Interact with your audience with online poll

A couple of days ago I gave a presentation to graduate students from the School of Management, Universiti Sains Malaysia. The presentation was scheduled to start at 2.30 pm for 2 hours. Giving a lecture or presentation at this time is always very challenging. When I have to give a presentation in the afternoon session I always challenge myself to keep the audience awake and alert for the whole duration of the presentation. To prepare for this presentation, I spent a great deal of time to prepare my PowerPoint and gather the material from books and, of course, internet. It is my habit that while I'm busy working on my project (in this case my presentation) I would switch to another window reading email or blogs. That was when I came across a posting about "Poll Everywhere". Basically it is an online polling application that tries to simplify the process of holding polls. It allows anyone to participate in the polls by using either a simple text messaging system, email, or twitter - and it is free for up to 30 voting. I thought, wow, this is great! I can use this thingy as an interactive tool to engage the audience and keep them alert.

After signed up for the free account, I did some testing and everything worked very well. For the presentation, I prepared seven multiple choice questions (see below).

The plan was to ask the question at appropriate point during the presentation, ideally to cover for the entire duration. I was excited but anxious. I asked the organizer to make sure the internet connection is available but as a backup plan I borrowed a broadband from my relative. I just wanted to make sure that I can try the online polling for the first time...successfully. Since the free account allows only 30 participants to vote and the number of participants on the day was around 70, I had to divide them into group, each with two or three members. Only one member representing the group will vote (they can take turn to vote).

This is how the question looks like on the screen:

I asked each group to discuss the question in 30 seconds to one minute (depending on the question). The poll was done simply by asking the group to send SMS (the message would be the code for the answer) to the phone number shown on the screen. The outcome? Within less than 1 minute the results appeared in real time on the screen (see below), and new votes are added very quickly! I was very pleased and I think the participants were also equally excited. The "experiment" was a success. (Note: I would like to hear some feedback from those who attended my talk the other day).

What are the advantages of using the online poll? Well, it's a better and faster way to get a feedback. You get a better picture of the audience response towards certain issue that you are discussing. The audience will have the opportunity to interact and discuss among them (in a group). Certainly it is better than asking the audience to raise their hand (hand count). I can't wait to use this online poll in my classroom and in my other presentations. Online poll is certainly one of the best Web 2.0 tools for 2010! Thank you Poll Everywhere!

Learn more about Poll Everywhere at their website or watch this You Tube video.

To get a taste of the online polling, send your answer to the question below. Don't forget to put the plus (+) sign before the phone number. Don't worry, it costs only 20 to 30 cents per vote. It's for educational purposes...Alternatively, tweet the answer or use your web browser to send the answer. Give it a try!

I have a few messages to share in this posting:

  • Upgrade to PowerPoint 2010 - you have access to many useful new features;
  • Read blogs - you can LEARN a lot of new things everyday!
  • Create your own blog and share information and knowledge with others. Sharing is caring!
  • Don't be afraid to try new things to enhance teaching and learning.


  1. Dear Prof.
    First and foremost, my sincere thanks to you for delivering one of the greatest talks in our 25th Colloquium. I was honored to be an (active) participant in your talk and learn from your invaluable experiences.
    Although the topic might have seemed to be something which has been repeated and given by various presenters at different events, I was amazed how different and interesting you presented it. Undoubtedly, one of the best presenters who has given a presentation on the same topic so far, in my opinion.
    Your use of real-time voting for the first time in the presentation was a very brave decision, and certainly a creative decision which was worth it. It made the whole presentation more enjoyable and unique. In fact, it is one of the few presentations which I suppose I will remember for the years to come.
    I do appreciate your time and energy spent to get prepared for the presentation. In fact, from the way you presented and the quality of shared materials, it has been obvious how hard you've worked on it. My humble appreciation to you for that.
    Moreover, to me as a fan of new technologies, the use of real-time voting, as well as the beautiful transition animations (effects) between your sides were very interesting.
    Another great point about your presentation style was how you allowed the audience to freely add inputs or even disagree with you on the slides. To me this could motivate critical thinking by the audience. That was why I dared to comment on the 3rd poll question about "who holds the key to your success?" and disagree with the traditional belief that supervisors hold the key to our success.
    Best Regards,

  2. Hi Mostafa,
    Knowing that the audience appreciated my presentation is very satisfying but most importantly is the message they take away. I remember now that you raised the point about "who hold the key to your success?" This reminds me the phrase, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink". Yes, I quite agree with your view that the student holds the key - I guess the supervisor would guide the student to the right door (path) to open.

    As for using technology in teaching and learning, I think all teachers should leverage the technology available at their disposal, not so much to impress but to make learning fun and exciting - the bottom line is to enrich and enhance learning experiences of the students. I'm a strong advocate of using technology but it doesn't mean the traditional "chalk and board" is obsolete. I can't imagine life without technology...

  3. Dear Prof.
    I can't agree with you more. Absolutely to the point: The supervisors are the ones who can guide us and show us the right way, but it's we (students/researchers) who should put our minds and souls to the work and do our tasks. Because at the end of the day, it's we who are going to get the degree not our supervisors.


    P.S. I was also attending your today's session for the ORIENTATION Program. (Not as a news student, but as an Students Ambassador to assist IPS). So it was good to listen to your talk again in brief. Hope to have more of your presentations (preferably in other topics) in SOM or IPS. Thanks and happy 2011!


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