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June 9th, 2009

Everybody’s talking at me, I can’t hear a word they’re saying…
—Harry Nilsson

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. Audience Response System Rental - ComputerRentals.comWhen 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.

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