A Quick Response to Your Comments in Extravaganza Evaluations

Story_LogoDear friends,

The Extravaganza team leaders have received and processed the results of this year’s E evaluations. There’s a ton of data. 42 pages. Single spaced. With a smaller font.

So I wanted to write a quick note to do two things:

First, I want to thank all of you for your feedback. 436 of you filled out our evaluation form. That’s 41% of Extravaganza participants. This is a tremendous response for an evaluation form.

This, by itself, tells us something: You care about this event. And, you want us to know what you think. You’re invested. You want this event to get better.

Thank you for that. Thank you for your commitment to the E; for your willingness to fill out the evaluation; for you investing your thoughts and feelings.

Second, I want to respond to some of the things that were mentioned in the evaluation. As we read through them, there were some themes that began to emerge that we think are important.   We want to recognize them, and in a few cases, explain some things.

So here are our observations:

  • Reading through evals like this are always fascinating. Sometimes I want to ask the question “were you people at the same event?”
    • Some of you love the band. Some of you can’t stand the band.
    • Some of you love the storyteller/actor/whatever. Some of you really didn’t.
    • Some of you loved the room set up. Others thought it was terrible

The variety of responses is really, really interesting.

  • People loved the Extravaganza. There are several “foundational questions that we ask from year to year, so we have a point of comparison. Here they are with their response history:
    • “How likely are you to recommend the Extravaganza to a friend?” On a scale of 1 (Not at all likely) to 10 (highly likely) the average score for this year’s E was 9.21. That’s amazing! Last year in St. Louis, the score was 9.28.
    • Another factor we look at is the “Net Promoter Score,” which evaluates how people feel about the event. Scores can rage from -100 to +100. Any score over 0 is considered good. A score above 50 is excellent. Extravaganza 2015 scored 74.
    • A question we pay close attention to is: “Was the Extravaganza worth the money spent?” The score and our history is:
      • 2015 Average score: 8.86
      • 2014 Average score: 8.96
      • 2013 Average score: 8.56
      • 2012 Average score: 8.59
      • 2011 Average score: 8.79
      • 2010 Average score: 8.00

Again, we’re very pleased with this score.

  • We also ask about the event schedule, the general sessions, the worship, the hotel, the exhibit area and much more. Again, generally we were really pleased with all of the scores.
    • The Marriott hotel did take some hits in the evaluation this year, which surprised us a bit. As event planners, our experience with the hotel was pretty good. However, there appeared to be kind of a customer service disconnect with the event participants. Comments were made about hotel hospitality and cost. We have taken these evaluation numbers and comments, copied them from our data and sent them back to the hotel, who was glad to receive the feedback.
    • Food was a theme that came up in the evaluations. Perhaps a quick explanation might be helpful:
      • For us to order and purchase food through the hotel as events is extremely expensive. Like crazy-expensive. The reason for this is that the hotel gives us the meeting space for “free” based on our meeting a catering minimum for the event. But they use catering to compensate then for space “rental.” So it’s not just the food that we’re paying for. When we sign the contract with the hotel, we guarantee that we’ll purchase a certain minimum amount from the hotel. We could order more and provide more meals. However, then we’d have to significantly raise the cost of the event to cover the cost of the meals. So we have a choice: We could provide more meals and charge you another $150-$200 for food (I’m not exaggerating) or charge you less and let you buy your own food at the food court.For example, for us to provide food at the Super Bowl party probably would have cost us a minimum of $30-$40 per person. I say, go buy your own snacks and bring them into the room to watch the game.We did provide the breakfast Sunday (which was fabulous!) and some other reception snacks here and there, but that’s about all we could afford on our budget.
      • Some folks were unhappy with the Renaissance Center restaurant hours and took us to task for not letting the restaurants know we were there.  Actually, we did let them know.  We gave them copies of our schedule.  But they will decide when to be open on their own.  Unfortunately we cannot control that.
    • There were folks unhappy with ELCA Youth Gathering housing assignments not being ready for the Extravaganza. We get that. We were disappointed too. I think that was the original plan. The Gathering even took out an ad in the E program book that said “get your assignments at our booth.” But that is a huge task, even more complicated this year by some of the challenges of where the hotels are located.

2 quick thoughts:

    • We’d hoped that the housing assignments would be ready, but it wasn’t possible. Let’s be sure to show the Gathering leadership (who works incredibly hard) some grace in getting these things put together. It’s imperative that this work be done well.
    • Please understand that while the Network and the E works in really close partnership with the churchwide offices and the Gathering, they are actually two different structures and organizations.
  • Some folks were unhappy that we didn’t give enough time for lunch on Saturday when a lot of the synods were doing their lunches. I understand this frustration. Please understand that the Extravaganza schedule is set first and synods pick where within the schedule they would like to do lunches. We will take a look at this element of the schedule for 2016.
  • The Regional receptions weren’t very highly evaluated, and there was feedback on them that was negative. Both the E Team and the Regional Facilitators will take a look at this structure for next year and see if there isn’t a better way to do it.
  • Some folks commented on changes in the schedule (mostly workshops) or some overlaps. Most of this took place because the larger-than-expected size of the event (a great problem!) caused us to have to make some changes and some of these were difficult to communicate. That’s something we’re going o work on.
  • The last question on the evaluation excited us. It was “I will be back next year” with 3 options:
    • “Count me in!” or “I might take a year or two off” received a total of 98% of the responses.
    • “No Chance” got 2%.

That’s an amazing percentage who want to be back at the E next year or in the very near future.

Any time you take great people and mix in a healthy dose of the Holy Spirit you get a great event. Thank you for being a part of it, and thanks for your feedback. We have read, and will continue to refer to, every word of it. If you have further thoughts, you can send them to me at todd@elcaymnet.org


Todd Buegler
Executive Director – ELCA Youth Ministry Network
Pastor – Trinity Lutheran Church; Owatonna, Minnesota

  1. This was a well written response to the eval form, and I just want to comment that this was one of the BEST Extravaganzas that I’ve been to over the last 20 years! Seriously the best large group presentations that I’ve seen…. the storytellers were fabulous! Every one of them. When Walt Wangerin came onstage I started to cry with joy! Thanks to everyone for putting on such a high class event. I know how much work goes into all the planning and preparation. Thank you!!


  2. Thanks Cindy! I too thought that overall the event went really well. I was also very excited to see Walt. I’d read pretty much everything he’d published over the years, but never had the opportunity to see him speak before. It was great to actually hear him!
    Take care!


  3. This was my first E, and I was not disappointed! I used the story/art combo in our youth Sunday, and the workshops I and my friends attended will be USED! That’s why we were there right, to learn now things to USE in our ministries??? Thanks! I will be back eventually!


  4. […] In following up and responding to the surveys and evaluations of the 2015 ELCA Youth Ministry Extravaganza, Todd Buegler shared “A Quick Response to Your Comments in Extravaganza Evaluations.” […]


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