6 advanced tactics for delivering polls in webinars and virtual classess

Part 3 of a 3-part series

Delivering a poll is a key presentation skill. Why?

Because going beyond “simple vote machine” to “guiding and engaging the audience” requires intentionality. It’s not hard, but it is a little different.

In this last installment of the series, here are six tactics that presenters and facilitators can use to dramatically improve the flow and impact of their polls.

(Re-)gain participation with a verbal instruction and/or vocal variance

If a participant has “snuck away” to check email, they may not see that a poll is active. This is a good time to be purposeful about capturing or recapturing attention.

The key skill here is to use some form of “pattern interrupt.” Pauses, imperatives (commands), questions, volume, pace, and many other tactics will help get you there, but they all have one thing in common: They send a signal to the partial-attention listener that a continuous blah blah blah blah blah does not.

Explicitly remind attendees how to participate in the poll

“Now just vote in the *#&^@!%@$& poll, wouldya?” (psych!)

Seriously, YOU think it is obvious that the way to cast a vote is to click the little button next to the answer, but not everyone in your audience may understand. To this day I still have people type their answer into the questions or chat box. Tell ’em what to do.

Example: “See that little radio button to the left of each answer? Use that button to share with me what you think.”

Think “popcorn principle” as the responses come in

How long should you keep a poll open?

To be fair, sometimes you may need a participants to vote/respond (such as in a learning situation). This is fine when you’re keeping tabs on the 13 people in your session. In many presentations formats, though, you aren’t going to keep an eye on people at the individual level.

To avoid losing momentum, remember what the instructions of microwave popcorn says: “Pull it out when the frequency of popping gets down to a certain point — If you go longer you’ll burn the stuff.”

In a webinar, you probably don’t know if an attendee ran off to the restroom or took an emergency phone call. Watch the pace of responses coming in, wait until the “popping” slows down, and then get on with it.

Bring poll results to life conversationally

Reading out the polling results is like reading the text on the slide: The audience doesn’t need you to read it. Instead, add context to the results.

Example: “Very interesting that 31% of you said yes because…” or “Check this out…in the study I just complete <this> result was much different than how you voted here. For instance…”

Be the voice of the audience when combining a poll with Q&A or chat

In Part 2 of this series I showed you how to plan for combining tools with other features. When participants start typing in their “other” responses, “give them a voice” by sharing their qualitative responses with the group.

Example: “Mary says she’s in product management, and I see several of you are in sales. Thank you Jack, Mukesh, Julie, and several others.”

The bottom line

Novices with presenting or training virtually nearly always focus first on what they lose (“How do I engage an audience that I can’t see?”). Any change of communication does, in fact, mean you lose something relative to the former medium.

Here is the good news and a word of encouragement: A new medium also means you gain something you didn’t have in the previous medium.

Trust this principle and trust yourself to grow a little bit, and you’ll soon be rocking your virtual interactions in a whole new way.


Missed part of the series? Here’s Part 1 and Part 2 

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1 Comment

  1. Craig Hadden – Remote Possibilities

    I’ve never tried it, but I think it would be good to use a SOUND to signal important events like a (worthwhile) poll. A sound other than a voice is so unusual, it would be bound to draw attention. You could play the sound of a bell, or the like.

    I must say though, I disagree about spelling out how to operate the poll. My feeling is there are far more people who’d be offended by us “talking down” to the audience than would be helped by such basics.

    On the other hand, I strongly agree about the “popcorn principle” and that we should add meaning to the results, rather than just reading out what the audience can see.

    Mind you, I maintain that most webinar polls seem to be of little value. So I’d love your thoughts about the best poll question ever.

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