The power of an audience response system lies in its ability to solve basic problems and do it simply. Here are two very useful tips for interactive meetings speakers and presenters. They are so basic to a successful presentation that they are often overlooked.


At their best, interactive meetings are a mix of prepared questions for discussion mixed with impromptu questions that bubble up to the surface. The problem presenters have is that they can’t estimate how many questions they need and more importantly, how long will they take. First, realize that LESS IS MORE. Get down to the most important (basic) questions, with as little text on screen as possible. Then time and read the questions aloud. Give the audience 10-15 seconds to respond. More thoughtful questions may need more time to complete. Displaying the responses on screen is instantaneous.

The questions should be catalysts for thought, action and discussion. The unknown time to be concerned about is the discussion (if any) after the question. Since there is no way to know how long the discussion that they spark will be, the first solution is to prioritize the questions. Discuss the most important items first. If time runs out, the most important issues will have been dealt with.


You have your list; now determine which topic within that list is most important to the attendees. Spend more time on the important topics/issues to you as the presenter and to the audience. What a great aid it is to any presentation to know what the audience is really interested in, or concerned about.

Here’s how simple it is. Display your “Laundry List” of topics that you wish to discuss. Ask the audience which of them is most important and prioritize the list. By asking a single question the audience is empowered to assist the speaker have a more effective and successful session. Determining their level of expectation automatically makes your session more interesting, valuable—and successful.

Then consider determining their level of understanding. Ask one question about the topic to see how knowledgeable or sophisticated they are about the topic. It creates a starting point that isn’t too high, or low. It might be as simple as asking directly:

“How well do you understand________________?”

Presenters and moderators often misunderstand this process. They fear that it may be a way to lose control and introduce topics that they are not prepared to discuss. Precisely the opposite is true. Remember that the list of topics you present is yours. If something comes up that you don’t want to discuss, simply refer back to the list and say that you need to/want to stay on topic.

Don’t guess at what needs to be discussed, or taught. Find out before you start, and have a better, more interesting and useful session.

With over 30 years of experience in helping clients achieve their meetings goals. I am passionate about the power of insight. If I can help your firm discover this power, please contact me.

Alan Warshaw
Quick Tally® Interactive Systems, Inc.
Direct Dial: 310.306.4930

About Me

After graduating from New York University with a degree in Communications, Alan attended the New School for Social Research, Graduate School at N.Y.U. and the Master’s Program in Cinema at U.C.L.A. Following his service in the U.S. Army, Alan was employed by Doyle, Dane and Burnbach Advertising Agency. He worked in the U.S. and Europe in the feature motion picture production business. He was employed by Quick Tally Interactive Systems for one year prior to acquiring the company. He has owned and run the company for almost three decades and has pioneered in the manufacturing of ARS equipment and providing interactive event services. In addition to US State and Federal Government Agencies, America’s leading companies, associations and television networks, he has also worked for events clients in the EU, New Zealand, Hong Kong Thailand and Dubai.