people (there’ll always be one or two) who complain about the coffee and cookies, or the poor connection of the virtual stream, there’ll inevitably be conscientious participants who take time to share thoughtful and constructive criticism. There’ll usually be a common theme.

“The 'room' was full of suppliers”

“I felt the networking elements weren’t as well-structured as they could have been”

“The transitions were clunky and left me lost as to the overall theme or purpose of the conference”

“It was a lot of one-way talking and passive listening”

“I didn’t meet the people I was expecting (hoping) to”

“It was a good conference with lots of valuable information, but now what...?”

Oftentimes, we don’t even need to hear these painful truths from our participants, but we get so caught up in ‘putting on a good show’ that we forget why we organised the conference in the first place.

We get it: it’s exhausting, time-consuming and mentally challenging to pull all the threads together, but are they the right threads? Are we focusing on what is truly important to our participants?

If you’ve ever encountered any of the above comments in your feedback form, don’t despair, and for the love of conferences, don’t ignore it. These people’s opinions matter, and arguably, more than the ones who loved on it.

So, after your next conference, live or virtual, whose feedback are you going to learn from, take on board and most importantly, action?


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