In this series on organizing conferences we looked at the various phases of organizing a conference, how to set up a conference organizing structure, the planning phase of the conference, publicizing the conference and running the conference. The conference is now over, and it is time to evaluate the conference in the following areas.
Presenters and Presentations at the Conference
Were the presentations clear, coherent and relevant to the topic of the conference? Did the method add or subtract from the effectiveness of the presentation? One exception is at academic conferences where the quality of the presenters work and ideas usually carry more weight than the method of presentation.
Evaluating the presentations also assists in deciding whether the presenter or presenters can be used for future conferences. Successfully evaluating the presenters and presentations at the conference depend on the information gathered from interviews with participants and completed evaluation forms.
The Overall Experience of the Conference
To evaluate the overall experience of the conference, the coordinator relies on the information gained from participants through spoken feedback and evaluation forms. It is, therefore, vital to obtain feedback from as many participants as possible at the conference. The feedback provided will help to evaluate whether the participants feel that they got what they expected. Other questions that may be answered when evaluating the overall experience of the conference include:
- Were there enough opportunities for networking?
- Were the sessions at the conference interesting, helpful and relevant?
- Was the conference well organized, how smooth did it run?
- What aspects of the conference did participants like the most?
- What could have been done differently?
The Conference Venue and Services
The coordinator and others who dealt directly with the conference venue will be responsible for evaluating the venue and the services provided by the venue. They will evaluate whether the conference venue was easy to deal with and if the venue liaison was available and helpful. Some questions that may be asked when evaluating the venue include:
- Did the conference venue deliver on their promises?
- How was errors and oversights handled?
- What was the quality of the food and was the food available on time?
- Was there any extras made freely available to guests?
- Was the conference venue easy to find?
- Were there enough conference rooms and were they large enough?
- Was the cost of the conference venue reasonable compared to other options?
Conference Coordinator, Conference Staff and Volunteers
A big part of this evaluation will be done by those being evaluated. It is a time to stand back and evaluate what aspects of the conference were successful but also where things could have been done differently. Questions to ask in this part of the evaluation include:
- Were tasks clear and well-defined?
- Did everybody know what was expected of them?
- How well did everyone work together?
- Was there good communication among everyone involved in running the conference?
- Did everyone know who to ask when questions were raised?
- Did everyone know who was in charge of what?
- Were tasks completed in a reasonable time?
- Did the coordinator know who to turn to for assistance?
The Conference Organizing Process
Questions asked when evaluating the organizing process include:
- Were there enough people available in both the initial planning phase and for the running of the conference?
- Was there enough lead time to organize the conference?
- Did the planning process have enough input and structure?
- Was there a plan that was easy to follow?
- Were the initial estimates of costs and participants reasonably accurate?
- What aspects of the organizing process went particularly well?
- What needs to be changed for future conferences?
All this information gained from evaluating the conference will assist conference coordinators immensely when organizing their next conference.
Resource: Community Tool Box: http://ctb.ku.edu/