Summative evaluations, otherwise known as summative assessments, are an exercise to discover the efficacy of an event. The type of activity could be anything from a festival to a white paper. In a way, it is a postmortem of the process to see how effective it was. These can be very useful in business.

Importance of Summative Evaluation

To get a better understanding of summative evaluations, consider the example of a person (Stephanie) who is putting on a professional conference for fire spinners. While the example is most likely nothing with which most of us have dealt, the major principles of a summative evaluation remain identical no matter what the situation is.

Summative evaluation is a postmortem of a process to see how effective it was. Stephanie’s fire spinner conference has a planning period of 10 months. This is the second time she has held this annual event. Stephanie knows how her first event went and has already applied some changes to her process the second time around.

Without even beginning her evaluation, Stephanie knows that extending the planning period from 8 months to 10 months has made an enormous difference in her team’s stress levels. Some of her assumptions have proven to be useful, and others have not. Her team didn’t notice much interest engagement from Pinterest, though she had assumed that it would reach more of her target demographic. By contrast, Instagram traffic was a significant boost to engagement and attendance.

Example of a Summative Evaluation

Stephanie is going to focus on five factors in her summative assessment:

  • Engagement pre-event.
  • Venue costs.
  • Feedback of attendees.
  • Revenue by stream.
  • Engagement post-event.

Stephanie has also done wrap-up interviews with her staff to gauge their view on how the event went. She will handle those as a separate metric because these two things are of equal but different importance to her. In the assessment of her staff satisfaction, she will use:

  • Stress level before event.
  • Stress during event.
  • Fatigue / irritation during event.
  • Most stressful part of event.
  • Satisfaction with event.

To begin her assessments of both metrics, Stephanie is going to use the same process. First, she will examine the results of the prior year. She already had assumptions going into the event because of her extensive summative assessment of the first conference.

Her assumptions were:

  • Changing social media streams would increase engagement.
  • Offering the conference at a discount to volunteers would lower staff stress.
  • Turnout data would allow her to select a suitable location.
  • Attendees would prefer an all-in-one venue.
  • An all-in-one venue would reduce the stress level of staff.
  • Attendees would like more workshops.
  • The team would also like to attend workshops.
  • Having two marquee speakers would increase attendance.
  • Paying these speakers should not impact revenue.
  • New group packages would drive up revenue.
  • Transferable tickets would drive up revenue.
  • A closing party would help networking and increase post-event engagement.

Purpose of Summative Evaluation

Now that Stephanie has all of the information, she can get to work on her assessment. The purpose of the summative evaluation is to categorically tell if her changes to the conference have succeeded or not because there are clear, definitive answers to her assumptions. She has made declarative statements that operate on a true/false standard.

The two primary purposes of her summative assessment will be to prove or disprove her assumptions and to see if she had a successful conference based on revenue, attendee satisfaction and staff satisfaction.

Analysis and Evaluation

Pre-event engagement: Stephanie noticed that a significant number of fire spinners were on Instagram as opposed to other social media platforms. The second-most popular social media platform of fire spinners was Snapchat, with Twitter being a close third according to her exit interviews with attendees. Focusing primarily on these three platforms created significantly more engagement and hype for her event.

Cost of venue: Costs for the event were even with last year. Though they saved significantly by partnering with a local venue and had volunteers working much of the event, Stephanie’s expenses remained the same. However, she had a 5 percent increase in attendance, meaning the cost-to-revenue balance was tilted more in her favor.

Attendee feedback: Overall, the feedback from the attendees was more positive than the prior year. The attendees did mention that they wanted more outdoor space to spin fire and that they would have preferred more networking time and dinner events. When Stephanie factors in her 5 percent attendance increase, she can plan for these desires going into the next conference.

More Summative Evaluation

Revenue: Ticket packages were Stephanie’s primary focus from the first year to the second. Offering group rates, transferable tickets and discounted tickets all allowed her to bring in a 7 percent increase in earnings. She does not see a need to change this in the future.

During this event, Stephanie also sold tickets for vendors, contributing to an additional 3 percent of revenue. Swag such as T-shirts, hoodies and fire hoops also contributed to revenue growth.

Post-event engagement: Stephanie had not anticipated much change in her post-event engagement. However, there was around a 10 percent increase in engagement. Diving deeper into these numbers, she realized that because she had volunteers at the event, they were driving much of this engagement. She will bring this to her board and suggest hiring a volunteer coordinator for her team.

Importance of Summative Assessment

It should be clear by now why a summative evaluation is essential. Without it, Stephanie would not know how much better her event was compared to the previous year. Because she is doing a postmortem on her conference, Stephanie can keep that data going into the next year. She also can consider revenue streams such as an online store for attendees to buy swag they missed.

She can also inform her staff on how to keep the momentum up on social media by reaching out to her volunteers. One of her ideas for the next year will be to utilize the volunteers in hashtag contests to earn prizes during the conference. In short, without a summative assessment, Stephanie would not be able to grow her conference correctly.

Types of Assessment

It should be clear that this style of assessment can be utilized to gauge the success of an event. However, other types of summative evaluation can also be useful before, during and after your event.

  • Placement assessment: Typically used in education, a placement assessment serves as a placement test. These assessments are used to determine a student’s fit for classes, such as a higher-level or lower-level course. In business, they can be used to assess if a candidate is suited for employment or if an employee is ready to be promoted.

  • Diagnostic assessment: Another form of preassessment, the diagnostic assessment will give a snapshot of an individual’s strengths, weaknesses and skills. In business, this sort of assessment should be similar to an annual review, where you and your employer work together to determine the pain points of your position and to draw attention to areas where you’ve excelled.

  • Formative assessment: The word “formative” can be confusing to people who have not encountered this type of assessment before. In this instance, formative means forming your assessment while the event is happening. For education, this typically comes in the form of pop quizzes, tests and self-evaluation. In the business world, this would be touching base with your boss to discuss work that is currently underway.