Thursday, September 3, 2009

How Much is Enough?

The following case history might be helpful to you, if you're trying to develop a questionnaire for your next event.

Question:

How many questions should I ask in a session?


Answer:

Ask only the ones that are most critical to you achieving your goals for the session – insights that drive actions! Less is generally more!


The goal is to ask only the most important, questions that are catalysts for thought and action. Once you have established your requisite baseline data, move up to questions that would not normally be asked without the response being anonymous. Or, it might be the follow-up “Why” questions that provide the deep insights you seek. Or, it may be that there is one truly important question. If so, ask it prior to any discussion and ask it again at the end of the session.

For example, we were hired by a large networking company to provide ARS services at their client seminars in Paris and Munich. They brought together their European clients. They wined and dined them in their typically gracious and wonderful style. The way they treated their audience was important to the audience’s performance within the ARS process (the principle of reciprocity is a powerful one which I will cover in a future article). The good news is that the host could rightfully expect the beautifully treated guests to sit through a lot of questions. The really bad news is they could expect them to be equally polite and give their host company the valueless polite responses that they believed the host was looking for.

The client was new at ARS, but understood the value of using the technology to gather instantaneous responses from their customers. What they didn’t realize was that the interactive process itself, empowering their customers to be heard and having their opinions valued, actually creates customer satisfaction.

They had a really hefty eighty (80) questions to ask. I was fearful that even in an extended session that the audience would simply loose interest and stop responding, so the questions had to continue to be relevant and of interest to the audience in order to provide any mutual value and enable success. If the questions did not teach them anything about themselves, they would simply stop responding. So, in part the questions were a discovery process for the audience. It is vital to keep the audience engaged throughout the process and interested in its progression.

We handled this by asking the basic demographics, so we knew the geographic location, size and type of company they each represented. There was almost no discussion planned after the question was asked, so we timed the questions (simply by reading them aloud) and added 15 seconds for the audience to respond.

A key piece of advice is to group questions by topic and then organize them from the most important topic to least important topic. This insures inclusion of the most important questions and allows the least important questions at the end of any topic to be dropped if we are lagging behind and need to make up time.

After going through the series of foundational questions, we were able to discover the most important question, ask it in an ad hoc manner and capture the real-time feedback – this is the inherent power of our approach to ARS.

The client was trying to discover ways to increase customer satisfaction as well as wallet-share of their annual IT spend. They decided to focus on a specific product line that was enjoying success. The product line in question worked in conjunction with a product not made by the client. We added one impromptu question:” If we made the companion product, would you buy it from us, or continue to buy from your current supplier?” The response happily was that they would prefer to buy both devices from their host.

By leveraging the power of a highly interactive session with facilitation and ARS at the core, the client launched a new product. Further, armed with the demographics, we also knew by cross-tabulating several factors (geography, size and type of business) who would buy the product – a process that would normally be a multi-month and very costly exercise. This was a slam dunk for the client and they clearly saw the benefits of laying the foundation quickly and then moving quickly and dynamically to the most important questions.

How many questions should I ask in a session?

There is no correct number of questions to ask — as long as the most meaningful one is found. The key to the interactive question process lies in understanding the new expanded boundaries of what each audience may be asked and answered truthfully. In this case it was exactly eighty one.


With over 30 years of experience in helping clients achieve their meetings goals. I am passionate about the power of insight. If I can help your firm discover this power, please contact me.

Alan Warshaw
President
Quick Tally® Interactive Systems, Inc.
Direct Dial: 310.306.4930


About Me

After graduating from New York University with a degree in Communications, Alan attended the New School for Social Research, Graduate School at N.Y.U. and the Master’s Program in Cinema at U.C.L.A. Following his service in the U.S. Army, Alan was employed by Doyle, Dane and Burnbach Advertising Agency. He worked in the U.S. and Europe in the feature motion picture production business. He was employed by Quick Tally Interactive Systems for one year prior to acquiring the company. He has owned and run the company for almost three decades and has pioneered in the manufacturing of ARS equipment and providing interactive event services. In addition to US State and Federal Government Agencies, America's leading companies, associations and television networks, he has also worked for events clients in the EU, New Zealand, Hong Kong Thailand and Dubai.