One of the hottest topics in the events industry nowadays is hybrid and virtual audience engagement. But as the Event Tech Podcast highlights today, you can’t really talk about audience engagement without including audience response systems in the conversations. After all, the best way to learn what makes our beloved attendees tick is to simply ask them. Right?

In this episode, Brandt welcomes back Kyle Kocinski, the Head Of Implementation at Endless Events, to fill Will’s shoes. Some of you might know him already as he joined the show in the past when the tech nerds talked about virtual and hybrid event platforms. Today, they talk about the history of audience response systems, comment on the current state of audience engagement tools, and recommend some of their favorite tools to our listeners.

Audience Response Systems Are Not New

“As people are doing virtual and hybrid events, we talk a lot about how do we keep audiences engaged,” says Brandt to introduce today’s topic. “A lot of it is wrapped up in getting feedback from our audiences. This is something that is not new. One of the best ways to get people squiggling in their chairs and pay attention again is to ask them a question. For years, we’ve been dealing with audience response systems one way or another: polling systems, Q&A, and now, we have the real-time chat.”

Data Visualization & Personalization

Another current trend that Kylie mentions is data visualization. “One of the key differentiators between a lot of the audience response systems and tools is when you’ve answered the question or you’ve shared your opinion, how is that represented to everybody? Is that information private and is it used later on throughout your event experience?”

“If you’re asking questions through your audience response system, then you can start to do a lot with personalization,” adds Brandt. “You respond to what’s your native language, for example. And then, when you walk up to registration that day, it says ‘Welcome Brandt’ in your native language. So you can use these types of systems as onsite surveying systems to gain that real-time access to real-time information. What are you liking? What sessions are you most likely to attend? If you don’t require pre-registration for the breakouts, then you can start to actually gauge in real time how many people are going to go to each session and maybe even change things around.”

How Much Event Technology Is Too Much?

All these event tech trends might sound exciting to technology enthusiasts, but what about your average attendee? Kyle asks Brandt the question that they often tackle on this podcast: how much event technology is too much? The last thing event planners want is their attendees getting lost.

“That is the money question,” says Brandt and chuckles. “The refrain that I am just saying as often as possible these days is that you can’t buy engagement and interactivity. It’s much more important to think about the design of your event. And then go look for tools and technology that are going to help you achieve those goals and objectives. People have a tendency to want to throw technology at a problem, as opposed to designing their way and looking for the right technology to solve it.”

“You can have the coolest audience response system, but then only one presenter would use it for one question in one session. And so when you talk about what’s too much technology, there are two different questions in there. One is having too much technology that you’re not using. And then another where there’s too much technology for the attendee,” he explains.

Audience Response Systems Made Easy By Emcees

In his opinion, emcees have the power to make event technology manageable for the audience. If they hold people’s hands through the process of accessing the event app and using it, audiences might not be overwhelmed. “But if you just tell them to click on the app and start explaining this big, complicated process to try and get into the engagement side, people will feel like that’s too much technology.”

Kyle shares some invaluable advice to all the event planners listening out there. “If you want to integrate an audience response system and use it through your event process, provide training to your speakers much further in advance.” Speaker training is one of the biggest event trends of the year and its importance simply cannot be overstated. “Explain what tool you’re going to use, why you’re using it and tell them why it’s good for them to use it. If you have an implementation team that can help support your speakers, that takes the stress off of them having to completely learn something new,” he elaborates.

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