Asking Demographic Questions in Post-Event Surveys

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When and how to ask demographic questions

How old are you? Where do you live? How much do you earn?

Rather invasive, isn’t it? Demographic questions are quite personal and many people aren’t thrilled about answering them. At the same time, demographic questions can be extremely valuable to researchers.

If you’re sending out a post-event survey, you may wonder whether you should collect your guests’ demographic data like age, gender, and so on. On the one hand, you’d like to learn as much as you can. On the other hand, you don’t want respondents to get discouraged and quit the survey.

You have two key decisions to make. One is whether to include demographic questions in the first place. The second one is how best to ask them if you do.

In order to help you make these decisions, try to answer the following.

Will I actually use these demographic questions?

This seems like a no-brainer - of course you will! But is that true? You might imagine doing a detailed analysis of these demographic questions and segmenting your guests based on it.

However, there’s a big difference between seeing the potential value of demographic data and having a plan to actively extract this value. If your motivation for asking demographic questions comes down to, “Let’s just collect this data to maybe use it at some point in the future," you should consider dropping these questions altogether.

Working with demographic data takes some effort, so if you currently don’t have the time, resources, or the strategic focus to do so, it’s best to avoid collecting it.

Are the demographic questions “need to know" or “nice to know"?

If you’ve decided to ask demographic questions, the next step is to identify how critical they are. Does your post-event survey heavily depend on identifying different guest groups or is demographic data simply adding extra value?

For instance, if your key goal is to organise specialised events for e.g. different age groups, this demographic data is a “must have." If, on the other hand, you’ll only be using demographic insights to slightly tweak your event promotion efforts, you can probably live with some people skipping these questions.

Do I care about the survey response rate?

Here’s a good rule of thumb: The more questions you ask, the fewer people will complete your survey. Knowing that, ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve with your post-event survey. Do you want to get as many guests as possible to review your event? Or are you okay with some people dropping off, as long as you get a more thorough picture of those who do finish the survey?

Answering the above will give you an idea about whether to include demographic questions in your post-event survey. But how and when do you ask these questions?

Asking the demographic questions

There’s some debate about whether to place demographic questions at the beginning or the end of your survey. Asking such questions first may alienate some people and lead to a lower response rate. On top of that, it may influence how people answer the survey by priming them with their own demographic responses.

Your move here depends on how you’ve answered the above questions. If demographic data is critical and you have a plan for analysing it, make the demographic questions mandatory and consider placing them at the beginning of your post-event survey. Sure, you’ll risk losing some respondents, but those who’ll power through will give you a wealth of information.

But if demographic data isn’t absolutely critical to you, our advice is to either drop the demographic questions completely or make them optional and place them at the very end of the survey. This way, you’ll capture the main answers even if demographic questions make people quit the survey at a later point.

If you’re feeling creative, you can opt for a hybrid approach and ask a few must-have demographic questions at the beginning and then follow up with less important ones at the end.

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