A survey is *still* not the answer to everything – return of the alternative evaluation techniques

After what we’re sure was a long and trying wait, we’re delighted to present the eagerly awaited follow-up to A Survey is not the Answer to Everything! Determined to avoid falling into the all too common ‘disappointing second album’ trap, we’ve been biding our time, doing our research, and are pretty confident that these evaluation techniques will blow your socks off.

*Quick disclaimer before we go any further: sometimes a survey actually is the answer, and all evaluation activity should be properly planned. See the first blog in this series, or watch the original #FoMwebinars session ‘Evaluate, Don’t Validate!’ to get up to speed.

And now, without further ado, here are some more of our favourite ways of finding out what visitors really think!

The ‘talk like a pirate’ technique

So inventive, and perfect if you happen to be planning a pirate-themed Festival of Museums next year. Woodcraft Folk in London has come up with a way to engage littlies and big kids (let’s face it – I’d get involved!). It involves attendees sharing something that made them go:

  • ooh (for things they liked)
  • aaargh (for things they didn’t like)
  • aharrr! (for new and interesting things)

Woodcraft Folk do this evaluation verbally, but it could easily be applied to, say, separate boards mounted on the wall with visitors asked to write answers on post-it notes.

The ‘boats’ technique

We really like this idea, which we’ve seen variations of at a number of different events. Pre-make – or supply the paper to make – three different colours of paper boats. Visitors can then make and float appropriately coloured boats depending on their experience. Green boats are for those that love the event, amber for ‘meh’, and red for those that aren’t so keen.

Boats might be very relevant to a few of the Festival of Museums-ers among you, or you can always swap in paper planes or other (easy) origami. You might want to skip the floating part though…

The ’emoji’ technique

This is one you might be familiar with if you’ve passed through airport security recently. Pick three or four emojis (or more of a selection covering the full range of emotions) and ask visitors to indicate how they have felt through the day. You could do this using printouts, by putting up some GIANT emojis and providing sticky dots or pins, or, if you’re feeling particularly high tech, by following the lead of airports around the world and using a tablet. This method is especially good if you are expecting any visitors who don’t speak English.

You could also mix it up a bit with black marker pens and yellow balls.

The ‘fill in the blanks’ technique

This technique is beautifully illustrated by iconic New York modern art gallery MoMA. Back in 2011, they started the ‘I went to MoMA and…’ campaign, where they provided visitors with an ‘open ended guest book’ in the form of postcards. Visitors then shared a story of their experience in any way they liked.

Do go online and see some of the responses – they’re gold!

The ‘any excuse to eat sweets’ technique

We came across this one at the AMA conference just last week! Attendees eat a sweetie (always a winner) and answer a question by popping the wrapper in the appropriate box. For a less edible but more reusable variation, we love the West Side Cinema’s ping-pongometer.

And there you have it! Another five evaluation techniques to add to your arsenal, or maybe this will inspire you to come up with a totally new way of evaluating your events. Either way, it’s never too soon to start thinking about your next event, and evaluation planning should always follow right behind.


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