Why Audience Response Systems Fail

If you haven’t noticed, we get pretty worked up about attendee engagement here at 2Shoes. It’s something we’ve dedicated ourselves to improving and the topic of most of our conversations. As a result we’ve come across a few other attempts at creating and fostering engagement and participation.

One of the more popular technologies that’s been utilized over the past several years is the use of Audience Response Systems (ARS’s). You may have seen these contraptions, often times reminiscent of an 80’s era TV remote, placed in the middle of the table at your last conference. Curious what it was, you may have picked it up, studied for a bit, and then tossed it back to the center of the table. The concept behind ARS’s isn’t entirely flawed and for a while it’s all we had but we would like to point out a few reasons why these systems fail to create, foster, or increase engagement and participation.

  • Failing to recognize who has the questions: We think it’s common knowledge who’s going to have questions during a presentation. While most people would agree the presenter shouldn’t have many questions about their own presentation, the presenter is the one asking the questions with an ARS. Attendees aren’t given the opportunity to ask questions but instead can only respond to pre-determined questions by…you guessed it...the presenter. We believe in giving the power to the attendees, they are the ones with the questions after all!

  • Assuming that answers can be boiled down to multiple choice: Attendees, like all people, are complex creatures. Each person shows up with a unique background and set of experiences allowing them to approach questions and answers with a different tool kit. While the presenter may have a simple set of answers available for the audience to choose from it’s likely someone in the crowd has a different answer that could spark some great conversation and as a result...engagement. Why miss out on that?

  • Making a physical device necessary: You’d be hard pressed to find an attendee at your conference who doesn’t have some sort of smart device or laptop on them at all times. While there are a few options that don’t require this physical “clicker” many options still do. Why bother with lugging around hundreds of ARS clickers to each conference when your audience already has what it needs? Let them use those devices to access 2Shoes and start asking questions, interacting with the presenter and really engaging!

Clickers and ARS style tools were a great step in the right direction but fail when it comes to opening up a truly participatory interaction between attendee and presenter. At 2Shoes we want what you want, true attendee engagement. So let’s toss those clickers in the old dusty box they came from and get you set up for great participation and engagement at your next conference!