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Product Review – Poll Everywhere Audience Response System

Audience response. This is a term that causes some of the great meeting planning minds to shake their heads and give up. We have put men on the moon, landed spacecraft on Mars and created the Twinkie but asking a question and getting a response has not been made easy or cheap.

Yes, there are systems like Spot Me, ARS, BusyEvent and others but they do much more than simple audience response and some can be astronomically expensive. Some of these systems allow attendees to join social networks, text each other, view event programs, download sponsor brochures and connect in the virtual world in addition to offering audience response. These systems are very useful, have a place and can be extremely important to your event if the tool fits the job. If all you need is yes/no however, these systems are like going duck hunting with a howitzer.

If you do not need all the firepower, Poll Everywhere might fit the bill (disclosure—I have nothing to do with Poll Everywhere except for being a customer). This is a handy little system that allows for one thing and one thing only and that is audience response, you ask questions, the audience answers.

The system itself is based on SMS text messaging. Throw out a question and attendees use their mobile phones to text the answer. Simple.  They can also use twitter and the web to answer as well.

How easy is it to get started? You start by setting up your questions in a web based application which takes about 5 minutes, you then download a PowerPoint Slide that when opened, is preformatted with the question, responses and how to answer. Once opened, the slide will update answers in real time and for cool factor, attendees can actually watch the graph move as the answers come in. Simple and fun to watch.

Cost wise, Poll Everywhere is a bargain compared to some systems. It is a monthly service and costs range from free to mucho dinero with most event planners coming in at about $65.00 per month. Have a onetime event? They have a solution for that; you simply pay the monthly fee based on your group size and then downgrade your account to a free one after the event. Imagine, a total audience response solution for a 250 person event for $65.00. Having 700 people? The cost only jumps to $140.00.

Some will say “not everyone uses text messages” and this is true, but at a recent event we had an 85% response rate from the audience and I am most likely safe in saying that is probably in line with the averages of some more of the more robust solutions that require extensive set up and hardware as well as audience hand held units.

Here are the nuts and bolts

Advantages:

  • Ease of use
  • Fast setup time
  • No hardware required for deployment (beyond existing A/V)
  • Questions can be added in close to realtime (as fast as you can type)
  • Answers can be via SMS, web and twitter
  • Great if audience response is a last minute add to the program

Drawbacks:

  • Internet connection required
  • Not everyone uses text messaging
  • Is a one trick pony, does not offer more robust services (Author Note and Clarification-The only reason this is a drawback is if you are looking for a solution that delivers networking, will allow attendees to view the conference program, etc. If you are simply looking for audience response, then move this to the “Advantages” list).
  • Requires an A/V set up (which if you are having a meeting, you probably have)
  • Spotty mobile phone connections in some venues

I think that you will be astounded by how easy and simple it is to use. You can try the system for free, so bounce a poll around the office for fun.