|The best way to find out what people are thinking
is to ask them. Audience feedback can be essential in determining what the group
wants, to measure comprehension, to encourage audience interest and
participation, to improve future meetings, and much more.
However, measuring these responses has not always been easy. Asking people to
raise their hands can be intimidating and the hand counts may not be accurate.
Paper surveys must be printed, handed out, collected and tabulated with no
Fortunately, real-time audience polling systems are providing much better
options to meeting planners. These systems typically use wireless,
radio-frequency, handheld keypads and a receiving unit (antenna, computer and
specialized software) connected to a standard data projector. Most commonly
audience polling systems are rented as a service (set-up/operation of the
equipment is included) but easy-to-use "turn-key" purchase options
becoming more commonly available.
Real-time Audience Polling System Benefits:
Increased audience interest and participation: Participants enjoy seeing
their collective beliefs about things they care about. These systems provide
immediate feedback that, when used properly, captures the audience attention.
Anonymity: Hand raising or verbal responses can be biased, especially
when addressing sensitive material. As audience polling responses are non-verbal
and can be anonymous, the responses tend to be honest with fuller participation.
Candid and confidential responses to issues and ideas are encouraged.
Democracy of input: As everyone has a keypad, everyone gets a say, rather
than a few vocal participants.
Increased productivity: As everyone gets a say, without everyone having
to vocalize it, substantial savings of time can be accomplished.
Increased ownership of the responses by the audience: The immediate
results contribute to a sense of "ownership" and responsibility for
results through a more democratic process and give the presenter immediate and
Question variety: Questions can take a variety of forms allowing quite
sophisticated data analysis. Questions can also created on the fly to address
issues that arise in the discussion. Some of the question options are:
- True/False or Yes/No
- Multiple Choice
- Likert Scale (strongly agree or disagree)
- Demographic Comparisons (Age, Gender,
- Priority Ranking (rank factors in order of
- X-Y Mapping (assess issues against two
Immediate feedback: Results are tabulated,
and graphically displayed immediately after each question enhancing group
understanding, increasing meeting efficiency and stimulating discussion. The
group and presenter can act on the feedback while it is fresh.
Increased accuracy: The data is immediately stored in the computer
avoiding data entry errors when converting paper information into electronic
Improved understanding: Understanding and comprehension can be easily
tested in a training session. Also, measurement of degree is more accurate.
There is a difference between people answering they are
"uncomfortable" and "very uncomfortable." A true range of
opinions can be expressed much more accurately than when having everyone raise
Data export options: The data can be printed or exported to a spreadsheet
other file for distribution or further analysis.
Portability and ease of setup: A complete 20-person system fits into a
small case that will fit into an overhead compartment of an airplane and can be
set up in less than 5 minutes.
Ease of use: The eleven buttons on the typical pad (0 to 10) are as easy
to use for the audience members as a push-button phone.
Additional options: Many variations on the theme are being developed by
the some of vendors: Some systems offer built-in microphones in the keypad (for
audience questions), and insertable key for use validation (for example in a
delegate voting situation), and continually variable response dials (to measure
moment-by-moment satisfaction ratings). These are just a few of the options that
are emerging. Also, wireless palm and PDA software firms are starting to
incorporate audience polling into their devices.
Pricing for the rental services is usually quoted based on the size of the show,
number of units and the number of days required. Typically there is a base fee
(including the consultation, graphic design, reports, and computers) ranging
from $750-$1500US; a per-unit keypad fee (from $10 to $30/unit/day depending on the
number of units); plus the technician's wage ($400-1,000 per day) and travel expenses. The prices,
however, are going down. One company listed below offers a
"do-it-yourself" rental package option including 100 keypads, base
station, backup equipment, software, shipping and insurance for two days for
Prices for purchase start at less than $3,000US for a 10-keypad systems
including keypads, software, and network controller.
These systems can bring many benefits to the group voting, interaction, and
survey situation. The many benefits can often times far outweigh the cost of
providing the services.