Webinar heresy: Why you should quit using polls to “engage” people

For as long as webinars and virtual classes have been around, you’ve been getting preached at: “Use polls to engage your audience!”

The problem is that, while the advice isn’t entirely wrong, it’s not entirely right, either.

What is engaging and interesting to people is something that tickles their brain, piques their curiosity, gives them a chance to contribute to how the presenter’s going to frame up a question, lets them declare their identity or opinion, and a host of other reasons.

Note that “ask them to push a button” isn’t on the list.

Here’s what to do

If you want to better engage an audience or class using the tools in web conferencing, consider these four steps.

  1. Start with a question that serves a purpose (e.g., establish rapport, determine what to emphasize/de-emphasize as you present, do a mini-research activity, whatever)
  2. Decide if a poll is the right tool for the job. Assuming it is, then
  3. Write the question so that it and the answers will be interesting to the audience (not just you)
  4. Refine the question to make sure it’s brain-friendly and improve your insights

 The bottom line

One final thought: be sure to pull the results from the final event/class report. The answers will be enlightening, not the least of which is your rate of participation (which is rarely 100%, but you should shoot to improve). If the goal is to engage people, start with something engaging before you focus on tools.