4 Ways to Use Online Polls to Engage an Audience

4 Ways to Use Online Polls to Engage an Audience

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to giving a presentation or lecture, of course. The exact way you communicate with your audience depends on many factors: the size of your audience, the setting, the nature of the information you’re presenting, etc. But despite these variables, all presenters ultimately aim to engage viewers in a meaningful way, so they retain core concepts and leave the session feeling that they’ve gained something important.

It’s widely accepted at this point that lecture formats with excessive one-way delivery promote passive learning, whether you’re teaching college students, giving a keynote address or presenting a deck to your team at work. Humans have limited attention spans, after all.

Talking at people is always less effective than talking with them—your goal should always be genuine engagement. So, here are four ways to use online polls to engage an audience.

#1: Liven Things Up with a Trivia Competition

People tend to sit up a little straighter and listen a little more intently when there are stakes involved. About integrating trivia into an industry conference, The Center for Association Leadership outlines how “emerging horticulture professionals were encouraged not only to show off their random knowledge about the industry but also to network and get to know their colleagues during the team-based activity.”

Trivia is easily customizable to fit the type of event and audience in attendance, making it a very flexible option for livening up a presentation. Introducing points, ranks and friendly competition into the mix provides a great incentive for people to engage actively rather than passively.

#2: Check for Retention with a Multiple-Choice Quiz

Many presenters find immense value in using an online poll to gauge audience retention in real time. Today’s audience response technology makes it simple to embed interactive polls directly into presentations, so participants can answer using any mobile device or computer.

For instance, a college professor might devote a few minutes of each lecture “quizzing” students to see which concepts they understand and which they’re unclear about based on the results. Then the professor can use this feedback to determine which concepts need more work before examinations, so they can design future class sessions accordingly.

In a similar vein, a corporate trainer could administer an informal multiple-choice quiz to make sure key concepts are sticking while there’s still time to reinforce these concepts. In this way, online polls are a great tool for boosting retention when it matters.

#3: Crowdsource Feedback with a Live Q&A Session

Wondering what audience members are thinking—not just what they’re willing to say out loud to the group, but really thinking? Embedding an online poll in the format of a live question-and-answer session allows people to submit inquiries to be addressed by the speaker. Since these contributions can be anonymous, it helps promote an inclusive and honest Q&A session that gets to the root of what people want to know. This two-way dialogue is immensely helpful in promoting active engagement rather than passive listening.

#4: Start Discussions with a Word Cloud

Sometimes a dash of creativity is the best way to infuse a presentation or lesson with new life. Try kicking things off with a colorful, collaborative word cloud made up of words or emojis contributed by your learners. You can solicit responses to open-ended questions related to the content you’re presenting or turn it into a fun icebreaker activity. As eLearning Industry notes, word clouds in education help “turn a toy into a tool.”

When you want to engage your audience in active learning, try whichever one of these online polling strategies that makes sense for you.


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