Prudent Polling Please

Close-up of a survey form


I have written in the past about the benefits of polling your audience during a webinar. The occasional poll keeps your audience members on their toes, gives you and them valuable information about each other and can help you focus your presentation to best suit audience needs.

Last week, my wife and I attended a webinar in order to earn some credits toward a recertification of a credential we’ve held for some time. The presentation promised to teach us about how generational differences among project participants effects the success of said projects. The presentation rewarded us with perhaps ten minutes of real learning in an hour. That is not so  good. The worst part was the polling. Poll after poll after poll after poll. We wondered if it would ever stop. I think there were eight polling questions in all, asked at the front end of the webinar.

The most relevant polling question concerned our age. This made sense. The pitch was about communication boundaries between project participants in different generations (i.e. Gen-X, Baby Boomers, etc.) Other questions lacked that relevance. In particular, we were asked our gender. What did that have to do with the subject at hand? By the time the webinar was over, we still didn’t know.

When all was said and done, my wife said to me, “I have a sneaking suspicion the presenter was gathering research data.” That had never occurred to me but considering how many demographic questions he asked, I concluded that my wife had hit the nail on the head. This of course, is a major no-no. Your audience is not a guinea pig for your research, at least not on the sly. If you are gathering data for research and you are using webinar polling for that purpose, you should inform the audience up front. In fact, it should be in your advertising literature. That way, people know what they are getting into.

Do I know for a fact that this presenter was using this webinar to gather data? No. But the fact that I can find no other logical conclusion means that he misused the polling feature. Let’s repeat the purposes of polling:

  • Keep your audience engaged.
  • Learn about their interests so you can focus your pitch.
  • Provide a means for your audience to learn about each other.

You should be able to meet those goals with two or perhaps three polls at most in one hour. Prudent use of polling makes you look like a prince. Poor use of polling makes you look like a punk.

About Matt Bovell

President and CEO of Vell Group LLC
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