There is something simple and moving that I learned about Audience Response Systems (ARS) at Town Halls. Quick Tally has done some nationally televised events and some community level events. They have been a wonderful learning experience about the power of audience voting at meetings.
The underpinning of the process is that the importance of the technology is in providing an equal and anonymous voice to every member of the community. Without anonymity many people will not reveal their true feelings due to peer pressure. It is also noteworthy at community meetings that different ethnic and racial groups may be very vocal, or culturally quiet. The technology is possibly the only way to level the playing field.
The epiphany for most of the attendees at community Town Halls where there is a racial divide is that everyone wants the same things. As strange as it seems, that is a surprise. They all basically want safer streets, better schools, etc. That sounds like it would be a given, except it really isn’t.
Of course, they may disagree on how to get there, or have differences to air. The key is that it is a discovery process– by both the individual and the community. Many individuals may believe that they have really examined the issue and they actually haven’t. They are on autopilot. Perhaps an individual believed they were part of a clear majority/minority, only to discover they were not. This is part of the process of using audience voting, exposing the incredibly important difference between perception and reality.
People are separated by misconceptions. Interestingly they are often misconceptions about themselves. They discover them by being confronted with the questions that they may never have asked themselves, or ever answered in public. Exploding those misconceptions and moving to consensus is what an interactive event is really about. The anonymity of an audience response system is the key. The most basic technique is used; showing how the overall population of the room responded and then showing how the subgroups responded.
Everyone—the community, the groups and the individuals within it are forced discover and own their opinion. The visceral connection made by press the ARS voting button and the result being projected creates ownership of their responses. This, plus the conversion of verbal language to visual language ends any doubt about the truth. The visualization creates unthreatening change and automatic buy-in.
And, at the end of the day, the best part is that they told it to themselves.
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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.