How To Use a Qualitative Survey For Event Planning

Planning an event takes a lot of thought and coordination (not to mention energy). One of the most important steps you can take in planning your event is to conduct a preliminary survey to determine the needs and expectations of your audience. This can help you determine topics, speakers, venues, dates, etc. that appeal to the majority of your audience.

Understanding your attendee’s expectations before the event, will allow you to tailor your agenda to meet their needs and ensure your event is a success!

In this article we will explore how to use an event planning survey to prepare for your event.

Event Planning Survey Vs. Pre-event Survey

An event planning survey is conducted early in the planning process to explore event options. This exploratory survey is different than a pre-event survey.

A pre-event survey is sent to those who have already registered for your event. It surveys registrants about the finer details of the event. These questions usually relate to how you can accommodate the attendee during the event such as food preferences, lodging, session signups, etc.. The questions are typically quantitative with close-ended answer options.

An event planning survey on the other hand, is a qualitative survey that allows you to discover what your potential attendees hope to get out of the event. It allows you to explore their needs and interest to ensure they are inline with your goals. These surveys are conducted prior to registration.

Both types of surveys fill a need in making your event successful. You may find you need one, or the other, or both, depending on the type of event you are planning and where you are in the planning process.

If you hosted a similar event in the past and conducted a post-event survey, you may already have some good feedback and do not need to conduct an event planning survey. But if you want to confirm your ideas and plans for an up coming event, surveying a small sample of past respondents is a good idea.

How to Use An Event Planning Survey

Because event planning surveys are typically qualitative, you will want to keep it short. You don’t need to ask about every detail of the event, just those you are unsure of (5 questions is usually enough).

Start with broad questions and ask about some of the ideas that you want to present. Always provide lots of space for open-ended questions so that potential attendees can tell you exactly what they want out of the event.

You can add a few quantitative questions if you need to but if you do, always include a textbox to collect answer options you did not present or consider.

Event Success Through Surveys

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When To Use an Event Planning Survey

Below are 10 possible areas to consider when exploring ideas for your next event. You won’t need to include all of these, just those that you are unsure of.

Use an event planning survey to:


  • Identify The Need For The Event



      Before spending your time and energy planning your event, make sure you have a committed audience.

If a respondent indicates that they are interested in such an event, you can trigger other questions that will help you prepare for the event, such as possible venues or dates for the event.

You have now identified qualified leads that you can nurture as your event approaches.


  • Define The Purpose of The Event

For your event to be meaningful, you need to have a clearly defined goal. Tell your potential attendees the purpose of your event and ask them what they want to get out of it.


Your goal may be to inspire, educate, promote awareness, or raise funds. Regardless of the type of event you are planning, you need to clearly define what you expect to accomplish at your event. This will be paramount in determining whether your event is a success.

The 2- part question below was used to identify why past registrants attended the last event and what they expect to gain from the next event. It provides clear insight into what has worked in the past while seeking additional input.

Event Expectation Question


  • Select Your Topics

Ask potential attendees to suggest topics related to the subject matter that they would like to learn more about. Use an open-ended textbox question type.


If you have tentative list of topics, present them with a multi-select question type so you can determine all of the topics of interest. You could also use a ranking question type so you can see which topics they are most interested in.

Remember to use the ‘other’ option when using a quantitative question type so that you can collect ideas you did not consider.

Here is an example:

Event Topic Example


  • Set Your Agenda

Perhaps your event is more of a political nature such as a town hall or city council meeting. Rather than topics, you likely have issues that will define your event.


An event planning survey can help you anticipate questions and allow you to prepare your answers in advance. You can even ask respondents how they would like to see the issue resolved as in the example below:

Town Hall Agenda Example

Showing up to the event well prepared to address the issues at hand will give you a leading advantage and make your event successful.

  • Line Up Event Speakers

Large industry events typically have subject matter experts as keynote or guest speakers. You might already have a tentative list of speakers lined up, but ask potential attendees who they would like to see. You might be pleasantly surprised to see some names you did not consider.



  • Choose Your Event Format

You may be considering different formats for your event such as workshops, small group discussions, and other sessions. Ask your respondents which format they prefer.


For example you might want a mixed format that includes lectures, workshops and panel discussions as in the example below:

Event Format Example


  • Clarify Event Logistics

An event survey can help you narrow down logistical options such as when and where to host your event.


For instance, do you know the best days for your event? Do your customers prefer to attend during the week or weekend?
Are you wondering if your event should be 2 or 3 days long? If your attendees will be traveling do you know where they prefer to travel to or how far they are willing to travel?

These are great questions to put to your potential attendees. Here is an example:

Event Logistics Example


  • Determine Level of Experience

If your event is a training seminar, ask your users about their level of experience so that you can tailor your course topics, materials, hands-on workshops, etc.


Knowing that the majority of your users are novice, intermediate, or advanced users will certainly have an impact on your course material. Having the appropriate material and subject matter for your users will be paramount in the success of your event.


  • Identify Event Contributors

You may be looking for contributors for your event. This is especially true if your organization is a non-profit.


Survey potential attendees to see if they are interested in participating or volunteering. If you need speakers, judges, or panelists at your event, this is a great time to ask.

Contribute Question Example

If a respondent indicates they would like to contribute, then trigger a follow-up question prompting them for their contact information.


  • Collect Additional Suggestions

Lastly, use an open textbox question to collect any other suggestions for the event. Some respondents may skip this question but you may get a few golden nuggets that you did not think of.


Certainly some of the above questions could be asked in a pre-event survey, and that is fine. But determining these event details earlier rather than later will save you much headache and stress!

Event Planning

You still have a lot to do to organize your event but knowing what your audience wants and expects, puts you on the path success!

Nurture your leads by keeping them informed of event developments. After they have registered, and if necessary, follow up with a pre-event survey to determine how you can best accommodate them during your event. We will talk about that in another article!

Related Article:
How To Optimize Your Event Registration Form Like A Web Marketing Pro

Tell us if you used an event planning survey for your last event and what questions you asked to make your event a success. What would you do differently for your next event?

Written by

Sandy McKee

Sandy McKee is a digital marketer with over 10 years of experience in SEM, SEO, and social media marketing. She is a lover of books, fine food, and a mother of 2.

Join the Conversation
  • Latasha Patrick

    Excellent article. Thank you. It’s like a survey blue print.

    • sgizmo

      Glad to hear you found it helpful!

  • Latasha Patrick

    Excellent article. Thank you. It’s like a survey blue print.

    • sgizmo

      Glad to hear you found it helpful!

  • Scott Casper

    I think I already know the answer (no!), but is there a way that we can allow one viewer to submit their registration info, and rather than submitting / leaving, they can submit and register another person, without starting over on the main link?

    • sgizmo

      Scott, thank you for your question. We do not have a way to do this, at this time. While SurveyGizmo does have functionality to accomplish this, the data would become difficult to manage, and may not meet your needs.