Event Evaluation? It’s in the Ladies Toilets!

I love running events & I’ve been lucky enough to run a number of highly successful ones, most recently co-curating Cumbria’s first TEDx event, TEDxWhitehaven, with my son Luke.  I’m often asked how I evaluate the success (or not) of an event & there are a number of ways you can do this. The most effective,as I say in the title, is in the ladies toilet. More of that later though, let’s look first at some of the more “accepted” evaluation measures.

So you could evaluate on the number of attendees.  This is definitely a measurement that matters. After all if you haven’t attracted people you either haven’t got the content of your event right or you haven’t communicated that content effectively to your potential audience. Have you used the right kind of marketing? Are the social media platforms the ones your target attendees use? Unfortunately you may have got the marketing right & the content wrong in which case I’m afraid it’s back to the drawing board.

How about attendee evaluation? Of course you should survey your attendees afterwards & ask them if they’ve enjoyed the event. This can take some time & you do need to make sure you ask them the right questions though. It’s very easy if you’re setting up the survey yourself using free useful tools such as Survey Monkey  to ask questions which give you the answers you want rather than the ones you need. Get someone who’s not been involved in the event to take a look at the survey before you issue it. The great thing about running a TEDx event is that they do they survey for you, this prevents this kind of mistake & also should encourage honest feedback.

What about the conversations you have with attendees on the day? This is immediate feedback so you don’t have to wait for it but lets be honest who’s going to tell you to your face that they’re not enjoying the event you’ve spent months putting together? We were all brought up to tell those little white lies to spare people’s feeling weren’t we?

So that’s where the ladies toilets come in. Now I’m not being sexist, the men’s toilets may be just as informative but I’ve no access to them, perhaps the men reading this can let me know if they are as informative?

At every event I run when I visit the ladies toilets I keep very quiet & listen. Not in a creepy way & I’m aware I’m starting to sound a little odd here but when ladies visit the facilities they also tend to have a little chat with each other as they wash their hands, check their make-up etc & those conversations are what tell me I’ve got a success or failure on my hands. If they don’t know I’m there & they’re saying “Isn’t this great, I hope they run another one!” as they were at TEDxWhitehaven I can relax in the knowledge I’ve provided what they were looking for & hopefully more. This litmus test has never failed me so far, any time I’ve heard this conversation in the ladies the survey evaluation has come back with a high rating.

Now I’ve given my secret away I’m sure any ladies at future events will be checking the cubicles before saying anything & I’ll have to find another way to get immediate evaluation…….so how do you decide if your events a success? Do you have a stranger way of doing it than me? I’d love to hear about it.


  • David Ford

    Long ago, and far away – in another life – I had an intimate interest in musical events. I can confirm that the quality of the impromptu musical performance in the ‘Gents’ was a good yardstick for audience satisfaction.
    Glad your TED talk went well!

    • Pleased to know the gents is as informative as the ladies David! It was brilliant, totally addicted now

  • David Martin

    I was there and in fact I can confim it was a unisex toilet! Most disconcerting. It was a brilliant day – can’t wait for the next one.

    • It was indeed David, something which is becoming more common & yet whenever I was in there was only ladies present so I still could not comment on the informative ability of the gents 🙂