The easiest way to engage the audience early during a panel presentation is to take a poll – especially if you don’t know the cast of characters in the room.
You can poll the audience through a number of ways:
- Round-Robin. Go around the room and ask each person to state his or her position – but only if you have a small number of people in the audience!
- Show of Hands. Ask those who agree with your question to raise their hands.
- Thumbs. Have those who agree with the point you just made show you a thumbs-up and those who don’t a thumbs-down. A sideways thumb can mean “undecided.”
- Stand Up. Ask those in agreement or who find the statement to be true to stand up. Those who find your statement to be false can remain seated.
- Noise. Clap to agree and stomp to disagree. Or, if confidentiality is important, ask those who agree to hum. You’ll find those who are passionate will hum loudly!
- Shout. Say “Of course!” if you agree and “No way!” if you don’t. The volume can also show the strength of the person’s commitment.
- Response Cards. Ask participants to select and hold up the appropriate color-coded card/paper that signifies their response. These are ideal for multiple-choice and true-false questions or those with a range of responses (agree/neutral/disagree; high/medium/low).
- Wave Your Flag. Similar to the response cards, ask the audience to wave the appropriate color flag that signifies their response. Try using green for “agree”, yellow for “neutral or have some concerns”, and red for “disagree”.
- Continuum. Have one side of the room take one stance (definitely) and the other side the polar opposite (no way!), or think of your own clever scale (“vested” to “don’t care”). (I used this technique when starting my presentation of the results of the 2014 Panel Survey. You can watch it here).
- Electronic Polling. Many speakers are using PollEverywhere, but if you are using it for an audience larger than 40 people, there is a fee. I’ve been using sli.do with great results AND there is no charge for any size audience! (BTW, if you want the information branded or private, there is a fee.). I can create an event in less than a minute, while participants get just one simple link to join in using their smart phones. No need to install anything — you just need a WiFi connection. The audience can ask questions and vote for their favorite. You can even moderate the questions to remove the junk (e.g., “hi mom!”). It’s a breeze to use and I can even take a poll on the fly in the middle of the session! Sli.do is also the only polling software that has a Google Glass app — imagine reading audience feedback in real-time! (Of course, that would be a sizable investment for the Google Glass, but how cool would you look?)
How to take a poll? It’s easy!
Ask the Question and Model the Behavior you want to see. For example, “Who here….” and while you are asking the question, raise your hand high in the air, waive your green flag, or stomp your foot. This sends a clear signal that you are expecting those in the audience who will say “yes” will perform that behavior with you.
Kristin Arnold, professional panel moderator and high stakes meeting facilitator, shares her best practices for interactive, interesting, and engaging panel presentations. For more resources like this, or to have Kristin moderate your next panel visit the Powerful Panels official website.