Let’s Hear From The Audience

When a client asked event design and production company LIVE! Technologies Inc. to create a team-based music trivia game for its sales meeting, it was clear the event called for a response system that was more sophisticated than “raise your hand when you have the answer.” That’s when the Columbus, Ohio, company began exploring audience response technology, which uses interactive wireless keypads to provide real-time feedback in meetings and classrooms.

LIVE! Technologies created the game using Qwizdom (www.qwizdom.com) audience response software. Interactive questions were projected onto a screen from a laptop. Teams then used remote control devices employing radio frequency (RF) technology to send their answers to the computer, which was equipped with a small receiver plugged into a USB port.

The first correct answer received for each question flashed on the screen. And since each team was named after a rock band, which LIVE! Technologies Graphics Coordinator Jerman Abney had programmed into the corresponding response devices, a photo of the band flashed on the screen when a team answered correctly. “It was nuts in there,” Abney recalls. “People were very engaged and having a great time.”

Interactive audience response systems are transforming business gatherings coast-to-coast. Drab conference workshops have become highly-customized interactive sessions. Businesses can make more informed decisions by polling customers or employees for input and opinions. Trainers are using them in corporate classrooms to help participants learn and retain more through increased participation.

While these systems have always been an effective way to gather votes or determine an audience’s knowledge, past RF technology was too expensive and limited to be a practical choice for many businesses. New, less expensive RF technology and companion software have changed that.

Prices vary, but a 50-remote audience response system with a receiver and software costs about $6,000. When purchasing an audience response system, look for ease of use, software that integrates with presentation applications you already use, and easy access to the data gathered through question and answer sessions.

“This is a real time-saver,” says James D. Jones, founder and president of First Wellesley Consulting Group Inc. in Wellesley, Massachusetts. The consulting firm uses an audience response system to help lenders select technology. It gathers end-users from various departments, and they rate desirable product features or rank problems the technology should solve. “When we used a paper questionnaire, it took time to tabulate the results and generate a report. Now we get the results in real time.”

The system allows marketers to gather demographic information — job title, age, geographic location — and use the data to identify trends. Focus group participants can now express preferences freely without first assessing what others are thinking. “Because it’s anonymous, it removes the anxiety and peer pressure,” says Pete Rassega, director of professional sales for Turning Technologies L.L.C., (www.turning technologies.com) a Youngstown, Ohio provider.