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March 10, 2014

Extravaganza Evaluation Reflections

by tbuegler

E2014RoomExtravaganza 2014 is in the history books.  The final hotel bill has been paid, and most of the random boxes of leftover stuff have been crammed back into the warehouse at the Network’s Global Headquarters (my basement).

And, we’ve been pouring through the Extravaganza evaluations.

Thank you to all of you who shared your thoughts, feelings and experiences from this year’s event.  44.8% of you took the time to fill out an Extravaganza evaluation form.  That’s a tremendous return rate.  I think it shows the deep level of care that people have for the Network and the Extravaganza.  It reminds me that the E isn’t just “something we go to,” rather it is a community to which we belong; it is renewal, it is education and it is networking.  On behalf of those of us who work on the project, we are very grateful for your commitment to the E, and especially to those who took the time to fill out the evaluation form.

This year, for the first time, we use a tool called a “Net Promoter Score” as an overall evaluation.  The possible range of Net Promoter Scores is -100 to +100.  Anything above a 0 is generally considered good.  Above 50 is considered very good; Above 70 is amazing.  The Extravaganza in 2014 scored a 78.

Another question we pay a lot of attention is the question of “On a scale of 1-10, was the Extravaganza worth the money spent?”  This year this question rated an 8.96, the highest score the event has ever received.  We feel very good about that! In 2013, the score for this question was 8.56.

As we’ve gone through the comments, there have been a few themes that have surfaced that I think deserve an acknowledgement, or a bit of a response.

  • A consistent theme was how much people appreciated the Hyatt Hotel.  It was a good property, in a good location, with great space.  E-goers really appreciated the meal “deals” and “discounts” that the hotel had put together.  That’s great!  Choosing a hotel property is always a bit nerve-wracking.  One of the things we’ll be able to do at future hotels now is to point to what the Hyatt in St. Louis did as a model for offering discounts.  Hopefully that will help to provide affordable meals in the near future.  It was also helpful that there were a lot of restaurants in close walking distance.  From a leadership perspective, we also really appreciated working with the hotel.  They did a great job.
  • Folks who were forced into the overflow hotel at the Drury Plaza loved it.  Folks at the Sheraton…wished that they were at the Hyatt.  Yep.  We know.  When we book space at the hotel, we are pretty conservative in our contracts because we con’t want to wind up “short” on the rooms we guarantee.  Then we’d incur stiff penalties.  And we’ve been on a growth trend in the last few years.  We are ratcheting our number of contracted rooms every year.  Hopefully we can avoid this in the future.
  • The main stage music had issues.  The concept of doing the “open-source” music remains one that we really liked.  It didn’t quite pull off like we’d hoped it would this year, though the musicians themselves did a very good job.  We haven’t given up on the concept necessarily, but if we do it again in the future, we’d probably do it differently.
  • 95% of people loved the “Ted Talk” format of the main stage speakers. About 5% really hated it.  There was no middle ground.  I think it’s interesting that two people can be sitting side by side at an event and have totally different experiences.
  • “There were too many changes from what was printed in the program book, especially with workshops.”  We will keep working on making this better.  Also, some of the workshop room sizes were too small.  We tried to guess which workshops would best fit in which rooms.  Sometimes we guess wrong.  In the past, we have toyed with the idea of people pre-registering for workshops, or a track of workshops, but generally people have told us that they prefer the flexibility and freedom of deciding “on the spot.”
  • “I wish more meals had been provided.”  Us too.  This is largely a budget issue.  The meals through the hotel are very expensive.  The hotel gives us the meeting space for free, based on a minimum amount of catering that we’ll buy.  So when we pay for a meal, we are really paying for the food, the service, and also also space.  That’s how the hotel makes it’s money.  So we could charge much more and provide more meals.  But we choose to charge less in registration fees, provide the meals we can and let you buy the other meals on your own at local restaurants.  It’s cheaper for you that way.
  • People loved the number and the variety of exhibitors who were at the event, and how the exhibit space “worked.”  We agree.  The space was really good.  We’re going to learn from this and work to emulate the vibe of that space every year, as much as we can.
  • A question that came up was “How do I volunteer to help with the E?”  Great question!  The Extravaganza has both E-Team members (planners) and E-Volunteers (doers.)  Every year new folks come in to both groups.  Often, people who have been E-volunteers, move into E-Team roles.  As specific needs come up on each team and the working groups, we pull new folks into these roles.  We’ll post requests for help as they come up on Facebook and on the website.  Watch for more information there.

The total evaluation report was 38 pages long.  So we’re not going to respond to every thought here.  But these were the themes that came up consistently throughout the evaluation forms.

The last question I want to highlight:  “I will be back next year.”    87% said “yes” and 13% said “I might take a year off.”  No one…not one person…said “no.”

Thanks again to all of you for being a part of the E!

Peace,
Todd

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