5 reasons not to provide a feedback form

5 reasons to abandon the post-event feedback form, and 3 alternatives

Nothing kills the mood of an event quite like the following statement:

“Please take a moment now to fill out the feedback form.”

While I’ve heard this statement at various events, it is most common in my experience at Christian conferences, seminars, workshops, etc. Christians love asking for feedback!

Don’t get me wrong – I definitely get the value of feedback. It’s good to know what went well, and what could be improved. However, I think these end-of-event, all-in shout-outs for feedback are problematic for at least 5 reasons.

1. They kill the mood.

Nothing says “It’s time to go home” like the lights coming back on, and the call to fill in a form. At the end of the event you want people reflecting on what they learnt and were challenged to do, not thinking about how the event could be improved. See point 2.

2. They encourage people to think critically.

By asking people for feedback, you are asking people to critically review the event. There’s a time and a place for this (see Better ways to get feedback), but I don’t think it’s helpful to adopt a critical mindset at the close of an event. It’s not what you want people thinking about and talking about as they leave. But also, critical review feeds a consumer mindset – see point 3.

3. They feed a consumer mentality.

Every time you ask for feedback you are subtly saying “This is about you, and we want it to be better for you”. To one extent, there’s nothing wrong with that. As an event organiser, you want to know that the event is serving people, and understand what could be done to serve people better.

That said, churches and ministries struggle increasingly with a consumer mindset. A mindset that says “It’s about me, and what I can get out of it” – not “How can I serve others”. It’s ugly and dangerous, and we must be careful not to promote this me-centred mentality that is pervasive in the church.

4. They lead people to expect change.

People may think that by providing feedback, things will change for next time. This can lead to frustration – “I told them the lighting is terrible, and they did nothing about it”, or “I’ve made it clear that they sing too many songs, and it’s the same again this time”. This taps back into the consumer mindset, but seeking feedback can be shooting yourself in the foot, if lots of people request change, and change doesn’t occur.

5. They can make organisers reactive

The vision of an event can be easily waylaid by negative feedback from participants who don’t get the vision. People who complain about too many songs, when they don’t understand the reason for the number of songs. People who whine about volume/lightness/darkness/length/content – often without knowing why. However, these complaining voices are the loudest voices, and receiving negative feedback is not easy and you need to learn how to do it. If you’re not careful, the feedback forms will lead you to make decisions about the event that are responding to the critics (see point 4), instead of serving the vision that God gave you for the event.

3 better ways to get feedback

Here’s a couple of suggestions for better ways to request feedback:

1. Email people a day or two after the event.

Instead of killing the mood and getting people to think critically before they leave, send them a link to a survey form (e.g. Wufoo or Typeform) a few days after the event. This has the added benefit of giving people some time to reflect – which means that if the event bombed, their feedback is likely to be more constructive, and less reactionary.

2. Ask a few trusted people for feedback.

Instead of asking everyone, be selective. You could ask people who have the ability to make useful feedback – not everyone is able to do this! Or, you could selectively ask people who are the target audience for the event – rather than getting feedback from people who the event wasn’t intended for.

3. Ask specific questions

Instead of asking “What did you like?” or “What didn’t you like?”, get specific.

Over to you…

Do you have any tips for better ways of seeking feedback?

Tagged:

Comments

  • http://darrylschoeman.com/ Darryl Schoeman

    This is a great post and I am thankful to ChurchMag for posting the link to this article. This comes at a time where I am preparing for a workshop and thinking about how I’m going to get feedback. All your why not points are so true and your alternative points are very helpful. God bless. Darryl.

  • Pingback: Comment on: 5 reasons not to provide a feedback form | Communicate Jesus » Darryl Schoeman

  • Hannah Vella

    Hey Steve, This was timely for me too. We read through some feedback for an event last night and are about to send an email to ask people to complete a survey. The event organising team decided we wouldn’t announce the feedback form this year and the form itself encouraged people to wait for the online survey. We still got 60 responses (out of 500 delegates) from people who took the initiative to complete the form on the day. I think next year we might just go with the post conference survey idea for many of the reasons that you listed above.

    One thing that interested me was that you suggested we “get specific” with our questions. I’ve actually found when you ask specific questions people are more critical of things they actually don’t care about because they feel they have to answer the question. I like asking open ended questions so that they write the things that are important to them and don’t comment on things they don’t care about. I also think a question we included this year (“Will you return to our conference next year? Why?”) was helpful in weighting the comments – if its a negative comment but they are definitely coming next year that’s slightly different to a negative comment but not coming next year. What was your reasoning for being more specific?

    And what do you think the ideal time frame is for sending out the feedback survey post conference?

    Thanks for encouraging us to think carefully about these things!

  • http://www.communicatejesus.com Steven Kryger

    Thanks for the encouragement, Darryl.

  • http://www.communicatejesus.com Steven Kryger

    Hi Hannah, in terms of specifics, I think it’s good to connect these questions back to the purpose of the event and the audience for the event.

    Here’s a couple of examples:

    If the audience for the event is non-Christians, and you encouraged Christians to invite their friends, you might ask the Christians “On a scale of 1-10, how comfortable would you be to invite your friends to a similar event in future?”. I spoke with a friend recently who got the courage to invite a colleague to one of these events recently. The event was poorly run, and my friend would be unlikely to invite a colleague again. This kind of feedback is helpful.

    If the purpose of the event is to train people to have a quiet time (for example), you might ask questions along the lines of “On a scale of 1-10, how equipped do you now feel to have a quiet time?”. You could also ask them to compare with how equipped they felt before the event.

    In terms of timings, I think 1-2 days is good – you want it to be fresh in their minds, but not get them thinking too critically straight away!

    Depending on the event, you could also ask what things they have put into practice from the event, since returning home/to work, etc.

    Does that help?

  • http://daveshrein.com Dave Shrein

    Steve, I saw you link to this post from your Top Resources from September and I’m glad I did. I really could not agree more. Truth is I had never given thought to this until reading your piece above. The portion I really connect with is “this feeds a consumer mentality.” It does! It just re-enforces what so many of us are trying to keep the church away from becoming: just another booth in a marketplace of religion.

    Love that you didn’t stop at that but you gave suggestions on how to get feedback. Being part of the solution when calling out problems is HUGE!

    Great article.

  • http://www.communicatejesus.com Steven Kryger

    Thanks so much for the encouragement Dave!

Popular Articles