I am a big fan of post-webinar surveys. They are a great way to check on the effectiveness of your content, gauge audience satisfaction, and gather additional information that can assist in lead qualification. Many (if not most) webinar technologies allow you to add a survey as part of the webinar setup or redirect to an external survey site once the webinar concludes. But almost every survey implementation includes hidden caveats that can trip you up. It is worth knowing what to look for and how to work with your technology's limitations.
1) WILL EVERYONE SEE THE SURVEY?
Some technologies (such as WebEx and GoToWebinar) install application code on each attendee's computer and execute it when they join the webinar. Running a PC program has one huge advantage with regard to surveys… The program knows when it gets shut down and can execute special code at that time. So an attendee can leave the webinar early by closing the webinar window and the software can show them the closing survey.
If your webinar technology runs entirely inside a browser window and proudly advertises "No downloads!" (such as Adobe Connect or AnyMeeting) then it can't do anything if an attendee closes the browser window. Once the browser is closed, the webinar application stops instantly and there is no way to interrupt the process and display the survey. (In case you are wondering, that little dialog box you sometimes see that says "Do you really want to leave, or do you want to stay on this page?" is a standard browser utility and has no power other than to display a text message. Otherwise nasty sites could force you to never leave them!). This means that you are likely to get fewer responses and be biased towards more positive results -- The people who hated your webinar and closed their browser early don't get a chance to give you a negative comment.
2) CAN YOU LINK RESPONSES TO INDIVIDUALS?
If your webinar software lets you create and display a survey as part of the webinar setup and operation, it should "know" who is answering. You shouldn't have to ask attendees to fill out their name and email again inside the survey. Responses should be collated along with the rest of attendee details in post-webinar reports so you have everything about them available at a glance. "Beowulf Aandersen entered at 3:17pm, left at 3:24pm, had an IP address in Sweden, and gave us a negative satisfaction rating on the survey." From the attendee perspective, they have already identified themselves upon entering the webinar… they shouldn't have to do so again. And the last thing you want to do as a webinar coordinator is manually synchronize two reports to merge the data for analysis.
But this leads to another problem…
3) CAN YOU COLLECT ADDITIONAL RESPONSES LATER?
It's really useful to be able to send out a link to your survey as part of your follow up emails. "In case you didn't have a chance to complete our survey during the session, you can still give us your feedback at this link." Using third-party survey products is an easy way to accomplish this (I often use SurveyMonkey). But now you have to ask respondents to enter their name and email as part of the survey information. And you lose the ability to link responses back into your webinar reports. Everything is separate.
The ideal situation would be for the webinar software to insert a personalized link in each follow up email that automatically identifies the respondent who uses that link. It could then combine the submitted data back into the webinar data records for consolidated reporting. I can't think of a product with this capability off the top of my head (please add a comment if you are a vendor who does this!).
4) CAN YOUR SOFTWARE HANDLE DUPLICATE RESPONSES?
Webinato is an example of a webinar product that allows you to set up a survey inside the product. You can display the survey inside your webinar session (maybe as the last thing attendees see while you finish up your Q&A). You can also set the survey to display automatically when the webinar is ended or when a person leaves the session "smoothly" (by using a command button rather than just closing the browser window). A problem arises when someone fills out the survey inside the session and then sees the same survey presented after the session ends. They may believe their initial response didn't get recorded, so they complete the form again. Webinato gets confused in this case. It records the last (updated?) response for each individual, but counts all of their submissions as part of the cumulative totals. You can easily end up with a report showing 50 individual responses and 75 votes in the cumulative summary!
That is a very specific use case situation, but you could run into a similar situation by allowing follow-up responses as in #3 above. If someone fills out the survey a second time, do their responses get added to or updated in their previous entry?
In most cases there is nothing you can do as a webinar host to affect the way surveys are managed in your chosen technology. All you can do is have a good understanding of exactly what happens in these different cases so you know how to interpret the data you receive, what work you need to do during your reporting, and can make intelligent decisions about how to introduce and give instructions for your surveys. Vendors, this is one of those areas where you have the opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition by giving a richer and more robust implementation. Please do leave comments if you are proud of your survey functionality!