Top tips for engaging participants and volunteers in getting audience feedback...

August 9, 2016

In July, I had the pleasure of meeting the Royal Court’s inspiring Young Producers. They were about to see the culmination of months of their hard work with the impending launch of 2016’s Open Court festival.

This festival sees young producers, writers and artists aged 15 – 24 take over the building and beyond through a range of debates, audio trails, installations and plays. Check out #Opencourt to see some of this exciting work in action.

My challenge was to support the producers in exploring how they could engage audiences with their work and develop fun ways to get audience feedback – essentially taking ownership for evaluating their own festival.

Whilst we often wear the evaluator hat, we also recognise that there isn’t always the time or resources to commission someone external. Neither is it always the right approach. It is really great to be able to support participants, who are co-creators of work for wider audiences, to develop skills to evaluate their own work.

At Open Court we had a really fun two hour workshop in which the Young Producers discussed what evaluation is, built confidence around approaching audiences and developed some exciting creative and digital tools. This got me reflecting on some key tips for supporting participants to get involved in evaluation.

  1. Encourage participants to think about motivations – ask them why finding out what audiences think is important. Why is it valuable to them?
  2. Dispense with the lingo. The terminology around both visitor research and evaluation can be dry and work-speaky. Keep it simple –‘finding out what our audiences think’ is a good start.
  3. Think about what your organisation is already doing. Participants’ skills may be best placed to gain rich qualitative feedback, which complements surveys or booking data.
  4. Highlight to participants how transferable these skills are – listening, interviewing, digital and creativity to name a few. Invest the most time in supporting participants verbal communication skills – I find participants can be most nervous about how to talk to audiences.
  5. Prepare to be inspired – your participants may know your audiences and environment even better than you. They will probably come up with some refreshing and new ideas for capturing feedback.
  6. Storytelling is key – encourage participants to frame evaluation as a way to tell the story of an event, display or show – who are the key characters, scenes, major events, conflicts; are there cliff-hangers or happy endings?