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Musings from a First-Time Attendee/New CLE Director

Posted By Allyson Felt, J.D., Director of Continuing Legal Education, Nebraska State Bar Association, Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Allyson Felt, J.D., Director of Continuing Legal Education, Nebraska State Bar Association

In July 2019, ACLEA hosted its 55th Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois. It was my first ever ACLEA event – and my first month on the job as the new CLE Director for the Nebraska State Bar Association. By the time ACLEA rolled around, I had been at my new post for three weeks. Needless to say, I had a lot to learn.

Before taking the position as CLE Director, I was a practicing attorney for several years. I knew why CLE was important to me individually and to the profession. However, I had no idea how much work went into planning each CLE, whether it be a one-hour webinar or a multi-week program. Thankfully, I was able to attend the ACLEA New Member Orientation and CLE Bootcamp. The Bootcamp was incredibly helpful to me, especially being so new to the position.  The Bootcamp provided CLE ideas, ways to discover new customers, and accreditation advice along with many other topics. I really enjoyed meeting my fellow newbies, and it was helpful to know that everyone had some of the same questions I did.

The rest of the Annual Meeting was just as useful as the Bootcamp. We discussed engagement in learning, thoughtful marketing strategies, and tech tools to make learning bigger and better. I attended the State & Provincial Bars SIG luncheon as well, and I got to meet my counterparts from other states around the country. It was incredibly interesting to hear more about their experiences and how certain court cases and current events have impacted their bar associations.

Overall, the planning team put together an amazing conference. The event staff did an amazing job, and the venue was great – perfectly located on the Chicago Riverwalk. I met some incredibly friendly people from all over the world, and I can truly say that I was better prepared for my new position having attended the Annual Meeting.

One topic that came up a lot at Annual Meeting was event evaluations/surveys and feedback from attendees. We all encounter the same problems as CLE providers – how do we give our attendees what they want if we don’t know they want it? Survey results are incredibly helpful when planning a CLE or reviewing who to use as a speaker, but it feels nearly impossible to get responses. (Full disclosure: I have major guilt over the numbers of surveys I failed to return as a CLE attendee prior to taking my current position. I have learned my lesson and now respond to every survey I receive – CLE or otherwise.)

Here are a few tips that may help improve surveys and responses:

  • Less is more: The surveys do not need to be complex or verbose – a few simple questions will work wonders. Keep in mind that the attendees are very busy, and they have already taken the time to attend the CLE program. Though we as providers may want to know what attendees thought about each specific component about a program, asking fewer questions can actually garner better feedback overall.
  • Keep it simple: Attendees are less likely to answer a question they don’t understand. If they do attempt to answer, the responses may not be accurate. For example, asking attendees to rank something on a scale of 1 to 10 without telling them which number is worst or best will cause confusion. An attendee may write 1 (worst) when they mean 10 (best). Use words over numbers. Instead of “Please rate the speaker on a scale of one to 10,” try “How engaging was this speaker?” with answers like, “extremely engaging, very engaging, somewhat engaging, not so engaging, not at all engaging.”
  • Do the work for them: Attendees will be more likely to respond when the work is done for them – meaning, don’t ask only open-ended questions. Providing them with a box to check or click instead of requiring them to write a lot will net response better numbers.  For example, a question like, “Please rate the quality of the program” with provided answers like, “excellent, good, fair, or poor” will be a quicker and easier response for an attendee than a question like, “Please tell us your thoughts on the quality of this program.” Adding a line for additional comments after each simple question will still provide attendees with space to add more detail if they wish.
  • If you want to know something specific, ask: Perhaps you want to know about a specific venue or time of year for an event, or you may want to know if attendees would like to have a shorter program on this topic. Ask! Give them a “yes” or “no” option, and you will likely get a response.
  • Anonymity is key: Though there are many attendees who have zero issue with sharing their feelings, some attendees – especially those giving negative feedback – do not want their names to be known to the program planning team or speaker on feedback. Unless required by a jurisdiction to do so, allow attendees the ability to submit their feedback anonymously. The answers obtained will likely be far more honest and a better picture of the attendees’ true opinions.
  • Add a personal touch:
    • For in-person events, paper is better than email. Get in front of attendees and tell them how important the survey is to improve programming. Provide the survey at the beginning of the event so they have as much time as possible to fill it out. Physically hand them the survey instead of placing it at their table in a stack – stacks are easy to ignore, but a person handing a paper to you is not. Make eye contact and thank them for coming, then ask that they fill out the survey to provide feedback. Let them know that you read every piece of feedback and use it for planning future events. Stand up and mention the survey at the beginning of the program, at the end of the program, and at any breaks in between. After the event is over and attendance has been recorded, send an email with a survey link for those who “forgot” to fill it out at the event. You may get some last-minute responses that way.
    • For webcast/online-only events, you are limited to sending email surveys to attendees. Mention the survey as often as possible. Include information about the survey in the introduction to the webcast, or have the speaker remind attendees in their introduction and closing.  Attendees may be more likely to respond if the speaker makes a direct request for feedback. After the event is over and attendance has been recorded, send an email with the survey. Another option is to have the survey pop up right after viewing the program. With this method, you can require answers in order to obtain the MCLE certificate.

With these tips, you should be able to increase responses to your surveys.

Tags:  aclea meeting  cle  first time attendee 

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