Speaker's Guide

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Speaker’s Guide

About This Guide

This speaker’s guide addresses the use of Audience Response System (ARS) technology within the broad arena of meetings and conferences. It is designed to walk you, as the speaker or moderator, through the process of creating questions and running an effective interactive session or event. (See Section #4, discusses interactive applications other than meetings.)

There are two basic types of electronic voting. There is self-paced, in which individuals work at their individual pace, as in a schoolroom test, or at a kiosk. We are not discussing that. This guide is about group Audience Response Systems in which the entire audience votes in unison–-in lock step. A question is asked of the entire group; voting is opened and closed; the results are displayed.

Most interactive meetings have specific goals and several carefully crafted questions in a session or two. Accomplishing that is the primary goal of this guide. Other techniques and uses of the system will also be presented for your consideration. If you have no interest in looking into them, skip those topics and focus on the simpler sections.

However, we encourage you to open your thoughts to possibilities beyond your previously envisioned use of ARS, and explore the system’s capacity for transformative, yet very basic techniques: the power of anonymity, the creation of ownership and buy-in, and breaking through barriers.

After you read this guide, we invite you to contact us to discuss your ideas. We will listen and offer you the benefit of our twenty five years of experience to help you determine the ARS methodology that is best suited to your culture and goals.

Section 1

Introducing Interactivity

“The mind is like a parachute. It works best when it is open.” ~ Sir Thomas Robert Dewar

The Quick Tally® interactive process enables the group to learn from one another, break down assumptions, move quickly toward conclusions, and arrive at a consensus. Using the system intelligently and judiciously, Quick Tally®:

  • Speeds the Decision Process
  • Eliminates Gross Assumptions
  • Forces Ownership of Opinions
  • Empowers the Audience
  • Generates a Discovery Process
  • Encourages Growth
  • Accelerates Group Consensus
  • Enlivens Sessions and Provides Entertainment

The Basic Elements

The Quick Tally® Team

We use a basic team of qualified, experienced professionals:

  • an Account Executive to work with you on the design and application aspects of your session
  • a highly skilled Systems Operator to manage your questionnaire and run the system at your event
  • a Logistics Coordinator to schedule a rehearsal and coordinate details related to the venue, travel and shipping.
The Participants

Quick Tally® transforms your audience into active participants. The questions you ask your audience will create enthusiasm, and the result will be not only the acquisition of new, unbiased information, but also to generate a process of discovery within the audience, a feeling that there is true concern and value placed upon their responses, and an eagerness to participate. As an inherent bonus, the process of inclusion creates participant satisfaction.

The Speaker/Moderator

The most important objective for the speaker is to empower the participants in this new interactive environment. Think of yourself as a media commentator, adding color to the session. When you are posing questions, it is good technique to ask the question and go over the list of possible responses; however, when the Quick Tally® results appear on the screen, rather than read off the list of responses, your job is to provide commentary. Interpret what you see on the screen, encourage discussion of the possible implications of the responses, and look for follow-up “why” questions.

Technical Voting Basics

These devices are designed to tally only one vote per question, per device. If the voter enters several numbers the last entry made is the only one that is recorded. The exceptions are a special mode for ranking several items within the same question and a function for weighting votes of delegates. Both of these functions are controlled by the systems operator and may not be manipulated by the voter.

The Quick Tally® voter verifies the accuracy of their vote by viewing the number or letter they have entered in a liquid crystal display (LCD) on the device. For handsets without a display, a confirmation light on the handset is used for verification that the vote has been sent and received. If the device is not working or being recognized, the display will not function.

When the voting is deemed to be complete (by time or number of votes—or a combination of both), the operator closes the voting and sends it to projection. Voting results may be displayed by raw numbers or by percentages.

The number of responses from question-to-question will not necessarily be consistent. It may be fewer than the number of voters because all of the voters/delegates may not always be present for every vote. Some simply may not vote on every item. We generally display results by percentages to compensate for the variation in the number of responses.

Section 2

Session Planning

The Power of Anonymity

Your group meeting is the rare occasion in which the experiences and expectations of each and every person come together in one room. It offers you the opportunity to “walk your talk”. It can be an enlightening, perhaps transformative group experience and can even modify your culture. And it could be a rare opportunity to communicate, if you could eliminate the politics.

In a typical meeting, questions are often invited and opinions solicited; however the message delivered by the physical positioning, the lighting, the dress, etc. is clear: the true job of the audience is to listen—when in fact the real value of assembling the group together might actually be for management to listen.

As such, many organizations unwittingly structure their meeting to discourage participation. Most conventional meetings are set up as talking heads lit by stage lights behind an elevated podium, lecturing to a hushed audience sitting in the dark. That is fine for a normal/typical meeting; however, it’s not the best setting if you plan to be interactive.

Through the power of anonymity, your organization can use ARS to communicate freely and openly, no matter who is in the room. Instead of tentative, reserved, self-conscious hand-raising, the Quick Tally® system allows private, anonymous responses, and introduces an instantaneous visual portrait of the group’s replies that changes the character of your meeting.

The first time members of your audience see their responses before them on the screen, a ripple of anticipation and appreciation goes through the meeting. It is a uniquely powerful experience they won’t soon forget. From that moment, the meeting is usually transformed from a ho-hum “them” gathering to an “us” event.

Anonymity vs. Tracking Responses

We have the ability to track responses—i.e., in a testing mode for continuing education, or to identify the individual winner in a product knowledge or trivia game. We do so via two options:

  • Track by the code numbers printed on the voting devices and ID the winner by asking them to look for the number on the device
  • ID the individual by name using a participant list with attendees’ names provided well in advance of the event (we merge the name with the device number and assign the device to the individual)

A word of caution: In some applications tracking is necessary and in others it is deadly. What is your goal? Are the attendees to be empowered to speak to issues candidly, or is there a need to track their responses as in training or continuing education? The difference between the two determines how candid and honest the responses will be. Neither is wrong; they are just different.

In a typical meeting, the process is to ask attendees for a few demographics such as identifying their job description, geographic location and number of years of service. The goal is to ask just enough to gain useful information without the attendees feeling that you are tracking them. Consider how open and trusting your culture is and how valuable truthful responses are before asking a lot of demographic questions.

ARS and Small Meetings

All meetings can fail because the participants are reluctant or unable to be candid. Small meetings are especially vulnerable precisely because everyone is visible.

“We don’t need to tally voting, we are only twenty people!
It’s easy to know what we all think.”

Consider this: The more each participant is visible, the more the need for anonymity.

Developing a Questionnaire

There is an infinite number of ways to design a meeting with the Quick Tally® system, and the questions asked depend on the information you want. If you have an open organizational or corporate culture, you might consider a more open interactive meeting format. Some environments require a more formal approach. In any case, consider gearing your questionnaire toward the success of the event itself, i.e. primarily for the benefit of the attendees, to enhance the individual sessions and provide information to enhance the overall event.

The two questions that we are asked most often with regard to developing an interactive session are:

  • “How many questions should I ask in an hour-long session?”
  • “How long does it take to ask and answer a question?”

The first answer is that you should ask the fewest possible questions – the caveat is that they are the most basic and meaningful. Although this is completely subjective, for most sessions that is about four to twelve questions.

As for how much time needs to be allotted to ask a question, it takes as long as you need to read the question aloud, plus 5-15 seconds (depending upon the complexity of the question) for the audience to respond. (Although not often recommended, a countdown clock may be inserted into the question screen to speed up the process.) Once the voting is closed, it takes 1-2 seconds to tabulate and send the response to projection. So read them aloud and add about 10-15 seconds for most questions.

Most people read at about twice the speed of speech, so they will be ahead of you and may actually be voting by the time the question is read.

The bulk of time is generally spent after the question is asked, so make decisions in advance about the time for discussion and teaching, i.e.:

  • Are you merely reading the responses back, or are you doing color commentary and explaining the meaning of the response?
  • At an educational session, are you going to explain the correct answer, or deal with reinforcing learning later?
  • If the response is important to the progress of your talk, will you discuss it in depth?
  • Will there be follow-up questions?

We suggest that you read through this guide, skip sections that do not relate to your event, make some notes on techniques and formats that interest you, and then discuss your ideas with us. Together we will develop an appropriate questionnaire to lead your session toward your objectives.

The Basic Question

The more interactive you want to be, the more you need to ask the most important, most basic questions that are catalysts for thought and action. Once you have established your requisite baseline data, move up to questions that would not normally be asked without the response being anonymous. Or, it might be the follow-up “why” questions that provide the deep insights you seek. Or, it may be that there is one truly important question. If so, ask it prior to any discussion and ask it again at the end of the session. This simple technique of only asking one repeated question has in some meetings been the single most powerful element.

File Formats to Send Us

Send us the questions as a Word document or PowerPoint. Most clients send us a template for their background and a word document with numbered questions. We will create the PowerPoint screens, or make any necessary changes to yours because some of the real estate on the question screen is needed for the automated insertion of the results. (We manipulate the size and position of photos, text and graphics to work as both a question and automatically-generated response screen with bars, or other charts.)

There is no need for a response screen to be created because our system automatically creates the response screen by adding results bars (or other graphs) to the question screen.

Question Length On-screen

Long question and response choices text must be edited to create a prompt containing only as much information as is needed. During your session the question may be spoken at length, and/or presented at greater length on a separate text screen. If changes need to be made in your question screens, we will discuss them with you and send you sample screens for approval.

Note: In the typical setup, both the question and response screens will contain the same question screen images. Having photographs or graphics in one will create them in both.

Impromptu Questions and Cross-tabulations

Impromptu questions can be added at any time during your session, and any question asked during the session (even impromptu ones) can be cross-tabulated by any other question.

As long as you’ve asked a few simple demographic questions, you can cross-tab responses by audience segments, such as how men answered a particular question, or how people of a specified income or educational level answered.

Pre-session Dialogue

Why reinvent the wheel? We urge you to involve us in the early designing and scripting of your meeting. Before your Quick Tally® session, we can work with you to plan when and how to use the system to add new sharpness to your event or presentation. We will work with the person responsible for the goals of the overall event, and with each individual speaker/moderator as well. One conference call with your team and a few e-mails is all that is usually needed.

The resulting questionnaire will be pre-programmed for your session; then, during your session, you can add new, impromptu questions and delete or change existing questions at any time. A seasoned Quick Tally® operator will work with you on the spot at an on-site rehearsal and at your meeting to ensure that your session runs smoothly.

Quick Tally® Question Formats

Quick Tally®’s axiom with regard to questions is this:

The more basic the question, the more valuable the data.

The formats described below allow you to gather information and feedback in a measurable context. They are: Closed-End Questions: Multiple Choice, Yes/No (True False), Likert Scale and Rank Open-end Questions. Examples are illustrated in various display formats: Bar Chart, Offset Graph, Doughnut Graph, and Pie Chart.

Closed-End Questions
  1. Multiple Choice questions, the most common type of questions, enable you to instantly see the audience’s response by percentage or by raw numbers. Multiple choice questions can help the speaker to prioritize points and issues as perceived by the participants.

    Note: Be consistent. Responses in all questionnaires should either numerical or alphabetical. A-J or 1-10. Not both.

  2. Yes/No or True/False questions can help you to gauge where your audience stands on clear-cut issues. The results are often surprising. (You may also add Undecided as a choice.)

  3. Likert Scale Questions define the parameters — from least to most — on sensitive opinion issues such as self-assessment, quality of product, effectiveness of campaign, ability to manage, etc. The results are shown as a histogram, and provide more detailed information than Multiple Choice or Yes/No question formats. Likert scales may use choices of 1-5, 1-7 or 1-10. They all contain a neutral middle point with anchors at the top and bottom of the scale. Most of them use the following descriptors:

1. Strongly Agree

2. Agree

3. Neutral

4. Disagree

5. Disagree.

In an Offset Graph the results bars are horizontal.

Open-end Questions

Open-ended questions can allow you to measure unplanned responses. For example, in a multiple-choice question, you may offer “OTHER” as an answer category.

If a significant number of participants respond with “OTHER”, you can then open the floor to take responses. The question can then be rephrased with the new categories added, and entered into the system by the operator.

Cross Tabulations

Any question asked during the session (even impromptu ones) can be cross-tabulated by any other question: such as how men answered a particular question, or how people of a specified income or educational level answered.

NOTE: Determine and set up in advance the questions to be used for cross-tabs. They are generally, although not necessarily the demographics.

In the example below, the audience was asked to rate how much they liked the new promotional campaign on a scale of 1 to 5.

See additional cross tabulation on next page...

Then they were asked if they had actually seen the campaign, a Yes/No question. When the results of the opinion scale question were cross-tabbed by those that had answered Yes, they had seen the campaign, the results were quite different.

Response cross-tabbed by “Have seen campaign”

The fact was that some audience members who had registered an opinion about the new campaign hadn’t actually seen it themselves. Can you imagine the results from asking the same set of questions without the benefit of Quick Tally®’s anonymity?

Display Format Variations

The following are examples of the same question, utlizing the different display format options.

Bar Graph - Vertical

Bar Graph - Horizontal

See additional display format options on next page...


Pie Chart

Donut Graph

Onsite Session Elements - Content-Related


Think of your meeting or interactive event as theatre. Always try to rehearse with every element of the show turned on and working. The devil truly is in the details! The presenters may get surprised and blinded by lights and can’t see to read the questions, moderators forget to allow any time for the audience to respond, etc.

Our preferred policy is to arrive at the meeting site on the day before the session to set up and do a full rehearsal. When that isn’t possible, we review the questionnaire with the presenters on a laptop. We will rehearse with you to your, and our, level of satisfaction.

Impromptu Questions

More formal, structured corporate evens generally have no impromptu questions. More interactive events have a mix of mostly prepared questions peppered with just a few impromptu (on-the-fly) questions and cross-tabulations. To be truly interactive and save time, optimize the experience by looking for opportunities to determine and address attendees’ real needs. They tend to present themselves as ideas to the moderator during the course of the session. To save time and not hold up the event, we quickly enter a prompt of the question for projection. Questions from the floor are handled by the speaker and only become a part of the session at the speaker’s discretion.

To ask a new question, you need not be expert at the process. Simply tell our operator that you want to ask an impromptu Quick Tally® question and give a short rephrasing of the question and possible responses. The operator will quickly type a prompt for the question into the system as you are formulating it. It will take a moment, so be prepared to fill in the time as the process takes place. It is helpful if you begin by identifying the type of question as a Yes/No, Multiple Choice, Rank, or Likert Scale Question.

Control always remains with the speaker/moderator. You decide which questions pertain to the work at hand, and you may tactfully delay other queries to be dealt with after the session. Impromptu questions may be addressed from the floor, or in a situation in which more control is desired they may be called for on index cards, or not entertained at all. The specific policy and method should be decided upon in advance.

Physical Setup Elements: Room Setup, Seating Configuration, Viewing Questions On-screen, Screen Size Calculator, Lighting Tips

Onsite Session Elements - Physical Set-up

Room Set-up

At smaller informal events, or very interactive events, the Quick Tally® operator may sit close to you, normally just off to the side. During the session, the operator will listen to you for potential questions. You can talk to the operator and discuss the questions and the responses. The more informal you make this process, the easier it will be for both you and your audience. In some situations assigning the interactive process a highly visible place in the meeting’s structure enforces its integrity and credibility.

At larger, more formal, or more structured events, the operator is stationed with the audio visual crew back stage, or in the back of the room. It is very important that the Quick Tally® operator has the ability to hear and communicate with the presenter. This is typically done by being connected to the shows technical staff and the director via headsets.

Seating Configuration

Seating at most events is classroom or rounds. The most common arrangement is to set the stage (risers with podium) in the center of the longest side of the room. This creates the shortest viewing distances to the speaker. If the round table seats ten, it is a good idea to only seat eight, so that no one has their back to the front of the room. If this is not possible, multiple projection and monitors at the sides of the room are very helpful.

Seating needs to relate to the feeling, function and goal of the session or event. Straight line classroom and theatre seating are the most popular seating styles because they accommodate the largest number of attendees. This is fine if the interaction is just with the presenter; but if the interaction is with fellow attendees, obviously they need to see and hear each other. If there is enough space, the solution is open-centered configurations such as circles or squares. If the seating must be rows, consider chevrons or curved rows and plan to bring up the lights during discussions.

Small discussion groups obviously work best at seating in small seating groups, so round tables make perfect settings for up to ten people. This also works for breakout sessions, or for creating mini-consensus. If the group is slightly larger, an innovative arrangement is created by pushing together two side-by-side rectangular tables, capped with another sideways, as a cap at one end creates a larger “square round” interactive seating area.

Large open-ended rectangles, or open room-size squares with the moderator working from the inside of the configuration is a good interactive configuration. Stacking a second row on risers just behind the front seats also works. This is popular with moderators working with law firm partner meetings of 50 to 100. It solves the political problem of appearing to have hierarchical seating.

Viewing the Questions On-screen

The audience will usually view a large image(s) projected on screen. Presenters and panels are often placed slightly in front of the projection screen(s). If they can not easily see the screen(s), a “convenience” monitor should be ordered from the A/V provider and placed in front of them so that they won’t need to turn their backs on the audience.

At events with one audience projection screen, both the presenters PowerPoint and the Quick Tally® screens are shown, each in turn, on the single screen. Your A/V department or show producer/director will switch back and forth between the two sources. At smaller events you may arrange in advance with us to perform this function. If you have complicated slides to be studied while the attendees are making a voting choice, two projectors and screens may be used. One screen displays the graphic and the other displays the voting screens.

Screen Size

To understand how to determine screen size, screen visibility is determined by several factors including the size of the screen and the brightness of the projection. Often two combined projectors are used to brighten up large screens. The choice of contrasting screen colors, the clarity of the font and its size combined with the amount of ambient light in the room are all contributing factors. In addition to simply eyeballing the text from the back row, here is a formula.

Optimum screen size as determined by The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) is known as the 2-and-6 rule:

  • Screen width should equal (and not exceed) one-half the distance from the screen to the first row of seats.
  • Screen width should equal or exceed the distance from the screen to the last row of seats divided by six.
  • In case of a difference between the two guidelines, the one yielding the larder screen should prevail.
  • Screen height should equal or exceed the distance from the screen to the last row of seats, divided by eight.

Quick Tally® axiom regarding lighting in the room:

If you keep the audience in the dark, they will return the favor.

The interactive event room needs to be just dark enough for the attendees to see the projection and light enough to see the face of the keypad and the faces of their neighbors. The more interactive the session, the more light is needed. A darkened room signals to the audience to be passive.

Technical Tip

Be sure that the down lighting and chandeliers closest to the screens are off. If they are on a master control, see if the venue can take out a few bulbs. Unscrewing a few flood lights playing directly on the projection screen can make a huge difference. Light increases/drops off by half as distance doubles, so the lights closest make a huge difference, while more distant indirect lights have less of an impact on the screen.

Running the Session

Warming Up

Start the interactive session with a quick demonstration of how much fun, how interesting and how easy the system is to use. An example of an amusing warm-up question is: Are you a “yes” person or a “no” person? Count on a majority of “yes” answers to this nonsense question. That lets you comment on what a positive group you’re addressing and it gives you a running gag to use during the event.


Not all meetings use demographics. After a non-sense warm-up question, begin with demographic questions that will segment or subgroup the audience by seniority, job title, geographic location, or whatever is relative. Consideration of demographics (determining the make-up of the audience) is usually the first step in the process of preparing the questionnaire. Ask the most general questions possible to determine the make-up of your audience. For example, “I live in the: North, South, East or West,” “I am a CEO, CIO, CFO.” etc.

Demographic question qualifying the audience by title

Demographic information may be used during and/or after the meeting to discover how different groups within the audience stand on any given issue. Some ask the demographic questions as insurance just in case they want to use the information, or only intend to use the information post-event. A common post-event use is to evaluate the need for training of specific groups.

These demographic questions may be used as categories for cross-tabulations, e.g.:

“Let’s see how the division managers answered that question”


“Let’s see how the audience members who work in North Bay Rate our new product line”

You can include humorous questions in the demographic survey; maybe use our Yes/No Person question, or one about company golf scores, favorite actors or athletes, etc. Go back to these “fun” questions later on as a cross-tab to break things up during the more serious parts of the session.

Jump-starting the Session

Jump start the session by “taking the pulse” and checking for consensus/level of interest, or consider opening the session by beginning with a “laundry list” of the topics you will be discussing. For example:

Ask the audience to express their level of interest

(by choosing just one, or prioritizing them in order: 1-2-3)

This will create a ranking of the audience’s level of interest. It eliminates guessing about what is important to the attendees—a great time saver and aid to both the presenter and the audience. It does not change the discussion topics; it enables the speaker to emphasize the more meaningful, or important portions. You’ll be enabled to go back to this list when a new off-center topic arises and comment that you will be discussing items of most interest. If need be, show the laundry list again. Perhaps offer to respond to the new topic after the session.

Another example of a jump-starting question might be:

“Is outsourcing the right choice for our company?”

Get the participants thinking by letting them discover where they stand on the issue. They may know as individuals; however this is the first time they will discover their collective view. You can then immediately direct the discussion to take that information into account. For example, if 85% of the audience understands or agrees with the main point, you can save valuable meeting time by abbreviating that portion of the talk.

Initiating the Discovery Process

Discovering the opinions of the audience regarding the issues presented will help you to direct the discussion and lead the group toward consensus. Meanwhile, the audience benefits from the discovery process itself. An effective way to initiate the discovery process is by asking multiple choice type either/or questions that allow you to narrow down the audience’s position. For example, if a speaker asks an audience made up of the members of a sales team:

If the majority answers yes, then the speaker may ask follow-up—”why” type—
questions such as:

This technique allows discovery to occur through a process that is non-political, and is tangible and productive. Seeing results in graphic display fosters ownership of opinions, the first step in breaking down barriers and allowing new ideas to be considered.

Achieving Consensus

When the related material has been presented and/or the discussions completed, take another, more informed vote on the opening question. The second vote will gauge any shift in the audience’s position, will pinpoint any areas still in need of attention, and will help you to direct discussion toward consensus. When you feel confident that the issues have been addressed, take a final vote.

The visual portrait of consensus displayed on the screen will offer a profoundly satisfying conclusion to your session.


Evaluation Question

Rethink the process of only asking evaluation questions only at the close of the meeting. Optimize meeting results by continually evaluating and measuring attendee’s needs and perceptions in real time. If you use paper and pencil evaluation questions, using the ARS typically brings in more responses. That is because it’s more interesting to see the group responses than to just fill out a form. And, if you have asked demographics, without any additional cost to shuffle papers, the electronic voting results can instantly be viewed by the subgroups, exported to statistical databases such as Excel, shared and published. Remember to use only positively worded questions to evaluate the presentations and the event. Ask: Which session was of most value?


After a session, a PowerPoint deck of the screens (slides) from your session will be sent to you via e-mail, and an ASCII (comma delimited) file generates user reports through integration with Microsoft Excel, Word, and a multitude of other software. Over 30 different report formats are available.

Section 3

Tips on Conducting a Better Session

Use Time Wisely

If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter. ~ Mark Twain

  • Ask the audience if you are dealing with the real issues
  • Eliminate all but the few most basic, meaningful questions. Less is more!
  • Arrange the question list in descending order of importance, so that if the session runs long, the least important questions are the ones eliminated. If there are multiple topics in the session, do so with each topic.
  • Keep it simple: The on-screen question is merely a brief visual prompt of the spoken question. Truncating the question to its basics is a great exercise in clarifying your questions and your overall session.
  • Although there may be as many as 10 possible choices, do not have unnecessary choices that take time to read and fill the screen. Usually about four choices are enough.

Remember that the mind can not absorb what the seat can not endure!

Push the Envelope

If your questions can be responded to readily with a simple show of hands, you are under-utilizing the system. The questions that work well are those that act as a catalyst for more thought and further action. Use Quick Tally® to ask the questions that would not likely be answered candidly without anonymity, for example:

“Have you been properly trained to use our new computer system?”

If the audience knows that the company has already spent significant amounts of money on training for the new computer system, and/or the audience members believe a key person in the company approves of the training techniques, they may be reluctant to answer candidly with a simple show of hands. Quick Tally® allows truthful, useful responses.

Control the Pace

When planning a presentation, think of pacing (building) the presentation and building interest. Encourage participation. Be as informal as possible. Don’t drone on with the same question format (all multiple choices with four possible responses) time-after-time.

Break it up. Use all of the tools in your tool box. Change the pace. Do something unexpected. Use lighting, sound and screen color to keep and build audience interest and excitement as the session progresses.

Keep it Positive

The tone of your questions can greatly influence the session. Keep the language as simple as possible, and emphasize the positive. For example, ask the audience what they’d consider to be the best product the company makes, rather than the worst.

Use Cross-tabs Judiciously

“The essence of humor is surprise” ~ Aristotle

Cross-tabs make the session more interesting. Using cross-tabs judiciously can help make the session more informative, showing how groups differ—or are similar when expected to be different.

Cross-tabs may also be used to lighten up or add personality to the presentation. If you included a nonsense warm-up question or demographic question, you can use the response as a cross-tab to break things up, such as:

“Let’s see how the ‘NO’ persons responded”

or, if at some point you include a funny or nonsense response category for a question, you can always go back to it. For example, if you ask:

“Where would you like the next meeting to be held?”

you can insert a meaningless choice such as: “Tibet.”

When your session gets a little slow or too serious, surprise the attendees and show the responses to a new question cross-tabbed by the votes for the next meeting to be held in Tibet, or by some inside joke response.


There are times when you may want to “force” people to personally examine and discuss an important issue. An interesting technique to accomplish this goal is for you to give one Quick Tally® handset to every third person in the room, or one per round table. The majority opinion—or mini consensus—gets the only vote for the three-person subgroup. The vote acts as a catalyst for discussion within the subgroup and sharing of opinions.

Breakout Sessions

While still in General Session, savvy moderators look for consensus on the key points to eliminate, or point up the need for certain breakout sessions. Always determine if there is consensus prior to mounting a breakout discussion group. Use the ARS to validate and create buy-in to the work done in the breakouts.

When planning for multiple sessions at an event, remember that each separate room that runs concurrently needs its own equipment and operator.

Achieving Break-Through Communications™

At events introduced or run by the CEO we generally advise a theme of listening and honoring the opinions of the attendees. We often advise management to rethink their usual approach to their meeting as an opportunity to lecture, and spend some of their time listening. It’s both powerful and simple to champion a listening/caring theme.

Perception vs. Reality—Exploding Myths

The Quick Tally® interactive technique involved in this premise is simple—and the results are very powerful. Ask your audience a series of related questions without showing the responses until all questions in the series are asked and answered. For example, ask:

“How honest is the US Congress?”

The format would be a Scale question, in this case on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being honest and 1 being dishonest.

Then ask:

“How honest is your own Congressperson?”

Remember, you did not immediately show the group their responses to the first question.

Finally, with both results in, show the responses. You will find the answers are almost always that Congress is dishonest (rating around a 3,) while their own local elected official is honest (and gets around a 7.)

So the conclusion to share with the audience is then:

“How is it possible that Congress is dishonest, while all of you have honest Congress persons?”

This technique demonstrates, in a tangible way, the difference between individual perceptions and reality.

The simple process of pushing the button and translating the responses to visual language (viewing on screen) forces ownership of the participants’ collective opinion. There is nothing threatening and nothing to think about. They are physically, verbally and visually connected to the results and to each other. They own it because they discovered it and told it to themselves.

Break-Through Communications™ is the single most dynamic interactive technique. It can force people off of auto-pilot, to examine ideas and issues, first as individuals and then as a part of a group. The participants almost imperceptibly “buy into” their own responses. When the truth becomes difficult for your audience to accept, this technique allows them to discover it for themselves, laying down the groundwork for growth and movement to action.

Section 4

Other Types of Interactive Sessions


Most trainers and educators would agree that classroom technology helps facilitate pedagogical best practices, enhance and measure learning in a more lively and interesting environment.

Using ARS for education

  • Reinforces teaching
  • Measures retention
  • Identifies topics and groups for additional training
  • Enlivens the session and the event

Trainers know what they want to teach and how to teach it, and they generally use an audience response system primarily to measure retention after training. That’s a good idea; however it is only half of what could be done.

You can’t teach them what they already know

Rethink the process. It’s now possible to instantly determine what the attendees want and need to know. Take a moment and save time by determining their level of expectation and understanding before beginning the program. There is a highly technical methodology used to accomplish this: We call it… asking them. Ask for their level of understanding about the topic and level of expectation about the session, or event.

To discover what should be taught or discussed, create a brief pre-test or simply display a list of topics within the planned scope of the lecture. Ask which is most important. Spend more time on the important topics. Then continue to assess comprehension and repeatedly confirm being understood and being on target with your teaching.

Not determining what needs to be taught dooms the event to discover it post-training during testing—like shutting the barn doors after all of the cattle have left.

Continuing Medical Education

A major area of use for ARS technology is in continuing education, and Continuing Medical Education (CME) in particular. The American Medical Association (AMA) Physician’s Recognition Award and the related credit system recognizes physicians who demonstrate their commitment to staying current with advances in medicine by participating in CME activities.

The AMA lists the following as some of the many requirements for educational activities to be eligible for AMA credit:

  • Address demonstrated educational needs
  • Communicate to prospective participants a clearly identified educational purpose and/or objectives in advance of participation in the activity
  • Present content appropriate in depth and scope for the intended physician audience
  • Evaluate the effectiveness in achieving its educational purpose and/or objectives

ARS is a natural fit for CME.

Game Show

A Game Show session always infuses new energy into the day and enlivens the event. It is one of the most popular uses for an audience response system.

There are two reasons for having a Game Show session: playing a game to test or impart knowledge, or just to have fun and bring people together. Trivia games are generally played for fun at lunch or dinner so that they do not take time away from the business of the day’s sessions. If the game is being played simply for fun, the game rules are far less important than the entertainment value.

TV game show producers want winners—so should you.

There is a lesson to be learned from TV game shows. (Quick Tally® does the studio audience voting for many of them.) A lot of energy is put into planning the appeal of the show to the specific viewing audience. The time slot and demographics of the viewers are all carefully considered. The choice of questions has to be appropriate both for the players to be successful and the targeted viewing audience. The same should be true of your game show.

Here are some important considerations sometimes overlooked in meetings:

  • Just as in gambling casinos, where the excitement is generated by the sights and sounds of winners, TV producers want some big winners because it increases viewership.
  • By reducing the number of choices to the questions, even from 4 to 3, TV producers increase the odds of winning in the players’ favor. They also increase the odds that the audience will guess the correct response and feel smart. Help your attendees guess correctly and feel like winners.
  • If your plan is to have individuals on stage representing teams, consider keeping the rest of the audience involved as an ongoing “life line.”
  • Keep everyone playing and in the running. Avoid playing elimination games. It is very important to the overall energy and interest in the session. And, if you are tracking responses to determine further training, the longer everyone plays, the more information there will be.

No one wants to be a loser, or part of a group or company that got it all wrong. Increase the possibility of responding correctly and keep things up-beat.

The Game

The Game Show itself is very simple to put together. Quick Tally®, with over twenty years of TV and corporate game show experience, will guide you through the process.

Most corporate events use a team-oriented version of Jeopardy in which the entire audience is divided into a number of teams. The process is made easier if the audience is comprised of naturally competitive members, such as sales people. It certainly helps to invest in some production value: props (even hokey hats/t-shirts), sets, a professional host, prizes and well-written questions.

Keep the game as simple as possible. It is extremely difficult to prepare for all of the possible unexpected twists that may occur. It looks simple and seamless on TV because TV shows are not shot in real time; they stop and start while problems are solved and mistakes are covered over by retakes. In addition to weeks of preparation, there may be forty to eighty people working a full day to shoot a single half-hour show. Keep the game light and forgiving, and it will be fun and informative for everyone.

Creating Teams

Divide the audience into any number of teams, seated together or separately. Having fewer teams makes it easier to maintain interest and show ALL of the teams’ scoring on-screen.

Teams may be created in advance or on-site. Quick Tally® can program the teams into the system by assigning handsets prior to arrival, or, during the session, by asking the attendees themselves to respond to a question that creates group membership. For example, by asking: Are you from the North, South, East, or West? This creates membership in four teams.

  • Individuals may remain anonymous within the team, and be identified only by their handset ID number, or by their name if assigned to handsets prior to arrival, both on-screen and in reports
  • The handsets may be picked up upon entering the room, or included in the welcome packet. (They are credit card sized and automatically turn on and off when used.) Player’s names and/or team names may be marked on each handset by using a label maker such as the P-touch.


  • Scoring accommodates teams of varying sizes, usually by awarding points based upon a percentage of correct responses by the team.
  • The scoring is determined by assigning a point value per correct response. Some questions may have higher point values than others.

The teams may be seated together or be virtual teams seated anywhere, or even online. If the teams are seated together (especially at round tables), there is often some good-natured cheating. This is generally overlooked. Cheating or not, they are all actually paying attention and they will retain the correct answer.

Playing The Game

  • After each question is answered, the overall voting result for the entire population of the audience is usually put on-screen. This gives the moderator an opportunity to discuss the correct response.
  • The moderator peppers the game with excitement by calling for the team standings at any point in the game, or we suggest a simple arrangement to show team scores every 5 or 6 questions on a Leader Board. Whatever the format, never embarrass any low scoring individual. Perhaps only show the top ten.
  • To further reinforce retention, the correct answers may be highlighted when they appear on the response screen.

Ties happen. It is important to plan for how ties will be handled.

  • Plan on a few runoff tie breaker questions, or award multiple prizes.
  • Another tie breaker method is to use the first vote in—or “fastest finger”—which can add the element of speed to the equation. The first to answer correctly is the winner.

Game Show Reports

A PowerPoint and ASCII (comma delimited) file will become available after the session. Other reports may be generated post-session for identifying groups and topics for further training or discussion.


Associations and trade magazines often host “for profit” forums in which industry leaders are invited and guest speaker experts impart knowledge to a group of real world experts. The speakers talk and the industry leaders listen. That’s a lecture—not a forum.

A forum is a place to be heard—an open marketplace for ideas. An interactive forum is perhaps the ultimate democratic process. Quick Tally® has been part of multitudes of local municipal meetings (Town Halls) and corporate and association forums. We’ve worked on landmark nationally televised forums on CBS, NBC, MSNBC and PBS that have addressed hot button topics ranging from healthcare to housing choices, racial attitudes to education. We’ve seen real progress made at bringing communities and groups together through ARS. Quick Tally® gives equal voice to both the meek and the outspoken.

When experts and leaders are assembled, the knowledge is often on the audience side of the podium. There is an amazing and unique opportunity for them to candidly share and discover problems and planned industry actions—an opportunity that can be realized with ARS.

Secured Voting

There are instances in which our clients need us as an outside entity to conduct the voting process, and we are called upon to certify the accuracy of the voting process. (This is particularly true in our work on television where a million dollars may be on the line.) Sometimes there are individuals and organizations that fear tampering with the voting process from groups within their organization. In rare situations there is also concern that the information is being monitored by rival companies or entities—we have experienced serious concerns from union members, tribal members and members of boards of directors.

In situations in which there is testing, elections, and House of Delegates voting, there are two basic security considerations: the individual’s comfort level with their voting being recorded accurately and the overall integrity and security of the voting process itself.

Subversion of the system by the audience, i.e. casting more votes than delegates, is only possible with delegates or others in possession of additional voting units; however, they would have to know in advance which voting units to obtain, set them to the same radio frequency as those being used and be in range of the transceiver.

Guaranteeing that only authorized delegates are voting is possible. The voting devices (keypads, cards, clickers) for the session are predetermined and “logged on” to the system. The voting is then based solely upon membership in that group. The limited voting group can be created in advance of the event by Quick Tally® or just in advance of the voting. No other devices can gain membership in the original group after it is created.

Assigned seating as an element of security

In New England style Town Hall voting there are no delegations and seating is open. Wireless systems provide the benefit of allowing the voter to move freely about the room. In formal House of Delegates voting, seating is deliberately structured in delegations for several reasons:

  • Discussion of issues by delegates within the group
  • Identifying and possibly voting by proxy for missing members
  • Verification of accredited voting delegates

Visibility of all members of the group, by the group, brings with it the ability and responsibility to monitor the integrity of the delegation’s voting.

House of Delegates Voting

Converting from Paper Ballots to Electronic Systems

Changing from using paper ballots to electronic voting requires some thought. There may be unworkable or cumbersome rules that worked for paper ballots that are unnecessary, or unworkable with electronic voting. For example, some organizations have vote verification rules requiring delivery of the voting results to a committee for approval prior to announcing the vote. Old rules need to be amended, both to allow electronic voting and also make it viable.


  • Does each delegate have one vote, or is the voting weighted? If the voting is weighted each device must be registered to create its specific number of votes
  • If a delegate is not in attendance during a vote, can another delegate cast the proxy vote? The rules of some assemblies forbid proxy voting. For example, in both houses of the U.S. Congress, as well as in most if not all state legislatures, each member must be present and cast his own vote for that vote to be counted. There are unions that are made up of several smaller unions or divisions that have a specific number of votes to cast. One delegation may have 50 votes cast jointly by 3 delegates. What happens if only two of the three delegates are present for a vote?
  • Is the delegate/voter completely anonymous or identified?
  • Is the voting displayed just by the overall numeric result, by delegation, or by individual voter? Note: anonymous voting vs. tracked voting influence and often change the results of the voting.
  • How will challenges to the accuracy of the voting be handled? Will the entire vote be displayed by voters? If so how?
  • In an election, how will the names of candidates be displayed fairly (in what order) on screen, or on paper? Will all of the names fit on one screen?

Amendment changes

House of Delegates members also vote on amendments. Typically the existing bylaws are projected on one screen alongside of the proposed changes presented simultaneously on another screen. Without this visual process the simplest addition or deletion of ‘and’ or a simple punctuation change can become extremely time consuming. Once the proposed changes are understood, the simple ARS question of approve/disapprove may be put to a vote.

Reporting results

Results are available instantly on projection, and as printouts. An ASCII (comma delimited) file may be made available, which can be used with statistical or spreadsheet software such as Excel. The voting results may be presented as raw numbers, or as a percentage of the votes cast.

Make specific arrangements for post-event delivery of the results to a designated person at your organization. Unless otherwise ordered, the result of any type of voting is given or sent only to the single person authorized by the client. Typically this is the person signing the contract for Quick Tally® services.


You need not be an expert at the interactive process. Most Quick Tally® clients use only the basic interactive audience response techniques. Let our operator be the ARS expert so that you can concentrate on your own thoughts. As you gain interactive experience, even within your first use of the system, you will become more comfortable with utilizing the more sophisticated techniques.

Remember that the best use of is to ask the fewest, most basic, meaningful questions that are catalysts for thought and action, or that break through previously unexamined areas by eliminating assumptions and misconceptions.

Rethink the normal meeting process. ARS technology provides you with the ability to ask questions that would be impossible without its speed, and more importantly without the non-threatening ability to learn anonymously from the attendees. Optimize the meeting experience by discovering, measuring and addressing real needs and comprehension in real time while attendees are still at the event.

Bear in mind that while you may be using the Quick Tally® system for a specific purpose, the participants’ feeling of inclusion in the decision making process is, ironically, often of greater long term value than the original intended use of the system.

Quick Tally® will be there with you at every step of the way to advise you and guide you.

We look forward to working with you!

Alan Warshaw

Quick Tally® Interactive Systems, Inc.
1223 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 1484
Santa Monica, CA 90403, USA

310.306.4930 - Direct Phone
323.791.9777 - Cell Phone

Quick Tally® is a registered trademark of Quick Tally® Interactive Systems, Inc.