In an effort to improve the effectiveness of their presentations, organizations are looking for some way to get feedback from their audiences. This has led to a rise in the demand for audience response systems and many electronics manufacturers are adding these products to their catalogs.

Improving Communication Through Feedback

People want to participate in a conversation. When they listen without responding, it’s easy for their minds to wander and for information to be lost. Presenters often try to engage the audience by asking questions or taking votes. However doing this takes listener focus off the speaker, which can interfere with the message.

Advances in information technology have led to the creation of wireless custom keypads that audience members can use to interact with the speaker without disrupting the flow of the presentation. Speakers can gauge whether audience members are absorbing the information by asking review questions. A marketing representative showcasing three new promotional plans could ask executives hearing the presentation to pick which promotion they like best. Listeners are more honest in their opinions when voting through anonymous custom keypads instead of having to speak in front of peers.

Understanding The Hardware

The audience response system starts with custom keypads distributed to each audience member. These keypads may be nothing more than a green “like” button and a red “dislike” button for quick votes during the talk. More complex units will have buttons marked with letters so users can make multiple choice responses, or will have numbers so listeners can rate items on a scale.

A few years ago, response keypads had to be connected with cables to a central unit leading to tangled wires and tripping hazards. Modern units can be built to use a wireless signal to transmit audience responses to an access point. The signals are fed from there into a computer that has software to interpret the inputs and display them for the presenter. This happens instantly, giving real-time feedback.

Keys To Handheld Unit Design

If your organization is designing an audience participation system, pay close attention to the input devices. The computer, software and wireless network are based on tested technology and under full control of the presenter. Listeners will have contact only with the input devices and if they are poorly designed they will limit audience participation.

Handheld units will take abuse, both during use and as they are moved from presentation to presentation. Balance the use inexpensive components with reliable operation. Silicone is the ideal material for the custom keypads because it is durable and affordable. Selection buttons should be laid out so users can’t accidentally hit the wrong button and labels should be bold and clear.

The growth of social networking isn’t just about the internet anymore. Audiences expect to participate in presentations, and response systems with custom keypads give them a way to do so.