One of the best ways to create interactivity between a speaker and their listeners is by encouraging them to respond to prompts and questions. The technique of seeking audience response has been around for a long time, and there are many benefits to this technique including:

  • Improving attentiveness
  • Boosting knowledge retention
  • And creating greater interactivity

The old standby method of asking for a show of hands as a form of gathering audience information is certainly better than not aiming for any engagement at all. However, when people know that their responses can be seen by everyone else, they tend to answer based on crowd psychology to go along with how others are responding.

Audience Response Systems (ARS)

Luckily for us, the methods now available to gather audience responses have expanded and improved with technology. Audience response system technologies allow us to not only improve audience engagement and interactivity, but also to gather more accurate information because there is little to no crowd psychology effect. In addition to the above benefits, audience response systems allow us to:

  • Poll anonymously
  • Track individual responses
  • Display results right away
  • Confirm audience understanding
  • Gather data for analysis

Uses for ARS at Events

At a trade show, conference, or corporate event, Audience Response Systems – or ARS – can be used for many applications, either during a talk or at your booth. For instance, you can use ARS for:

  • Boosting training

A training session is only effective if you deliver the information the group wants and needs. Gathering that real-time feedback can help you direct the course of a training session so it’s spot-on for that specific group.

  • Voting

An ARS gives audiences the ability to vote on topics and answer questions, which not only improves the level of interactivity but also allows you to know immediately how successful (or not) your presentation is in the eyes of that audience.

  • Market research

Getting instant feedback from a group can give you vital information, which you can then use to stay ahead of the competition and improve your products and services. Conducting market research in real time with an on-hand audience can save your company valuable time and money over the long haul.

  • Decision-making

Having the power to immediately take audience input and then use it to alter the course of a talk, an event, or a training seminar can make the difference between success and failure.

  • Gamification

Audience response systems not only provide a hefty dose of interactivity, they are fun. Whether you turn your presentation into a gaming format with the audience competing for giveaways by answering questions, or you allow them to interact in real time with the speaker, ARS increase excitement and enjoyment.

  • Continuing education

Collecting real-time audience responses so you know which areas of knowledge they still need to work on allows you to target the delivery of the educational material.

  • Surveys

Getting instant feedback from your group allows you to put up real-time survey results, which is helpful not only to you but to the audience as well.

Best Practices for using ARS

When you decide to use a response system during a talk or training session, there are some techniques you can use to help ensure that the audience will jump right in and to increase the participation of everyone there.

  1. Near the beginning of your session, introduce the system and its use with an ice breaker question – something fun, maybe humorous. Keep it simple as you explain how they can best use their device or the software.
  2. If you are asking for responses during a presentation, have a phrase such as “answer now” on the appropriate slides. Be consistent with a very straightforward system to prompt the audience, telling them what to do, when.
  3. If there are right and wrong answers, make sure you have visual cues that support what you are saying verbally.
  4. You can increase the audience responsiveness by giving them a set amount of time in which to respond. For example, a countdown timer.
  5. Even though you are giving your audience a set amount of time to respond, make sure you also allow enough time for them to answer.
  6. A pattern of asking for a few responses and then letting your audience “relax” can be helpful. In other words, don’t constantly ask them to respond, but don’t wait so long between asking for one response and the next that their mind wanders off and they become less engaged.
  7. Create good questions. This means you need to understand the purpose of the question you are asking, how to best ask it, and to word it simply. You can use questions to start discussions or to collect votes.
  8. Build audience response confidence by putting some initial questions into your presentation or training that are easy to respond to and which have answers that everyone will be curious to know about.
  9. If you are using any multiple choice answers, don’t give too many choices – 5 maximum, one of which should be “I don’t know.”
  10. Don’t ask questions about everything.
  11. Pretest your ARS system so you know it works the way you anticipate it to.
  12. Be okay with allowing the audience responses to direct some of your presentation or training. People love to know that their responses actually count, or at the very least how their responses compare to norms or some other measurement. In other words, don’t let your audience feel as if their responses are going into a black hole.

When used properly, audience response systems can greatly elevate your presentation through greater engagement, while at the same time taking the guesswork out of how your listeners might respond to specific questions. You can then use this live “market research” to improve your training, information, and future presentations.