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2 rules, 5 advanced poll-planning tactics for webinars, webcasts, and virtual classes

August 21 2013 / by Roger Courville

Filed under: Content

In part one of this three-part series on using polls to better engage webinar, webcast, and virtual classroom participants we looked at how to write a brain-friendly polling question.

Now let's look at the art of planning polls as a uniquely powerful communication tool.

2 golden rules

Use a poll only when it's the right tool for the communication

A poll is essentially "show of hands," but unlike a "hand up" button, polls are multiple choice questions (that also get recorded). Sometimes you might just need a literal "hand up." Or sometimes it might be more engaging to have people type responses that are more personal than the answer options in a multiple choice question.

Think, "extend the dialogue" instead of "be interactive"

Just being "interactive" is a waste of everybody's time if it doesn't further the conversation between the presenter and audience. Dialogue is powerful. Make sure the purpose of your polling question is clear (or quickly becomes clear).

5 advanced poll-planning tactics

Blend polls with questions or chat, part 1: Overcome platform limitations

Most web conferencing solutions have a limit of how many multiple choice answers you can use. Example: You have eight potential answers and your conferencing platform limits you to five.

Solution: List the first four and make the fifth answer, "Other (please use questions to share your response)."

Blend polls with questions or chat, part 2: Catch "the long tail"

Sometimes the potential responses to your question are numerous, but you know the typical or most frequent responses.

Solution: List the frequent responses as the polling responses, and like the immediately preceding point, use questions or chat to bat cleanup on the rest.

Use polls as mini-research projects, part 1: Crowdsource ideas for the future

Done right, your dialogue with your marketplace can give you the feedback that helps you dial in future content or messaging.

Bonus: Use this as an opportunity to soft-promote the next webinar or class, too.

Use polls as mini-research projects, part 2: Try a Likert scale

A Likert scale is a common and easy-to-use tactic in surveys, but we rarely see them in webinar polls. For shame! Make each response numeric, but label the scale so it is easy to understand.

Example: 1 - Strongly Disagree, 2, 3 - Neither Agree or Disagree, 4, 5 - Strongly Agree.

For more on Likert scales, read this.

Build polling into your presentation deck

In the heat of the moment, it's easy to forget where you were going to activate the poll. Use a slide in your presentation deck as a placeholder. You won't be able to miss it, and it will help you better plan the flow of the presentation.

Note: This presumes you've gotten past the idea that slides are documents.

The bottom line

As we saw in part one of this series, a well-written polling question can improve how easily your question is understood by the reader. Just don't stop there. And stay tuned for part three, How Presenters Can Deliver Polls with  Greater Impact.


Missed part of the series? Here’s Part 1 and Part 3.

If you found value in this post, would you kindly share it on one or more on your preferred social networks? Thanks in advance!

Topics: Content

Roger Courville

About Roger Courville

Chief Aha! Guy | Good dad | Bad guitarist | Loves habaneros |

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