Feedback forms, or audience surveys, are a great way of engaging your community and learning how you can better serve your audience at any point of the process.
When is a good time to collect feedback?
- When you are seeking to learn about your audience
- When you are contemplating a change within your organization that you want your audience to weigh in on
- When a work is in progress and you want feedback about the artistic output
Start with what you want to learn and the questions will follow.
What is the best method of learning from your audience - paper, online, or interview? This will depend on what your needs and goals are.
The benefit of an online survey is that the information is automatically processed and categorized, and doesn’t require the extra step of inputting data.
The benefit of a live survey is that you can more directly appeal to people about how their efforts will benefit the company and make an impact,. Furthermore, it’s not something they can put off until later; they are there, in the moment, and are more likely to do it and hand it in.
An interview is great because it allows for more specific details and follow-up questions, though people may not be as truthful if they are being asked to identify themselves or are being directly recorded.
How long should your audience survey be? Depends on who you’re asking and why. If you’re doing an online survey, it’s best practice to tell the people you’re reaching out to about approximately how long it will take to fill out.
Anonymity allows people to be more honest, but getting contact info allows your database to grow. If you are looking for hard hitting feedback or a response about a workshop, anonymity may be more useful. If you are seeking more general info, however, asking for contact details could be an opportunity to connect with audiences.
Maximize your responses
Providing an incentive is one way. Some companies do a draw, either at the end of the surveying process (such as the run of a show), or every night, for those in the audience who took the time to fill it out, with one person going home with a prize. Other incentives include an automatic gift for those who fill one out: a button, a snack, etc. Another approach is directly approaching audiences individually, either before the show or at intermission, and connecting with them about how valuable their feedback would be. Some companies also build time in for surveys/feedback into the show, typically at the end.
Processing information (software)
You’ll likely want to use some online software to collect your information. There are lots of free options online - here are three:
- Google Forms is something that you already have access to with a Google account. Google Forms can be private or public, and sync with Google Sheets to automatically collect responses. This is a good option if you’re asking basic questions and only need to use multiple choice, multi-select, and open-answer formats.
- PollDaddy is a good one that works with WordPress and allows you to embed your survey into a website. Another benefit is offline data collection, which you do by downloading the PollDaddy app, and then you can collect responses on a street corner, at a park, or wherever your audience is. PollDaddy doesn’t allow data exporting, meaning you can only see responses in the aggregate. This view is sufficient if you’re just looking for the big picture.
- Survey Monkey does a great job of processing the information, coming up with stats, and helping you find the threads of the results you’re looking for or didn’t expect to find. It has really straightforward user interface, but if you want anything other than a basic survey, there are costs associated with upgrading their services.
Don’t ask for information you don’t need! Typically, the most effective surveys are short and to the point, so really scrutinize why you are asking the questions you’re asking and how that information can or will be used.
Using your data
- Audience stats are helpful for making a case to granting bodies about all kinds of things. Some examples include a case for the diversity of your audience or a case to local businesses that people come from outside the area to see the show and spend money locally while they're there.
- These stats are also helpful with filling out the statistics portion of CADAC. Audience responses to your artistic output may help shape the next steps of the project, which can also be useful for grants.
*Audience feedback regarding a change within the company may give you a stronger sense of what is important to them and help shape your decisions.
- Of/By/For All has created a free, simple, step-by-step guide to collecting high-quality participant data. You can use it to create a plan, build a survey, and start collecting data right away. Download the toolkit here.
- Leading Practices: How to Build Accessible Surveys A great list of considerations for making accessible surveys by Alchemer.