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Polling Best Practices for Live Audiences

Top-down hierarchies and one-way flows of information are quickly becoming outdated within professional environments. People rarely want to feel like they’re being told what to do with no say in the matter—whether it comes from a lecturer, manager, professor or other authority figure. Rather, people tend to appreciate the ability to have a conversation to which they can genuinely contribute.

Polling opens up the lines of communication, turning a passive one-way flow of information into a dynamic back-and-forth. Luckily, the tech tools of today are well equipped to facilitate large-scale polling for live audiences. Effectively integrating polling into any decision-making process in the workplace or classroom is a great way for presenters to show participants they care about integrating collected responses into future actions.

But not every poll manages to hit its mark. Make sure you consider polling best practices before you create and administer group surveys for the best outcomes.

Create a Poll with Clear, Fair Questions

Your survey will only ever be as good as its questions. If your questions are insufficiently detailed, audience members won’t have the information they need to accurately answer with confidence. If your questions are long, convoluted or overly contextualized, people will have a hard time figuring out exactly what you want in a timely manner. And, of course, if your questions suggest that certain answers are “right” or “wrong” with biased language, the results of your poll will skew toward whatever answer you’re seeking.

Here are a few characteristics of a strong poll question:

  • Ask just one thing per question: Break compound questions like “Do you do X and Y regularly?” into two separate questions for more granular insights.
  • Avoid projecting biases from the get-go: Make sure all options are positioned as valid; avoid language that leads audience members to answer a certain way because they “should.”
  • Match the questions with the best survey format: Consider various types of questions like multiple-choice queries, ranking lists and free-form responses.

Above all, make sure the questions you ask enable you to get the answers you need, depending on the objective of the poll.

Give Your Audience the Options They Need

Once you’ve designed the questions for your poll, it’s time to consider how you’ll format the potential answers within your chosen poll maker. In a live setting, brevity is key to holding audience attention. Don’t expect dozens or hundreds of people to be able to read many small words on a screen, digest their meaning and provide in-depth answers at the drop of a hat. Rather, you should optimize your poll so it’s conducive for a live setting and no hassle at all for participants.

For multiple choice polls, limit your choices to two or three options plus some form of “other,” “not sure” or “prefer not to answer.” This will ensure people with strong feelings and those who feel less than comfortable answering can contribute honestly to the discussion.

If you’re asking your audience to rank answers by upvoting their top choice, make this clear before people start voting. This will help participants avoid confusion that could skew your results.

Even if you’re soliciting free-form feedback, guide respondents by giving them parameters. You may ask for a single word—or a full phrase. Setting clear expectations will help make your poll a success for everyone involved.

Increase Response Rate with Interactivity

Lastly, you need a way to actually collect your answers. Today’s audience response technology empowers audience members to participate in polls using their web-enabled mobile devices, so you won’t even need to pass out clickers. Give your tech setup a run-through before the big day so you’re prepared to poll effectively when it counts.

Using these polling best practices for live audiences, you’ll be able to glean quality insights in a group setting for better decision-making.

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