How long does it take to ask a question using the interactive process?

In this article, you’ll learn some time management tips to help you get the answers you really need.

The question most frequently asked by our new clients is:
How many questions should I ask?

The response to that question appears in my previous piece:
How much is enough?

The second most frequently asked question is:
How long does it take to ask a question?

The simplistic response is that it takes as long as you need to read the question aloud, plus 10-15 seconds for the audience to respond. (Although I do not recommend it, a countdown clock may be inserted into the question screen to speed up the process.) Once the voting is closed, it takes about 2 seconds to tabulate and send the response to projection. So, there is no mystery in timing your questions. Just read them aloud and add 15-20 seconds.

The most important consideration is what comes after asking the questions.

First, consider how much time it will take the audience to think of the correct response.

If it is an important and though provoking question (hopefully that’s what most of your questions will be), decide if they might need more than 10-15 seconds. Perhaps allow 30 seconds, or in really highly unusual instances allow a minute.

Quick Tally operators have a good feel for this process. They generally wait until about 80% of the audience has voted and the votes start to slowly trickle in at the end of the bell curve, or the moderator calls for the vote to be shown, signaling that enough time has elapsed. This should be arranged in advance with the operator during the on site rehearsal.

There are a few other options:

  • Introduce the systems operator to the audience and speak to him/her during the voting, or establish eye contact for signals about when to close the vote
  • If your voting system has the option of projecting the number of votes as they come in, decide if you want to see that information on screen
  • Simply ask the audience if they have had enough time to consider the question

Second, the bulk of most session time is generally spent after the question is asked, so make decisions about the process in advance.

  • Are you merely reading the responses back, or are you doing color commentary and explaining the meaning of the response?
  • At an educational session, are you going to explain the correct answer, or deal with reinforcing learning later?
  • If the response is important to the progress of your talk, will you discuss it in depth?
  • Will there be follow up questions?

Quick Tips

  • Arrange the question list in descending order of importance, so that if the session runs long, the least important questions are not asked. Do this with each topic if there are multiple topics in the session.
  • Eliminate all but the few most basic, meaningful questions.
  • Keep it simple: The question on screen is merely a brief prompt of the spoken question.
  • Do not repeat redundant elements of the question in each of the choices.

Where should we meet next year?

  1. Should we meet in Chicago
  2. Should we meet in New York
  3. Should we meet in Florida

Do not have unnecessary choices that take time to read and fill the screen. Usually about four choices are enough.

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.