Amy Carroll » Speaking Tips » Using Pre-Event Surveys

Using Pre-Event Surveys

This is our second week of hearing from a 2012 Next Step Speaker Services client.  As I told you last week, one of the things that I treasure about coaching speakers is that I am continually learning from my clients.  

One week while I was working with Cheri Gregory, she began to tell me about how she often gives pre-event surveys to her audience.  I was so captivated with her stories and results that I asked her to share with you.  Today’s treat is a written explanation of how she implements the survey AND a moving video telling about how God used the survey for one event.

Please welcome my friend Cheri Gregory!

As a high school teacher, I get to know my “daily audience”–my students–before I try to tell them anything. The first few days of school are all about relationship-building, not content.

So I used to feel very uncomfortable arriving at a women’s event and immediately diving into my message. I didn’t know these ladies! They didn’t know me! How could I teach women I didn’t know?

The answer, thanks to technology, is that I can start getting to know my audience ahead of time via a pre-event online survey!

The first time I sent out an online survey prior to a retreat, I was just hoping to glean basic statistics about my audience: age range, how many were married/single, what age children they had. But as the survey results came in, I found the women sharing information far more powerful than percentages (although it was a great Friday night ice-breaker to share all sorts of “fun facts” they’d told me about themselves!)

I discovered what issues the women were (and weren’t!) struggling with, which allowed me to re-focus my messages on the areas of greatest need. Many women took the time to pour out their hearts in the open-ended “comment” sections, and I wove many of their authentic quotes into my talks. I did so anonymously, of course, but always gave credit with a segue like “As one of you here today said…”  (And I can’t tell you how many women later made a bee-line to me, beaming from ear-to-ear as they exclaimed, “You used what I wrote!”)

I discovered one unexpected benefit of the pre-event survey when one woman told me, “When I received your survey, I clicked on the link out of duty; I’m a rule-follower. But as I read the questions, I got more and more excited about meeting you, because I could feel your heart for women.” It hadn’t occurred to me that not only do I get to know the attendees via the pre-event survey, but they start getting to know their speaker, as well!

A few FAQs:

How far in advance do you start the survey?

My preference is at least two weeks. When I’ve launched a week prior to a retreat, it feels rushed, for me and the attendees.

How do you send out the survey?

It depends on whether or not the retreat coordinator is comfortable giving me the e-mail addresses of the registrants. If she is, I create a unique mailing list and send the survey link in a one-time-only* e-mail. If not, then I give her the survey link and she sends it out to her group.

What about women who don’t have access to a computer?

I’ve offered paper copies but no retreat planner has ever taken me up on the offer. So I am aware that my survey samples are always incomplete, with a distinct technology access bias.

What percentage of the women respond?

As the results to the first survey poured in, I was stunned by how eager women were to respond to my survey! I’ve been thrilled to have a response rate of 60-90%, with 75% being a solid average.

What kinds of questions do you include in the survey?

I try to make most questions answerable via a mouse click: rating, multiple choice, yes/no, etc. But for every question, I do include a “comment” option with the maximum words allowed. The comments I do receive are invaluable.

My closing question is always the same:  “How can I pray for you in the days leading up to the retreat?” I spend far more praying over the specific requests than analyzing the other data. This is when my self-centered “I hope they like me” anxiety falls away and my heart breaks open to the needs of the women God’s called me to serve.

Could I see a sample survey?


If you’d like to see the kinds of comments and prayer requests I’ve gotten, feel free to e-mail me at [email protected], and I’ll be glad to send you a compilation of text-based responses.

(* I do not add any of the e-mail addresses to any mailing list, as this would be a serious breach of trust and a violation of anti-spam laws. I only add those who sign up for and intentionally “opt-in” to my mailing list.)

Cheri Gregory is a 40-something Christian speaker & writer; high school English teacher; Certified Personality Trainer; wife of a teacher/pastor/musician; mother of two teens; servant to three psycho cats & one ADHD Keeshond. In her copious spare time, she loves to shop, horseback ride, and scrapbook! Please visit Cheri’s blog by clicking here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. What a wonderful idea! I am finding as God has been opening more and more doors for speaking that oftentimes the contact wants me to come up with a topic separate from those I’ve done in the past and it is difficult when you have a wide audience of ages. I remember learning from the conference last summer about how important it is to keep your topic relevant to your audience. Thanks so much for this. I feel so blessed by all the ideas shared from Amy!

  2. This is such a great idea! Thanks so much! This would work great with parents prior to a workshop, class, or speaking engagement. GRRRRREAT idea!

  3. This is really fascinating. Thank you for sharing. This really enables you to definitely have a better feel for your audience. God bless you as you minister to women. Hester, 🙂

  4. Cheri, this is fabulous. I’m so proud of you and how you let God use you. The pre-conference survey is a powerful tool to prepare to serve the women. Thank you so much for sharing with us. May God continue to use you and richly bless your ministry.

    1. Heya Yvonne —

      Awww, thank you! “I’m proud of you” = such powerful words to my heart today.

      See you soon! 🙂

      In His Delight,


  5. Thank you for such a powerful means of crafting a message that an audience will truly appreciate and resonate with! I’d never thought about getting this critical feedback before and event.

    1. Heya Michelle!

      So glad you sensed the power that something so simple can have. For me, this has made the difference between fretting about me-me-me and focusing on Him-them-Him prior to a retreat. And I stumbled upon it because I wanted a bit of data (or so I thought!)

      Thanks for reading AND commenting!

      In His Delight,


  6. Great idea Cheri!

    What a wonderful way as a speaker to instantly connect with women you have never met before and lift them up in their daily lives!

    That’s impact!
    You are speaking TO them, not just speaking as a speaker.

    I have used this idea on a much smaller level in regards to when I am not speaking, but leading worship at a retreat or girls night out. Walking in to a group of women who I have never met before and leading worship can be very intimidating and feel like a shot in the dark. It’s important to know what worship styles they are used to and if they sing more praise songs, more hymns, or a combination of both. I also try to find out if there is a song they LOVE to sing so they will feel more comfortable with me as I begin to lead them in worship. A familiar song can warm the hearts of all and stir up a connection.

    Cheri, thanks for sharing this example. I am going to use it when I am speaking. Blessings to your ministry!

    1. Heya Ashley —

      I can’t imagine not speaking TO individuals…although now that I’m dabbling in solo performance, I’m learning what it’s like to be blinded by bright lights and just trust that there are humans out there somewhere! But that’s acting…when I’m speaking at a retreat, I don’t want to be a performer, I want to be me.

      My husband is the praise and worship leader at our church, and he’s got a gospel quartet and p&w band that travel. You’re so right about learning ahead of time what a group is used to and comfortable with…and finding out a song they love is such a great idea! Instant connection…safety…trust. So vital, since music is the 1st intelligence to develop and connects so immediately to emotion. I’m going to pass this along to my DH…I know he frequently wonders “What did we do wrong?” when they encounter a non-responsive congregation, and opening with one beloved song could make SUCH a difference!

      Blessings backatcha! Thank you for taking the time to read AND comment!

      In His Delight,


  7. Thank you for your generosity in sharing what works for you, Cheri. This is great information! I had never thought of doing a pre-event survey although I do a feedback sheet after the presentation. Blessings.

    1. Heya Julie —

      You are more than welcome! I need to get back to doing a feedback sheet…I used to ask “What one thing will you remember a month from now?” and that was always very eye-opening. (Why do I quit doing things that worked well? Hmmm…! 😉

      Thank you for investing the time to read AND comment!

      In His Delight,


  8. Cheri, this is such a great post!

    Whether a speaker is a seasoned veteran or a newbie, you shared some great ideas in this post that could help any speaker.

    I not only loved the way you survey your audience before you speak, but LOVED that you had them drowning out the lies we so often are told (and too often believe) with the Word of God (our only worthy and reliable thought Filter)! 🙂

    Thanks so much for sharing this today! LOVE it! 🙂

    1. Heya Steph!

      So glad you found value in it. Yes, this is one of my favorite retreat activities…nothing like hearing the voices of God’s girls raised together in proclaiming His word!

      Thank you for taking the time to read AND comment!

      In His Delight,


  9. Cheri, this is a wonderful idea. One way I connect with the women is through a letter I send a month or so before I am to speak. But that is just a one way communication…letting them know my heart and how I am praying for them. Your idea takes it a step further and I LOVE it. I especially think it’s wonderful that you use it to tailor your message…not change it…just tailor it. Thank you for sharing today.



    1. Wendy —

      I love your idea of a letter! How fun would it be to send a letter a month ahead and then follow it up with a survey 2 weeks later?

      I’m glad you caught the distinction between tailoring and changing my message. Initially, I was scared that I’d have to overhaul everything. But what’s happened, instead, is that the survey has given me early confirmation that “my” messages are direct answers to specific prayers…I am always in awe of how clear it is that God has been at work all along and is going before me.

      Thank you for taking the time to read AND respond!

      In His Delight,