Know Thy Audience – Pre-Class Surveys

The Temple of Apollo is said to have had the inscription “Know Thyself” etched high upon its marble entrance.  For business simulation instructors, we recommend that you add “Know Thy Audience” to these wise words.

In fact, you should get to know your audience well before your class actually starts by using a pre-class survey tool.  Granted, no one likes prework, and no one likes filling out surveys – if you were to ask your participants, they would probably rank these tasks just above shoveling snow and/or jury duty…

But you should require that your attendees do both of these onerous tasks in preparation for your simulation courses.  Even if they shoot you dirty looks, virtually…

Here’s why:

  1. The results of the pre-class survey will give you valuable insights into your participants’ backgrounds. You can then adjust your content, your introduction, and any ice-breaker and polling questions you plan to use accordingly.
  2. The amount of knowledge and experience that you discover in your audience may surprise you (and maybe even intimidate you a little bit…). And that gives you the opportunity to draw upon that expertise in your class to enrich the experience for everyone.
  3. Business simulations are adult learning, and that means there needs to be a two-way flow of communication, not just one-way from the instructor. A pre-class survey establishes that flow right away, which will then carry through to the class itself.
  4. Participants need to assume two roles in the class: learners and teachers. They’re called “participants” because they are participating, not just idly observing.  Let them also act as teachers in the group sessions and in the team sessions.
  5. Participants may have questions for you prior to the class. We add a free-text block for questions and we follow up and answer them either before the class or during the class if the question applies to the whole group.
  6. You should also share a summary of the survey results on the first day of class so that the participants can see the varied backgrounds and the range of experience in the group.

We recommend you use pre-class surveys, and that you ignore the sneaking suspicion that colorful words are being muttered behind your virtual-back as participants prepare for the class.  The insights you gain about your audience will more than offset your pain.

As a bonus, here’s a sample survey we use in our PriSim classes.  Let us know what you think of it.