Remember bringing home report cards to your parents? The joys of the A+ or the perils of a D (or worse)?

Nobody likes to receive a bad grade. But if you don't realize something is wrong, how can you improve?

In the grown-up world, we often must seek out our own feedback, and surveys are a great way to do that, especially for meeting and event planners.

Jessica Louttit, meetings coordinator at the Michigan Society of Association Executives, uses Survey Monkey to send out online surveys after every event the organization holds. Were members satisfied? Was it beneficial? Do they recommend any changes?

It gives her feedback for future events, but has an added benefit: It's good member relations.

"It adds value to their membership," Louttit said. "If a member gives us feedback, and we make changes based on that, they know their membership is valued. And were getting something out of it, too."

Survey Monkey is possibly the most well-known online evaluation software. But in late 2011, eval.me came on the scene introducing a bit of altruism into the process.

Instead of offering an iPad or other incentive to random survey respondents to increase the response rate, eval.me offers the opportunity to donate to charity. For every response a survey receives, the site charges the surveyor $1.25 -- $1 goes to charity and 25 cents to Eval.me.

"This charitable act improves response rates, quality of responses and the company's image in their customers eyes," the website reads.

And the respondents pick their preferred charity from a menu of participating organizations on the website. The cost may be an issue for organizations currently using free tools, but it is one more option to consider.

At Experience Grand Rapids, Convention Services Specialist Nina Fox sends out a 10-question survey to all meeting planners who recently hosted a conference.

"We're looking for ideas to help make Grand Rapids a great experience," Fox said. "Our aim is to improve anything we can."

"Surveys also provide an opportunity to seek testimonials or suggestions for new business," Fox said. "Our question includes, 'May we quote you?' so we can use the positive information in our marketing materials."

Some tips for structuring survey questions:

  • Keep the questions to a minimum to avoid "responder fatigue."
  • Only ask questions that provide useful information to the organization. Before you design the survey, ask yourself what your goals are and how you will act on the results.
  • Write simple questions using relaxed, informal language, and avoid questions that require more than one response at a time.
  • Ask non-biased questions that allow the attendee to share his or her true feelings. "How much did you love the keynote address?" is a leading question, while "Did you enjoy the keynote address?" is more neutral and likelier to lead to honest responses.
  • With multiple-choice questions, be sure to offer a range of responses that represent all types of reactions. A 'none of the above' or "I'd rather not say" option is good for covering all bases, and you can offer a comment box on multiple-choice questions for responders who want to give more information.