Reimagining a “straightforward” conference evaluation leads to exciting shifts
How Colorado Covering Kids and Families both improved their conference experience and how they work as a team
“Now we are meeting needs of attendees that we didn’t even recognize as needs before,” Liz Tansey tells us. Read on to see how we redefined their conference evaluation to get so much more from the effort.
Introducing Covering Kids & Families
Colorado Covering Kids and Families (CKF) exists to improve how Coloradans access and retain affordable health coverage. As part of this work, they host the Building Better Health Conference, which is focused on supporting health insurance enrollment by bringing together Colorado insurance enrollment assisters, brokers, community-based organizations, and advocates for two days of in-person training and networking.
What they did
Expand their evaluation efforts, allowing them to meet their conference attendee needs in new and exciting ways
As the host of the Building Better Health Conference, CKF is required by the conference funder to complete an evaluation each year. In the past, CKF met the requirement with a post-conference survey focused on session topics for the next year.
In 2017, they asked us to put together a proposal exploring what it would like to become their new evaluation partner. We presented them with a menu of options for how we might expand the evaluation effort to generate more actionable insights. Excited by these new ideas, together we embarked on a journey that improved the conference and weaved in some new ways of thinking about evaluation in along the way.
How we did it together
Think differently. Act with intention.
Together, we evolved their evaluation approach from this “thing you do at the end” to an intentional learning process woven throughout their work, from beginning to end.
Integrate evaluation before AND after.
In addition to the post-conference survey, we added proactive elements during the planning stage, reaching out and asking questions of their attendees to understand what people want.
Involve a larger team of stakeholders.
We connected with the entire conference planning committee to understand what they needed to learn from an evaluation. More voices meant a breadth of ideas and created buy-in, which made a huge difference.
Lead a learning conversation, rather than just reporting the data.
With the event still fresh in their minds, we facilitated an engaging conversation about the evaluation insights with the full conference planning committee. Everyone left with clear ideas about next steps.
Positive shifts to both the conference experience and the internal culture and skills of the team
Together, we dug deeper with the evaluation than ever before. As a result, the CKF team had insights into much broader needs. They felt confident making simple, easy changes that had a big impact on the conference as a whole.
Improve the two-day event as a whole, not just the session topics. From moving all broker-related sessions to one day, to changing the room layout to improve mobility issues, the CKF team makes simple changes that have a huge impact on the experience of the conference overall.
Clarity and confidence in what happens next. The combination of the report and the learning session conversations lead the CKF team to feel certain in what actions to take, based on the evaluation findings.
Embracing evaluation as part of the work instead of an afterthought. The CKF team has built new habits, weaving intentional conversations into the monthly Planning Committee meetings. “It's not a big thing that anyone has to prep for, just a shift in how we work as a team that has has a big impact,” says Liz.
A shift in attitude comes with learning new skills. Liz went from feeling intimidated to excited about evaluation. She felt confident in applying the skills she learned throughout this project to other parts of her work.