Tell Me How Much You Like This Post

My car has OnStar driver assistance. I tap a button and a live representative comes on the line. I was driving the other day and asked them for directions to a restaurant.

(Yes, this is a post about webinars. Stay with it.)

The representative downloaded the directions into my car’s navigation system and I completed the drive with a delightful Ethiopian meal. I thought no more about it.


The company won’t stop sending me emails. “You recently contacted us. Please tell us how we did. Thinking about your overall experience, on a scale of 0 to 10 how likely would you be to recommend OnStar to a colleague, friend, and/or family member?”

In my mind, I didn’t “contact them.” Of course I technically did, but it wasn’t significant to me. I got the information I needed and went on with my day, giving it nary another thought. I’m not interested in reflecting on “how they did.” That’s more work than I wanted to put into the transaction.

This is now a universal scenario. Every damned time you have a transaction with anybody, for anything, in any context, no matter how briefly, you will be asked for an opinion about how it went. Check your fast food receipt. There’s a feedback request at the bottom (just enter these 28 digits to identify the transaction you are commenting on). Call someone to ask a question about your bill. Have an online chat session to track an order. You’ll be asked to complete a short survey because your opinion truly matters to them.

And webinars are no different. Five years ago I wrote a blog post saying “I am a big fan of post-webinar surveys.” I’ve changed my opinion on this. Oversaturation has soured me on the concept. And I’m not the only one… I administer many webinars for many clients in many industries across many topics. The one common factor I can tell you is that we are getting fewer and fewer responses on our post-webinar surveys. Nowadays you are lucky to get more than a small handful of people to complete the request.

There’s no magic bullet to getting truly high completion rates on post-webinar surveys, but I can give you a few tips that might at least make them high-er!

Shorter! Shorter! Shorter! Every additional question you ask reduces the probability that people will complete it. It doesn’t matter whether they are required or optional. Just seeing a bunch of questions makes people close the page.

Don’t ask ambiguous questions. “Rate the presenters” is useless with more than one speaker. What if one person was good and another was bad?

Don’t ask whether you would recommend the webinar. “Would you recommend this webinar to a friend or colleague?” The answer tells you nothing. Maybe they liked it, but they don’t like recommending things. Maybe it was right for their interests, but they don’t know others with similar interests. Maybe they wouldn’t recommend it because of general dissatisfaction, which still gives you no actionable information.

Pick one rating scale. Don’t swap between 5-point and 10-point scales within the same survey. 5-point scales are general better because they require less thought on exactly where to answer. What’s the difference between a 7 and an 8 response?

Only include one comment box. Don’t add optional comments to every rating question. Just put one box for “Additional comments, clarifications, and suggestions.”

Set up value to the attendee. Tell them you want to refine your webinars to make the content, presenters, and format more useful and valuable for your listeners. Never make the responses about the benefit to you (“Please help us out by answering”), make it about them (“We’d like to make these webinars more useful for you, and you are the only one who can tell us how to do that”).

Give an incentive. Everybody who fills out the survey gets a handout. Or is entered in a drawing. Of course this kills the ability to do anonymous surveys, but in conferencing products where the survey is integrated and you know the responders anyway, you can use that info.

And the most important piece of advice is to step back and truly ask yourself if you are making any substantive changes based on the responses you get to your surveys. In most cases, the answer is no. Somebody glances over the numbers, which look good on status reports, but the next webinar follows the exact same format as every one before it. All you’ve done is wasted your audience’s time and increased their frustration. Give them the information they requested in the webinar and let them move on with their day.