hello? anybody out there?

Have you ever witnessed a presenter realizing that his audience has fallen asleep with their eyes open?  Picture the classroom scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (“Bueller… Bueller…”).

It happens every day, in every conference.  There’s just something about sitting still for 3 or 4 (or 6) full days that puts participants in no mood to actually participate.

Engage the Audience
So, how do meeting planners combat this?  How can we help our presenters be more interesting to our participants, without telling them how to present (which they rarely appreciate beforehand)?

We can engage the audience on behalf of the presenter by using audience response technology.  An audience response system, or ARS, gives the presenter the ability to ask questions of the whole audience, and for the participants to respond anonymously to the questions by using credit card-sized keypads.  The questions are typically pre-programmed, though they can be developed onsite.

Immediate Gratification
The technology isn’t all that new – if you were ever a fan of the show “America’s Funniest Home Videos” you’ve seen ARS in action.  The audience voting on funny (semi-funny) video 1, 2 or 3 was done on ARS keypads.  It’s an immediate-gratification tool for keeping the audience fully engaged in the session.  I’m so into this technology that I’ve tried building it into my in-house meeting budget – imagine how easy it would be to make big decisions with lots of key players if everyone could vote anonymously!

My Experience
I have used ARS technology in our annual meeting general sessions (mostly those presentations geared toward younger surgeons), as well as in our annual business meeting for member voting purposes.  It has been a fantastic addition to both, and I highly recommend it.

If you’re interested in adding this technology to your program, I would recommend Event Technologies, Inc.  They’ve handled our event for the past few years, and they are fantastic.  If you’d like a more detailed recommendation, please contact me using the “Contact Us” tab above.

Additional Resources
For more information on audience response systems, check out either this article or this one, both from MeetingsNet.com.

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