Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 25 2013

How to Engage 2,500 Attendees

By David McMillin, Staff Writer

web poll imageAs more attendees carry their smartphones and tablets with them everywhere they go, meeting planners have faced a challenging task: increase engagement while overcoming an increased number of distractions. At Convening Leaders 2013, the PCMA Meetings Team embraced the potential of all those bright screens.

“Our Education Team had session development calls with speakers, and many of them indicated that they wanted to do some audience polling,” Ann Johnson, associate director, programs, PCMA, says. “It was clear that more and more people are interested in this engagement tactic, so we partnered with Freeman to find the right solution.”

That solution was Poll Everywhere, a web-based technology with pricing that allows meeting planners to collect 2,500 responses per poll for just $375 per month. Attendees can submit their answers via text messages, web pages or Twitter.

Coaching Your Speakers

Every meeting planner can agree that any new technology brings a certain degree of uncertainty.

“There were a few nerve-racking moments,” Johnson says. “When we first used the technology in the opening session with Morten Hansen, there was a bit of a delay before the poll began to populate.”

SEE ALSO: Convening Leaders, Defining Innovation

For planners using the technology, Johnson says it’s important to help speakers understand the potential for a slight delay.

“When there is a large group of people responding at once, it’s a bandwidth issue,” Johnson says.

“You don’t want your speaker to panic,” Johnson adds. “Take a deep breath, and be patient. Be sure to have a couple of comments to use as filler as you wait for responses to begin rolling in.”

Polling on a Smaller Scale

Morten Hansen’s speech collected the highest number of responses, but PCMA used Poll Everywhere in 15 more sessions, too.

“A general session setting is perfect for Poll Everywhere, but the technology can be just as powerful in small group settings,” Johnson says. “You can offer everyone a chance to weigh in even if they don’t want to raise their hands and ask questions.”

Poll Everywhere’s social Q & A function gave Convening Leaders attendees the ability to do much more than simply respond. In four of the sessions, attendees could also submit text questions to moderators.

Off-Site Engagement

While the PCMA Meetings Team was focused on enhancing the on-site experience at Convening Leaders, Johnson says that giving virtual attendees a chance to feel part of the action was an important factor in selecting the right polling technology.

“You can arrange audience response systems on a closed network in your building, but we specifically wanted to include our attendees logged in around the world,” Johnson says. “Because Poll Everywhere is web-based, we could give everyone with a connection a chance to be part of the action.”

SEE ALSO: 6 Steps to Take Your Meeting Hybrid

Interested in how Poll Everywhere might work at your next meeting? Click here to learn more.

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