Monday, July 30, 2012

Convention 2012 Survey Results

Being the Director of Convention is a great job. I really enjoy planning one of the most anticipated events on the PA DeMolay calendar. I wouldn’t do the job if I didn’t get some satisfaction out of it. However, there are many times that being Director isn't fun at all. One of those times is when we ask for the yearly survey after Convention. It can be tough to take honest criticism, but I sincerely believe that it makes for a better Convention program. So, as I have done in the past, I am endeavoring to be as open and honest about the Convention program as I can be. I felt like this year’s Convention went pretty well. It appears that many of you felt it was okay, but there were some problems that I wasn’t aware of. Let’s review!

In total, we received 30 responses to our survey. Of those, five were from active DeMolays and 25 were from adults. This equates to just under one fifth of the attendees. This is an acceptable sample size for surveys, so I feel okay drawing some conclusions about the program (although the results are skewed to the adult perspective.) As with last year, I asked the attendees to rate the different parts of the event on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “terrible” and 5 being “outstanding.” In my eyes, a score of a 3 is average and acceptable. I would like to be above a 3, but I am willing to accept a 3 as decent score. Let’s start by looking at the graph.

You can click this graph to make it bigger.

So, what do I see when I look at this graph? Looking at the first number, I immediately think we had a slightly better than average Convention. This bar corresponds to the question “How would you rate your overall Convention experience?” The average was just under  3.79 out of 5. For comparison, last year we received a 3.75. That tells me that overall we did a decent job. There is still room for improvement, but people were mostly happy. The other score that I will draw your attention to is the last one on the chart, labeled “Composite.” The Composite score takes the scores given in all of the other categories and averages them for each person. In this case, the Composite score was just 3.70. I put more faith in the Composite score than I do in the Overall score. Why? People are generally more forgiving of the event as a whole. It’s easier to rate individual things poorly than the entire event. This helps provide insight as to how honest people were about their scores (meaning did they pad the first score a little bit so it didn’t seem like they hated the event, or did they rate the whole event low based on only one bad experience?) This year, the scores are almost equal, telling me that people were quite honest. The "Composite" average also gives me a baseline to work from when deciding if a particular event was scored above or below average.

The first score was for paintball at Ski-Rountop. This event averaged a 4.14 out of 5, which is much higher than we've received on similar events in the past. I only received one "complaint" about paintball, so I'm fairly happy with the event. After last year, we contemplated removing paintball from the Convention program, but this proves to me that it does remain a viable option.
Next up we have the Harley Factory tour. It received a 3 out of 5, which was generous on the behalf of the respondents. Their were some communications issues at the factory, resulting in some people having their tour delayed, or not being able to go at all. This was compounded with the rudeness of the staff at the factory. Thankfully, we worked out method to get everyone through, but I understand the reason for this score being low.

Speedway 94 turned out much better than I expected. With the rain in the area, I was quite worried that we wouldn't be able to do much. Their staff came through and got all but one track opened up, which was great. Also, I can honestly say that NASCAR driver Tony Stewart saved this event. His presence distracted people while the tracks were readied, making the down time easier to manage. With an average of 3.91, I feel comfortable looking for similar venues in the future - meaning places with go-karts and games, all in one.

The hotel party was a real gamble for us. With the increase in cost of amusement parks, we had to find another way to work some fun into the program. We've never "brought the party to the hotel," but I was quite pleased with the result. The inflatable attractions worked great, providing entertainment to both the young men and the adults. The game trucks were a smash hit! I've gotten several good comments on them. With a score of 4.04 out of 5, I would entertain doing this kind of event again if we are having trouble securing affordable entertainment.
Now we come to the low scores. I am very frustrated with the score the hotel received. It seems that no matter how many times I ask attendees to let me know of issues, I always hear about the problems after the event. This ties our hands in negotiating a discount, or trying to fix the problem. The score, a 3.32 out of 5, is deceiving. A large number of respondents complained that they found their rooms dirty or with mildew present. Several asked that we never return to this property again. With a response like that, I'm afraid that the Holiday Inn in York has been removed from our potential properties list for our next Central swing. We won't entertain returning for at least 6 years.

The food was our lowest score of all, coming in at a 2.96 out of 3. After reviewing the issues mentioned, I realized that the lowered score revolved around two problems - breakfast on Saturday and lunch on Saturday. It's often said that a Convention lives and dies on the food, so this is a major blow for me. The pancakes were not well received, with many people citing quality as an issue. The lunch was a different problem, with some folks not liking the lemon caper chicken. Banquet food is a major frustration, as you have to try to find something that both adults and kids want. We've tried going really plain, which causes the adults to complain that the food is bland. Every time we go the other direction, and add flavor, we get complaints that it's not kid friendly. We are in the process of selecting the food for 2013, so I'll keep this in mind. Another concern were those with special dietary needs. We will have an area on the registration form for 2013 to make a note of these. This DOES NOT mean that you can ask for a different meal just because you "don't like" what is being served. We will only honor changes that are vegetarian / vegan or medically necessary.

With a 4.29 out of 5, the workshop as presented by Bro. Chad Reichard worked out very well. Chad did a great job and this is one the highest workshop scores we've ever received. Hopefully we can continue to provide a workshop that both educates and entertains. Next year we are thinking of getting some players from the local AA baseball team to speak.

The ritual workshop was also well received, coming in just shy of 4.2 out of 5. "Dad" Brian Shaffer can take all the credit here, as he and his team put together a program that was both informative and entertaining. With ritual taking on a bigger focus here in Pennsylvania, I'm sure you'll see more of these types of workshops.

Last, but not least, we come to the luncheon and business meeting. This score rates how well these events were run and how smoothly everything flowed. Scoring a 3.79 perplexed me a bit. We've generally gotten very high marks on the speed with which we do the business of the organization. However, after a bit of thought, I realized the reason for the low scores - it was all the extras! This year we had a lot more special presentations, including collars, medals, and speakers. This made the session run a bit longer than usual. In general, it was still a good score, so I'm not going to fret too much.

The only other issue that came up in the comments was cost. Apparently there was some concern over the cost compared to the value. While I can't go into the detailed accounting of the event, I can tell you we broke just about even. PA DeMolay doesn't make any money off of Convention. Furthermore, a couple respondents asked about getting discounts on the cost through Grand Lodge or other means. The DeMopoly program will help with this by granting Chapters credit for completing Monopolies on their game board. Also, there are some other programs that haven't been announced yet, so stay tuned.

Whew - that was a lot! Where do we go from here? Well, next year is Erie, with the headquarters hotel being the Bayfront Sheraton. This is a fabulous facility that I think everyone will enjoy. As I have announced, this will be my last Convention as Director. Beginning in 2014, "Dad" David Labagh will take over as Director of Convention. He is looking at sites in Reading and Allentown for that year, as well as Gettysburg for 2015. As we lock in sites, we'll keep you updated.

Until next year...

Frat! ~ "Dad" Seth Anthony

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