Having used electronic voting systems for many years (as well as attending conferences that utilize them) I thought it may prove useful to highlight some guidelines on what helps to make a good interactive presentation. Not all of these suggestions are appropriate all of the time but hopefully will at least help you get the most out of the tool you are using.
Never presuppose how your audience will respond.
An answer you don't expect is as valuable as one you do – this could highlight a weakness in your presentation, a lack of clarity in the question or a gap in the audience's understanding.
If you do get an unexpected result try not to ignore it, either explain why you disagree or ask a member of the audience why they voted that way. Sometimes the best use of a voting system is in its ability to stimulate conversation.
Have some 'ad-hoc' questions prepared. A few questions at the back end of your slide deck will mean that if a topic arises and you wish to see if there is agreement then just jump to the ad-hoc question (type the slide number and press enter).
IML ViewPoint Express is great because as well as only taking a few minutes to prepare the questions the default styles are very easy on the eye. If you wish to 'jazz' things up a bit yourself then remember, as with any PowerPoint presentation, ensure your audience can read what you display:
- Clear text (no quirky fonts)
- Ensure the chart labels are large enough to read
- Use the space available and try not to have text that overlaps images or any other text
- Pie charts look great for questions with a few options or short option text, however bar charts or tables are much clearer for 'wordy' slides
- Many company templates have been designed for print and are unreadable when projected, if this is the case provide printouts or save paper and make the fonts larger!
Respond to the result
If you get an interesting answer discuss it with the audience. If you are asking a question that has a correct answer, remember to highlight the correct answer either verbally or by using PowerPoint shapes and animations.
Understand your data
With IML ViewPoint Express you have the choice to show your results as percentages, actual votes, percentages & actual votes together, or to hide your results completely. It can be important to know when to make the correct choice.
- An evaluation or feedback session that has options which are negative should either have results shown as percentages or results hidden – this may save the embarrassment of everyone looking around the room searching for the one person who marked their manager as 'Very Poor'
- Showing results as a percentage may mask the fact that only a few people have voted; this can be useful in some cases but remember to review the data afterwards (to say 50% agreed when only 4 people voted should perhaps not be taken as a ringing endorsement!)
If you wish to analyse responses afterwards in Excel a few demographic questions (what department are you from, where do you come from, etc) may help interpret the responses you received and provide you with much more powerful data.
Keep things following
An electronic voting system is a great way to liven up a meeting. Some good tips for ensuring the presentation stays lively and interesting are:
- A Warm-up question gives the audience a chance to practice using the system and also the presenter the chance to ask something light-hearted to involve the audience at the start of a presentation.
- Use Countdown clocks and 'jingles' where appropriate. If the questions are simple or you are running a quiz then using a clock will keep it moving. Test your presentation to see an acceptable timeframe to answer the question. As a guide no more than 8-10seconds (I normally use 6 for quizzes)
- Use Ad-hoc questions
- Never ask more voting questions than is necessary
…Understand your reason for using the voting system
It might be as simple as keeping the audience awake, checking they have listened or because you have a complex assessment that on paper would take hours. Whatever the reason, don't ask hundreds of voting questions just because you can. If you want to keep people awake then a few questions interspersed will probably be more effective than 30 in a row.