A day (or two) in the life of an EIA Surveyor

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a surveyor on the ground collecting data at an event?

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a surveyor on the ground collecting data at an event? Many of our clients underestimate the importance of this role and the challenges faced by surveyors, as they interact with fans to collect the critical spending data that is the crux of every economic impact study conducted by Sport Tourism Canada.

What is it really like for a surveyor trying to collect a serious spending profile of fans who are there for a good time and not always up for answering questions (especially when they’re decked out in face paint and costumes and having a few pints in celebration of the big game)?


Here’s what a typical day looks like for our data collection team.

7:00 am
Our Field Supervisor arrives early to scope out the venue and determine the best spots to position surveyors to intercept spectators. He or she is looking for high traffic areas where people gather that do not interfere with catching all the action on the field of play.

8:00 am
Our Field Supervisor double-checks all of the tablets to make sure the survey software is downloaded properly and the batteries are fully charged. He or she usually requests a meet-up spot or small office from event organizers. This is where the survey team can hang out for training, to rest, or take shelter from the weather. This is also the time when the Field Supervisor will assess if any extra weather-related equipment or gear may be required. This could mean stylus pens for the tablets, clear plastic to protect tablets from the rain, ponchos, extra mitts and hats, and back-up devices (extreme temperatures – hot or cold – wreak havoc with our hardware).

Surveying is a rain or shine activity!

9:00 am
The first group of surveyors arrive for duty. First order of business is accreditation and swag! Surveyors are often outfitted with an event t-shirt or jacket to ensure they represent the event brand. Accreditation that provides us with access into all areas on the event site is critical to ensure that we get a good cross-representation of data from a variety of different types of event attendees and participants.

9:30 am
It’s time for training! Our field supervisor assigns each surveyor a tablet. The tablets are coded so that we know which surveyor has which tablet. This allows us to monitor each of the surveyor’s progress throughout the day (more on this later).

There’s a quick demo on how to use the tablet and then some tips on how to engage with event attendees, avoid problematic situations, and breeze through the survey as quickly as possible.

After the demo we role play. The surveyors are asked to survey themselves for practice before going out onto the venue grounds. These test surveys are later deleted to make sure the responses do not become part of the final set of data.

10:00 am
The surveyors are each assigned a zone within the venue and off they go to meet up with spectators. The first hour is always a bit rocky – approaching strangers and asking them questions can be a bit awkward. Once the surveyors get a few surveys under their belt they hit their stride and it goes more smoothly.

Surveying is an excellent opportunity to practice conversational skills, networking and public speaking!

11:00 am
Our Field Supervisor notices that one of the surveyors is struggling. He has been rejected by the first 4 people he approaches and is feeling a little nervous and discouraged. This gig is not as easy as it seemed! Our Field Supervisor immediately intervenes. He or she does another round of training and provides some positive encouragement.  They spend the next hour together taking turns surveying people and debriefing each interaction. The surveyor begins to feel more comfortable and is sent off on his own again.

12 pm
The lunch hour is prime surveying time! Spectators waiting in line for concessions are eager to complete the surveys as it makes the wait go by quicker.

Our Field Supervisor does a quick check on how many surveys each tablet is recording per hour. Our goal is 8-10 completed surveys and the lunchtime crowd will help us meet this quota.

1:00 pm
Our surveyors are ready for a break and refuelling. Everyone meets up for lunch and to troubleshoot any issues. If some of the zones seem to be less concentrated with people than others, the Field Supervisor will move surveyors around to different areas.

1:30 pm
It’s the final half-hour of the 5-hour shift and the surveyors are starting to feel a little sluggish. Talking and interacting with fans is exhausting. Our Field Supervisor comes up with a little competition – the person who completes the most surveys in the last 30 minutes of the shift will win a gift card.   

2:00 pm
The first shift is over, and a new group of fresh surveyors will be arriving later in the afternoon. The Field Supervisor collects the tablets and downloads (syncs) all of the data. Accreditation is collected and the shift schedule for the following days is confirmed with each surveyor. Some of the surveyors head home to put their feet up and rest – they’ve logged more than 10,000 steps. Others take a load off by catching some of the game – one of the perks of the job. They share funny stories of their interactions with fans. Some have posed for selfies, been talked into applying a team face tattoo, or been offered snacks.

One of the surveyors comments:

It’s amazing the impact sport tourism has on a city. There are so many people spending so much money – someone even told me they bought a car!’.

2:30 pm
The Field Supervisor scans through all of the data collected during the first shift. Have the surveyors been able to get answers to all of the key questions? Does the data seem to make sense? Do we see any obvious patterns yet? This quick scan on the ground is important because we not only have to meet our quota with respect to the # of surveys completed, we also need good quality data. Sometimes spectators like to have a little fun with our surveyors and provide bogus answers to our questions. This bad data is later thrown out!

3:00 pm
The Field Supervisor checks in with event organizers to give them a quick update on our progress and to make sure that we are working collaboratively to ensure that the surveying is part of the positive event experience that organizers are striving for.

4:00 pm
The 2nd shift is starting with a new group of recruits and the process starts all over again.

Fans and festival goers are engaged

Conducting surveys at sport events is an opportunity to engage with passionate sports fans from across the country. Fans and festival goers are generally enthused to talk with surveyors and share their experience and spending associated with the event. Some fans are repeat visitors travelling annually to watch the game and participate in the festivities, while others are first timers. One of our surveyors says: ‘It was fun to share some of my favourite restaurant recommendations in town with people who have never been here before! Everyone keeps telling me how nice the city is, and the people are. It really makes me proud of my hometown!’

Another surveyor tells us that she noticed that as festival goers and fans were reflecting on their spending, they began to appreciate the tourism impact the event brings to the host community.

Other surveyors learn that fan travel that is motivated by sport allows Canadians an opportunity to visit lesser known destinations and that some fans are motivated to travel because of the competition itself, the amenities and attractions that the destination offers, the festival component of the event or accompanying events.

Interested in Becoming a Surveyor?

Surveying is an excellent way to gain experience in sport management and tourism. If you would like to hone your communication skills as a surveyor, contact Zanth Jarvis for more information.

Ready to Conduct an Economic Impact Study?

If you’d like to find out more about conducting an Economic Impact Assessment for your next event, get a quote or contact us at research@sporttourismcanada.com for more info.


Barb MacDonald, Consultant, Communications, STC
Colin McGuinness, STC Field Supervisor
Krista Benoit, Project Manger, Economic Impact, STC
Zanth Jarvis, Project Coordinator, Economic Impact, STC & Director of Sport Tourism, Tourism London