In today’s world, audiences are looking for more from their speakers than just great stories or insightful points – they’re expecting to be taken on a journey that they get to help create. What this means for a lot of old-school speakers is that the memorized keynote is becoming a thing of the past. Both audiences and conference organizers are expecting speakers to engage audiences, incorporate them into the talk and for speakers to be familiar with live and electronic ways of surveying audiences.
Fortunately for those speakers willing to systemize surveys and other electronic engagement into their live and virtual talks, something as simple and low-cost as live surveys and audience feedback mechanisms can be the differentiator that gets them hired – for a higher fee.
Why are live surveys important in the sales process, how do we use them from the stage, and how do we leverage the information they provide as value-adds and opportunities for additional business?
First, What’s A Survey Got To Do With It?
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For hundreds of years, speakers have been surveying their audiences during their talks. “Raise your hand if … “ is probably the most well-known method of getting an audience involved. Unfortunately, it’s hard to capture exact metrics with this method of engagement and it becomes almost impossible during a virtual talk.
In the last decade, live survey platforms have sprung up to meet the need of presenters and educators to survey their audiences while allowing the audience to see the results as they’re coming in. Smart phones made it possible for an audience member to log into a webpage and participate in an almost unlimited amount of questions that the presenter can show on their presentation screen. While these types of electronic surveys were used simply as icebreakers, they can be woven throughout a speaker’s presentation to not only show the audience how important their group perceives a particular issue to be, but also to allow them to tell the presenter what they’re interested in learning more of.
How To Leverage Live Polling And Surveys Into Your Sales
Because so few speakers are using live polling (or using it well), this becomes a differentiator that sets even the newest speaker apart from their established peers. The key to leveraging it in our sales processes, as with anything, is to ensure we phrase it in terms of benefits and as a bridge to help clients achieve results.
Simply saying ‘we can poll your audience from the stage’ is not as powerful as, ‘because you said engaging your folks was a priority, and because you mentioned that you wanted to the audience to be able to interact with me and guide the content to what they needed that day, we can build live polling and surveys into the talk so your folks get to design the flow of what we talk about.’
Of course, capturing the use of live polling in video from both live and virtual keynotes is a great way to show your potential clients the difference that well-done live polling can make on their audience’s experience. These clips can be built into your speaker reels and other materials that explain how you engage your audiences in ways that few other speakers can.
What Kind Of Survey And Polling Questions Are Available?
Live polling and surveys allow for a variety of question types, each with its own uses. These are a small sampling of what’s available on many survey platforms:
Wordclouds: This allows audience members to enter one word in response to a question, which then appears in real-time on the main screen. Words that are more popular become larger, creating a living word art that communicates which words are being entered more.
Multiple Choice: These surveys ask audience members to choose one or more pre-written choices in response to a question or statement. Responses can then be expressed in bar graphs, dot graphs or a variety of diagrams. These are useful for a presenter because it limits the possible options available so the speaker can have content prepared for each option depending on which one the audience votes for.
Circle Graphs/Pie Charts: A variety of multiple choice, circle graphs allows audience members to select from a pre-written group of choices that is then expressed as a pie chart.
There are dozens of other possibilities that most live polling platforms offer, but those are standard in any speaker’s live polling and survey toolkit.
How To Use Live Polling And Surveys During The Talk
Before we dive into how to use live polling during your talk, it’s important to understand that you must determine the questions you’ll be asking your audience ahead of time and be prepared to pivot your content depending on the feedback you receive from the polls and surveys. It doesn’t mean you need to revamp your keynote for every audience, but you should be familiar enough with your content and expertise to be able to address any potential response in a live survey. For this reason, ensure the options you provide to your audience to vote on are all areas you can focus content on extemporaneously from the stage.
Because speakers’ talks tend to be segmented into live and virtual settings these days, let’s address how to incorporate live polling into each of them.
For live session where you’re in front of an actual audience, the best live polling and survey platforms are stand-alone software platforms that can be incorporated alongside your slide deck. This means you can either stand up your survey and add your deck’s slides before and after survey questions, but this usually limits any animations your deck builds contain. Alternatively, you can maintain your existing deck and have your survey screens open in another window on your laptop that you/your AV team can toggle back and forth on so you can guide your audience smoothly from your prepared content to the survey and polling slides.
Virtual sessions almost always require an external survey or polling platform, because as of this writing the most popular virtual platforms of Zoom, GoToWebinar etc. haven’t caught up to the graphics or customization options of standalone survey platforms. If you have no other option, you can fall back on the default survey options those platforms offer but for a better audience experience, we recommend you invest in a platform designed for polling and surveys.
How To Leverage The Audience’s Data After The Talk
Live polling and surveys give speakers something we’ve never had access to before – hard data and metrics collected while we were speaking. Prior to the technology that allowed for live polling, speakers were limited to collecting data after the talk, and usually saw a lot of attrition because audience members were usually more interested in getting to the next session or the happy hour than in filling out a dozen multiple choice questions.
However, because a speaker can encourage the entire audience to participate in the surveys and polling early in the talk, audience participation in the surveys and polls jumps enormously. Few speakers, even those using live polling and surveys, take the time to examine the data collected and use it in future sales efforts. Here are three ways to incorporate what you learn into future sales efforts:
With the event organizer: During your post-event debrief, share the data you gathered from the polls and let your event organizer know where their audience said they were struggling the most from the survey questions they responded to. This is an audience-generated request for more content that you can design custom programs to fulfill.
With attendees: If you have access to attendee contact information, you can share simplified versions of the survey and polling results with them, adding that you have a program custom-designed for their industry to help with the areas the audience identified as challenges or places for future growth.
With future marketing efforts: Because you’ve gathered data from your audience, you can cite hard metrics for the amount of engagement you receive in all your sales conversations. The data itself can also point to what your next keynote/book/workshop should focus on, and you’ll be able to cite hard data as you build future programs and products.
With the low cost and high return of live polling and surveys, if speakers want to remain competitive they’ll need to survey themselves and ask: If I’m speaking in order to serve my audience, why wouldn’t I want them along for the ride?
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