A survey is not the answer to everything – #FoMWebinars follow up

After our awesome #FoMwebinars session ‘Evaluate, Don’t Validate!’ on 27 April, the team got talking. Our presenter, Sheena Muncie from Scotinform, coined the phrase ‘a survey is not the answer to everything’ and we agree! Although they’ve got their place, how many of us have lost the will to live half way through some mega questionnaire!? If you’ve got the right audience (who’ll be happy to fill in a survey) and the capacity to assess all the responses afterwards, a survey is a fab, in-depth way to find out people’s thoughts. However, if you’re short on either of these elements, you might want to consider trying a different tack.

So we started talking about what evaluation techniques we’ve come across that we thought were brilliant or that encouraged us to give feedback.

Before you start

Now I do feel that I should caveat this with a warning. Sheena reminded us that ‘…evaluation shouldn’t be an afterthought’ and that means a wee bit of planning will be in order before embarking on any evaluation activity. To get the full background, have a peek at the video of the full webinar, but in a nutshell you should consider:

  • what it is you’re wanting to find out (and from whom?)
  • what resources you have (do you have the time/money/staff to see the activity through?)
  • what you already know (and therefore don’t have to find out)
  • what you’re going to do with the information once you have it (bunging it all in a pile is a no-no).

So, with this in mind, how can you find out what you want to know and make it fun for your visitors?

Our three top picks

The ‘tearing’ technique

A few years ago, the Fringe by the Sea used an amazing technique to measure their visitors’ attitudes to their festival. They printed up a postcard with a question and responses along each edge. Each response was marked on the card and visitors were simply asked to tear the postcard at the appropriate answer. Quick, simple, amazingly fun and a completely novel idea! We didn’t think to grab a spare at the time, but we’ve mocked up an example to demonstrate…



The target technique

We adapted this from an example by Voluntary Arts Wales, and use this at our conferences. The technique involves producing a target and dividing it into sections. Visitors or participants are asked to score activities by placing stickers/post-its/magnets (all depends on what your target is made of and how big it is!) in each section with those nearest the bullseye being the best and those furthest away, the worst.

We find that the results are really easy not only to assess at the end of the activity but also to see how things are going throughout the day. You’re looking for lots of colour towards the middle!


Vox pops

For those with a little more technology, or even just a smartphone at their disposal, you might want to try collecting vox pops on the day. Ask one question and film/record people’s responses. You can always post these on social media afterwards (providing, of course, you have sought permissions from those you’ve filmed).


Combine and conquer!

These are just a small sample of the kind of techniques you can use to your advantage when evaluating your activities. We would love to hear about some of the creative ways you get feedback from your visitors and we’ll feature these in a follow-up blog this month. You can email us at Inform@museumsgalleriesscotland.org.uk or tweet us at @MuseumsGalScot. Oh – and don’t forget – whatever evaluation techniques you are using, always check your social media to see what people are saying about you online. It can be really eye-opening. Best of luck and happy researching!

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