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Audience Response Systems – How to get it right

1 April, 2014 by Dag Hendrik Lerdal - 1 comment


Two-way interaction with your audience during presentations, events and lectures can be a powerful tool if used correctly. But it can also be a disturbance if used incorrectly. This article will guide you through best practices and common pitfalls so you can make the most use of this exciting new opportunity.

Start by defining your educational objective:
Before ever starting to design an interaction with your audience, you should ensure that the use of audience interaction is linked to a clear educational objective. Examples on such objectives can be:

  • To measure the understanding of a subject
  • To clarify misconceptions
  • To spark discussion/debate when there is no correct answer
  • To differentiate between easier and more difficult concepts
  • To provide feedback on the presentation, material and educational value

Design the interaction experience:
After defining your educational objective, you can start by designing the interaction experience. SlideDog features three different ways of interacting with your audience:

Poll Feedback Form Chat System
  • A Poll consists of a question and up to five answer alternatives. Your audience can select only one alternative. Use this to measure the understanding of a subject, to clarify misconceptions or to spark discussions/debates.
  • A Feedback Form consists of up to three statements where the audience rates each statement in a scale from 1-5 (easy-hard, low-high, true-false etc.). Use this to differentiate between easier and more difficult concepts and to get feedback on your presentation and material.
  • The Chat System is a private communication channel for each Live Sharing session. Use this to receive questions and comments (also from the individuals that normally do not raise their hand) and to receive answers on open-ended questions.
  • Planning is the key
    Your planning should include anticipating the possible answers you might get on each interaction, and the steps you will take in response to these answers. Here are some best practices:

  • Share your SlideDog Live Sharing link at the start of each session, and keep it visible at all times (write it down on a whiteboard for example)
  • Keep questions and answers short and simple
  • Have no more than five answer options
  • Prepare your audience with a warm up question
  • Allow time for discussion of the results. Always include the audience in this discussion.
  • Do not ask more than a few questions in one session, but use them to magnify the learning experience on certain points.
  • Common pitfalls:

  • Polls are used primarily to see if the audience can remember facts presented during the lecture (they have not had time to consolidate)
  • The presenter has not anticipated the audience responses, and have not planned how to use the answers to achieve the educational objective.
  • The presenter does not introduce the Live Sharing system properly and does not allow enough time for the audience to log on
  • Too many polls will move the focus away from the content of the presentation
  • If you like to learn more about best practices of audience interaction, check out Sven Phillips easy and well written guide Effective Use of the Audience Response System: A Primer.