Nothing spells “boredom” for many employees more than “training session.” The old model – somebody standing at the front of a group and talking at them, with or without projector rentals or flat screens – is, thankfully, dying off. One reason is Audience Response System rentals (ARS), which can transform a stuffy, “same-old-same-old” meeting into a productive, effective, interactive gathering.
Audience response system technology has been around for years (see this interesting piece from 1999) but the new, small, super-smart and wireless systems of today are both easy to use and powerful. And audience response approaches work everywhere, from stockholder meetings to conferences. Let’s take a quick look.
For Employee Training
With Audience Response System rentals from CRE Rentals, you can evaluate employees before and after training sessions to better gauge the effectiveness of your approach. In addition, you can arrange for plasma rentals to display important information, then measure its effectiveness in real time. Plus, feedback can be completely anonymous.
In companies where training goes on regularly (even continuously), audience response technology is a powerful tool for helping employees build the requisite knowledge base, as well as retain it. Trainers will continue to learn what works (and what doesn’t) with their specific materials and approach, and can thus “tweak” the training on a continuous basis.
For Sales/Marketing Purposes
For a product launch, sales training session or focus group – anywhere new company concepts, terms and products are being presented – using an audience response setup enables management to gather critical information. Company leaders can determine if their sales force has sufficient product and market knowledge to succeed, as well as discover what is most important to the typical user of their product or service.
Although there are some first stabs at making a Web-based ARS, using a state-of-the-art, self-contained audience polling system allows for everything we’ve mentioned – plus easy voting at stockholder meetings, and feedback on company initiatives, new products and other matters. All of this helps corporate managers determine improvements to every phase of the business, from product development to media strategies.
When you need feedback from a marketing focus group, a room full of shareholders or a few score people attending your conference breakout session, that’s where CRE’s Audience Response System rentals (ARS) really shine. The Audience Response Systems are fully integrated with Microsoft Office applications, letting you turn a flat, boring PowerPoint slideshow into a two-way, interactive mutual learning experience. A simple, easily installed PowerPoint plug-in enables real-time audience polling, as well as the acquisition, analysis and display of the collected information. And you do it all from within the PowerPoint application.
It is not difficult to get going with the presentation once you have the plug-in installed. It provides a new toolbar that lets you edit professionally-designed templates to your needs. You can change graphics, colors and styles in a few mouse clicks, use the special toolbar to create content fields and choose your settings, quickly and easily. Save your slide, move on to the next one and repeat as needed. Load your finished presentation onto a laptop or desktop computer, then plug into a projector rental, set up your screen and start getting that audience feedback you need.
How does interactive polling work?
Audience Response Systems offer small response card keypads that are wireless and use both IR (InfraRed) and RF (Radio Frequency) technology depending on the model. With the keypads, the audience can answer multiple choice, multiple response, short answer, essay and alphanumeric questions throughout the presentation.
Need to poll the audience from different (even distant) locations in real-time? Now there is remote polling technology that allows a presenter to address and question audiences, either using a web-based polling application (through their iPhone or Blackberry smartphone) or a hand-held keypad. This gives the presenter the capability of combining the remote results with those of the local group. Real-time feedback allows the presenter to keep remote participants attentive and focused by displaying results of their ongoing input.
Expanded uses, expanded capabilities
Audience Response Systems have proven their tremendous value in a wide variety of settings. No longer do seminars, product demos, breakout session presentations or other corporate meetings have to be one-way streets – someone talks, you take notes – now that true real-time connectivity is easily achieved. The old salesman’s saying, that the best salesmen listen more than they talk, is a powerful insight, and an ARS gives you the ability to listen to hundreds of people at the same time, responding with information that your organization really needs to know. An Audience Response System, being fully plugged into the MS Office applications, makes it easy to tally, analyze and display the gathered information.
Ready to interact with your audience at your next meeting? Simply fill out the Quick Rental Quote form, give us a call or send an e-mail and we will take care of you right away. Whether you need audience response, kiosks (another great interactive tool!) or plasma rentals, our objective is to equip you with the best tools available so you can finish on time with excellent results, whatever the task.
The breakout session is a mainstay of the modern conference. It is a chance for exhibitors, sponsors and invited speakers to bring good, usable information to attendees, who can range from special guests and industry colleagues to possible collaborators and potential customers. Media events, presentations, panel discussions and such audience participation activities as Q & A sessions and polling involve various (and numerous) pieces of equipment, all of which need to be in place and ready to go. For smooth sailing, you need a basic breakout room package that will fill the bill.
Content is king
In the process of familiarizing yourself with some pretty nice audiovisual equipment and computers, never forget that the most important thing is the content. In many cases it will be a PowerPoint presentation and/or some Flash animation. One of CRE’s laptop rentals with the Microsoft Office installed will be plugged into the 3K projector, set on a cart/stand with a power strip and locking wheels. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a backup laptop running the presentation simultaneously on its own screen. If the presenting PC crashes, the other will be in sync to continue.
With all the included cables and power cords properly attached, you’re ready to roll. On a 6-ft. tripod screen (with skirt) you can showcase your product or service with a presentation including video clips, bullet points that follow your script and/or a slideshow, all controlled by a cordless presenter. If your message is as high-quality as the presentation system, you have the ingredients for a great session.
Stepping it up a notch
If you anticipate a large crowd, you may need to consider some supplemental equipment, for starters a cordless microphone and powered speakers, and other kinds of audiovisual rentals. Depending on the room, you may need some lighting equipment, too, and for archival and/or training purposes you could also bring in some video recording gear. CRE’s digital recorder rentals can be used to hold digital media for use in your presentation, record the session or capture attendee contact information.
If you’re going to have a table in the room for registration, collecting business cards, getting contact information or providing sell sheets or brochures, CRE’s office equipment rentals could be a big help.
Some of the best help you can get in a breakout session, of course, is from your audience. With one of CRE’s Audience Response System rentals, you can interact with attendees and poll them during and after the presentation – or base the presentation around an audience Q & A session in the first place. Whatever your breakout room plan, our experienced Account Executives are ready with the ways, means and expertise to bring it to fruition. Call, send an e-mail or fill out a Quick Rental Quote form and we’ll break out, bring over and set up whatever you need, whenever you need it.
Do you want your company to stay ahead in today’s high-tech business environment? Then, you need computer- and Internet-savvy people—and you need to make sure they stay up-to-date. How? By offering in-house training that teaches employees new business applications or software programs.
Allocating your company resources is tricky when new, special, short-term projects start stacking up. If just a few employees need training, why not rent desktop computers from CRE? It’s more cost-effective than buying a new PC. Then, the question is whether to offer online or offline training.
Logistics of Online Training
Today’s office applications, including the reigning champ Microsoft Office, usually have built-in tutorials, some of which are animated and include graded testing. There are also free online training packages, ranging from computer applications to marketing.
Naturally, you must evaluate the source of online training since not all programs are created equal. If a company employee has sufficient technical expertise, it may be a good idea to combine that expertise with some additional low- or no-cost online materials. If the presentation is to a group, you can easily connect a PC or laptop to a CRE projector rental and test their knowledge during the training with an audience response system rental. A few high-tech gadgets will help you train a room full of employees.
Low Cost Training Alternatives
If you don’t have a qualified employee up to the task of training, consider talking to your high-tech vendors in IT services or telecommunications. You may find a software geek or an IT service tech that can come in to train your people at a great rate. You might also benefit with the recent news about Utah’s abandonment of its OpenCourseWare Project, which folded because of the economy. Download what you need before it goes to cyberheaven for good.
Consider finding a training course on DVD in the bargain bin at the electronics store (or online). You can create an in-house, cost-effective course by hooking up a DVD player to a projector and projecting onto a screen rental that will handle any size audience.
If you don’t ask around and do some online digging, you will never find these inexpensive training opportunities. You really do have lots of options.
Researchers question the effectiveness of a ‘lecture-style’ business presentation. In fact, some have demonstrated that audiences in a “passive” role acquire and retain less. Other findings indicate that an audience member’s attention falls precipitously after 20-30 minutes, and the average participant’s knowledge retention is quite low.
Interactivity is the key to better knowledge retention. In fact, effective “active learning” encompasses multimedia components, discussion groups and teaching activities, all of which result from the use of a very powerful tool, an Audience Response System (ARS) from CRE.
Whether you are training company employees, making a conference presentation or testing product ideas with a focus group, an ARS will create an interactive, collaborative environment in which the “teacher” arguably learns as much as the “students”—and learns even more when all the responses are later tallied and analyzed. In fact, the “teacher role” is merged into each participant, which maximizes audience input and feedback. If you are going to be using an Audience Response System (ARS), these tips will help you make the most of it.
#1: Check the session location at least a day before the event. Not only do you need to get “the lay of the land,” you need to investigate possible logistical problems. Is the room the right size? Will you need extension cords for the base station power, your projection rental equipment, laptop, etc.
#2: Set up your ARS equipment at least an hour before start time (even the day before, if you have access to the location). Make sure everything is working right, and well before your audience begins arriving. Have our phone number handy in case you need more keypads or have a last-minute question or concern. It may make sense to get a laptop rental from CRE to have a backup of your presentation files.
#3: An ARS is fairly simple to operate but you may need some practice to familiarize yourself with how it works. You will also need to coordinate your timing for a glitch-free presentation, so practice your presentation beforehand, as many times as you can. A MicroTrack digital recorder rental is a great way to practice speeches and presentations. Hearing yourself speak is a powerful aid in refining your delivery.
#4: Give the audience members clear, concise directions. Tell them what is expected, and advise them that registering their response at the right time will ensure that it is properly recorded. Concise directions, both spoken and printed, should be given before the session to maximize the number of registered responses.
#5: Keep your questions short and sweet. This is important for several reasons, the first of which is screen legibility—the questions need to be read quickly and easily, even when you are also reading them aloud. If you make the questions too long or unnecessarily complex, your response rate will suffer and the pace of the presentation will be out of your control.
#6: Limit your answer options to four, if possible. When five or more options are displayed and/or read aloud, they can be difficult to read or remember, respectively. Be succinct. This is particularly important if you are making a small-group presentation on a table-mounted LCD or plasma screen rental.
#7: Don’t present your audience with too many questions, or too many in a row. Build some “relief” (comic or otherwise) into your presentation with non-text screen images, occasional pauses and discussion time (see #8, below). If the session becomes tedious you can expect your audience’s interest to wane.
#8: Among the biggest benefits of ARS sessions is the frank discussion that results from them. As the presentation proceeds, audience members get progressively more involved (that’s your goal, at any rate) and the discussion that ensues from the questions and answers gets progressively evolved. Always factor discussion time into your presentation plan.
Following this simple advice, as well as learning as much as you can about ARS technology in advance, will help you achieve the best results from your interactive presentation. There is no reason that large group polling sessions have to be dull, dry, lecture-hall experiences. Fill out a Quick Rental Quote form if you know what you need, or use our Contact Page to ask us whatever you need to know. Our friendly, expert Account Executives will gladly help you turn your next marketing test, training class or presentation into a truly interactive (even fun) experience for you and your audience.
Although there are a few kinds of Audience Response Systems (ARS), they all seek to do the same thing and feature various options to meet your specific information-gathering and interactivity requirements. A typical ARS comprises the following components:
a base station (essentially a receiver)
keypads for every participant
ARS software on the presentation computer
The computer that is running the ARS software connects to the base station/receiver and, as it also runs the presentation software, to the projector itself. The various ARS software applications have different minimum computer system requirements, so make sure you are using the right combination of components.
Participants’ answers are sent to the base station then stored in a database component of the ARS software
The software calculates and displays a graphic describing the results
Data can be accessed later and presented in various reporting formats
Types of ARS’s
Early systems used wired keypads but most professional ARS applications now use wireless models. The two technologies used are RF (radio frequency) and (IR) infrared. The newest offering is browser-based software, which routes response data via an IP address, a system that obviates the need for keypads—wireless laptops, netbooks and hand-helds (Palm PDA’s, Pocket PC’s or browser-equipped cell phones) can be used instead. Let’s take a look at each.
RF systems are well suited to larger group environments. The base stations and keypads are typically larger than infrared models and, despite being bulky, can accommodate a larger number of participants and longer ranges. No line-of-sight is required because radio signals are used.
IR systems are good for small to medium-sized environments such as executive meetings, corporate training and college classrooms. As IR keypads need line-of-sight to the base station, they won’t work in large rooms, and sunlight affects IR transmission outdoors. Although not as powerful as RF systems, IR systems are lightweight and affordable.
Browser-based ARS’s are an emerging technology in early development. A software-only system, they are compatible with existing wireless devices. IP addresses are assigned to polling sessions and participants log in via their own wireless devices (phones, PDAs, laptops). Data is transmitted by wi-fi then displayed for the audience by the projector, as well as on every participant’s device.
ARS’s don’t just collect data for display. They also have reporting functions to help analyze it. The pre-formatted reports export Excel and other common file formats, making possible participant tracking and grading for those in training and education environments. For corporate environments, the advantages are clear—an ARS is a “hearing aid” that gets good information and ideas that would otherwise be missed. CRE can equip your next conference or meeting so you don’t miss out on any great new ideas!
Everybody’s talking at me, I can’t hear a word they’re saying…
At times it seems that listening is an endangered skill. But the better the salesman, and the wiser the business owner, the more apt they are to keep their mouths on standby and their ears wide open. Salesmen know that buyers will tell them everything they need to know to make the sale, while enlightened executives know that some of the best new product ideas, as well as solutions to existing problems, come from their customers.
A meeting, seminar, conference or convention can provide a wealth of good information because the hosts know who will be offering the input. If they want real-time feedback from a staff of 12 or a convention hall of 1200, they will need an Audience Response System (ARS). Part 1 of this two-part article will give you the background, the overview and the rationale for using an ARS, while Part 2 will delve into the technology itself and how it works.
The “back story”
Briefly (and simplistically) an ARS combines hardware and software to bring interactivity to group settings. In a typical ARS setup the presenter and/or a technical assistant makes a presentation with which participants interact by means of handheld keypads, usually wireless. When presented with questions and a number of possible responses, the participants make their selections, the data is fed into the computer running both the presentation and the ARS software, and the numbers are “digitally crunched.” The results can even be displayed graphically right within the presentation, all in real-time.
ARS’s have been shown to improve learning in classrooms and build consensus in corporations. These systems can track and identify the participants, or collect data from them anonymously. There are good reasons to do both. When convention delegates are voting, anonymity is important and privacy can be respected. When a company’s board of directors is making decisions on important matters, especially for a publicly held firm, the meeting minutes need to identify them. An ARS can go both ways.
Better input, better output
The unique versatility and simple flexibility of ARS’s have made them popular across a wide range of industries. Large corporations use them for shareholder meetings and employee conferences. Marketing firms use them to conduct focus groups, do polling and present “mass questionnaires,” while educational institutions employ the technology in small classrooms as well as huge lecture halls. The possible uses for an ARS are virtually unlimited and, as with most technology most of the time, the systems are getting faster, smaller, better and more dependable all the time.
Buying an ARS, however, is still a substantial expense, which means larger firms with ongoing needs for the technology are buying most of the systems. Fortunately for SMB’s (Small and Medium-sized Businesses), there is a healthy audience response system (ARS) rental market. If you know you need one, drop CRE’s ARS specialists a line and they can tailor a setup just right for your event. If you’re still not sure, surf around the Internet while you wait a few days for Part 2 of this article, and learn how using an ARS “hearing aid” could be good for your business.