During the ongoing 'Credit Crunch' corporations are under pressure to cut their conferences and events budgets. What they save by reducing the size of the stage or by going to a cheaper venue should not affect the basic content of the day or the goals for staging the event in the first place. Audience response systems (ARS) are always often cut in the budget review but this can be a big mistake as they can add tremendous value by giving tangible results and feed back from delegates attending.
ARS can show whether or not the key the aims of staging an event have been met or not, the use of an audience response system can then reveal any sticking points. This allows your event to measure its effectiveness during the day and give evidence of its success.
Audience response can also maximize an events time by asking delegates which themes are of most interest so allowing you to apportion time appropriately. It costs a lot to get every one in one place so it makes sense to ensure their time together is as productive as possible.
Using these kinds of systems also sends a clear message to the attendees, and that message is 'we are listening and your opinion is valued'. Presenters in the dreaded post lunch grave yard slot will appreciate the regenerative powers of asking a flagging delegate a question on which they need to ponder before responding. ARS has been proven to increase retention on the subject polled and certainly your chair person will marvel at ARS's ability to break the ice during Q & A sessions and promote delegation interaction as they begin to discuss options with their neighbor so leading to improved networking. Asking the post event evaluation questions at the end of the last session will save your staff days of data input from a paper based questionnaire.
So how do they work? In its basic form an audience response system enterprises of a display, to allow the presentation of a question and a range possible options / answers, and a 'keypad' to allow the delegate to select the option / answer which best matches their opinion, with the results of the poll being displayed immediately after the close of the voting time (about 10 seconds). The equipment is usually radio based and wireless so allowing free distribution among an audience. Some systems also offer the ability to communicate directly with the presenter through the 'free text submission' of questions so allowing the delegate to ask their own question, or submit an idea, rather than just responding to pre determined options.
All in all if the budget is being trimmed it pays not to cut the one item that can prove the days effectiveness and show value has been obtained for the spend. If you are still looking for ways to save, go for the cheaper dessert option, cut the sparkling water and have a smaller lighting rig.