Anyone working on an educational program recognizes the importance of developing a speaker evaluation form to measure the effectiveness of an overall program or individual break out session. It's a challenge for most meeting and event planners, and it’s a step that many would like to overlook.
A good speaker evaluation form can be used as an important tool to measure the effectiveness of a given program, and it can be used as a tool the measure the contribution that a meeting has on an organization’s objectives.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of a speaker evaluation form is making it easy to complete. Although most attendees expect to complete an evaluation, it’s helpful to remember that they are usually more interested in leaving a session immediately than filling out a lengthy evaluation form.
Recognizing this challenge, some planners provide an incentive for attendees to complete the form. It is an opportunity for the planner to have some fun and reinforce the company and may include promotional items from the organization or even gift certificates.
The most important point that meeting planners should remember is to keep the evaluation form brief (one page). Other tips include:
- Provide clear, brief instructions.
- List the session name and speaker.
- Measure the effectiveness in a maximum of five options.
- Ask if the session objectives were met.
- Ask if the session was perceived as valuable.
- Ask an open-ended question for more information.
- Keep the form optionally anonymous.
- Ask if there’s any interest in follow-up contact.
To be sure, feedback on evaluation forms will be subjective, as the comments are based on many personal factors of who is responding.
For example, those who attend a given program will likely be at different levels of professional experience with a given topic, and that will impact how they respond. Their feedback may also vary based on different expectations of a program before attending.
Sample Speaker Evaluation Form
The National Speakers Association (NSA), Tempe, AZ, has developed a speaker evaluation form template that it uses at meetings to evaluate its own educational sessions.
“We ask all of our speakers to provide us with learning outcomes for their sessions, which we print in the program with our session descriptions," explains Marsha Mardock, NSA spokesperson. “Then we ask our attendees to measure the success of the session against the learning outcomes.”
Specific questions include:
- Please rate how well this session’s learning objectives were met.
- What value did you receive from this session?
- What is the best idea you heard in this session that you plan to use?
NSA was established in 1973 and is a leading organization for professional speakers, providing resources and education designed to advance the skills, integrity, and value of the speaking profession.
Once the evaluation forms are collected, event organizers should compile the results into a report that summarizes all the results. It includes information about speaker ratings in the various categories measured, as well as the comments themselves.
Such reports are used to measure how effectively a seminar or conference session met the needs of the audience, and what may be improved in the future. Motivational speaker Pegine Echevarria of Team Pegine Inc., Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, suggests that meeting planners tally results in a report called an After Action Report.
The After Action Report provides more information than a speaker session evaluation. It’s an evaluation of the program itself, including the planning process. Pegine provides an After Action Report after each speaking engagement. “My clients know about the report before each event, and they love receiving it after, it is an added value to them.” She answers questions for meeting planners, including:
- What did they do well?
- What could have been done differently?
- What ideas do I have for future events?
"We learned this from the military,” Pegine explains. “Everyone in the Army writes an After Action Report to share with their superiors, including what worked, what didn’t and solutions for improvement after each project or task. We provide the same. The reports include not only the audience results but also information from my speaking and consulting experience.”
Walter Reed Army Medical Center outlines its After Action Report guidelines for planning educational programs with speakers. Information is presented in a report/table format, and the summary includes the following elements:
- Activity overview
- Activity content
- Guest speakers
- Planning process
- Activity materials
- Evaluation forms
- Activity administration
- Budget data