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Webinar Polling – It’s Not Just for Pretending that You’re Interacting with the Audience Anymore!


Polls in WebinarsSome of you youngsters reading this may not remember the days before online.  But for us old folks, I remember attending my first WebEx event.  The instructor had us take a cheesy poll, I forget about what.  Except back then, it was such a “gee whiz” thing – to be listening on a conference call line and seeing the same screen as people across the country – that we didn’t mind the cheesy poll.

The technology and the vendors have expanded since I was first exposed to WebEx.  Yet many of the well-meaning folks holding the webinars haven’t figured out what to do with the polling feature.  So rather than falling prey to the cheesy polls, here are some thoughts on how to meaningfully use polling the next time you do a webinar.

Definition of a Cheesy Poll

But first, it might be helpful to define what a cheesy poll is, so that if we’re guilty of the cheesy polls, we can stop and look for another way.  Here are the most common cheesy poll types.


The Self-Evident-Answered Question

Any question that has an answer which is pretty darn obvious is a cheesy poll question.  For instance, “Who here would like to make more money?”  Answer:  Yes / No.

OK, maybe somewhere out there is a person who knows if they make more money that their tax bracket will change such that it will actually net them less money… but isn’t the answer to this questions obviously yes for most people?

If the answer to the question seems obvious, don’t ask it!  Ask something of value instead!


The Oblivious Question

This question is the one that is asked that absolutely has no relevance to the topic at hand.  For example, What’s your favorite color?   A.  Blue  B.  Red  C.  Yellow etc.  For your typical business presentation, that question is irrelevant!

Don’t ask a stupid question just because you’re trying to find a way for your audience to interact!   Ugh!  Don’t waste their time or your time when there are so many other cool things you could be asking about!!!

Powerful Audience Polling

If above are the cheesy polls, what should we do instead?  Consider these options!


Surprising Information

Sometimes you have information to share that your audience will find shocking.  Instead of just sharing the information, do a poll to see if people can guess the correct answer.  The individual audience member who gets the answer right will feel pretty darn smart.  And the audience member who misses the answer will more likely remember the information because they were so far off.

Either way, you’re also tapping into the competitive human nature so you’re getting good quality interaction with your audience.


Valuable Information – Data Collection

This one I learned from the brilliant Roger Courville, the guru of virtual presenting.

Take a poll to collect and to share valuable information.

For instance, Roger polled an audience of people who were interested in doing webinars and asked them what would be the best day of the week to hold a webinar, in our opinion.  Then he shared the aggregate data that he’d collected over thousands of attendees he’d asked the same question of.  He collected valuable information, which was helpful to him in knowing when to schedule webinars, and shared it with an audience that would also care about the same information.

What in your world of business would your audiences be willing to give their opinion on, then also be interested in hearing what others like them had said?  That my friend, is a great question to ask in your poll.  Then start collecting and sharing the data across multiple audiences!


Gauge Your Audience

When you have a mixed audience that you don’t have access to before the webinar, use polling to get a sense of your audience so that you can make the content more relevant.  Ask the audience to report demographic information relevant to your audience.  For instance, if you’re doing a presentation on managing performance problems in your staff, you might poll your attendees to see what percent of your audience members manage people in a union shop.  If you have a high percentage of managers in a unionized workforce then you may need to address getting the union representative involved.

Asking demographic information is generally palatable for audiences because – we generally, people love to talk about ourselves.  We want to be counted.

However, you should not ask a question about your audience that you should already know.  If you’re doing a webinar for the Vermont chapter of the Professional CPAs, you should not ask them what part of the country they’re from or what they do for a living.


OK, some of you may say that this is cheesy.  But studies have shown that humor aids in recall so I say add a poll that gives you a chance to add some humor.

To keep it from falling into the category of cheesy, make sure the question somehow relates to the topic of the presentation.  You can do this by asking a meaningful question then making one of multiple-choice options obviously funny.

You can also do this by telling “inside jokes” within a particular profession.  For example, back in my corporate days, I might have made a question that poked fun at the common acronyms we used within the company.  Everyone love to lament about their company’s version of alphabet soup!

A caution with attempts at humor – never make fun of a person or a group.  Bad form and it’s not funny.  Because it’s a webinar, you can use your voice tone to make sure the humor comes off as funny – but just in case, run the idea past a trusted colleague or two to make sure that it really is funny!  Once you get a few laughs, you know you’re good to go!


Leave the Cheese in the Fridge!  Interact Using Polls in a Meaningful Way!

So those are my suggestions for having polls that interact with your audience and add to the value and engagement of your presentation.

What else?

What ways have you found to add meaningful interaction with polls???  Add them to the comments below!!

Craig Hadden – Remote Possibilities
Craig Hadden – Remote Possibilities

Well said, Kelly! You nailed it on the head when you said “Ask something of value.” (Nice example about Vermont CPAs!) I love your specific tips about sharing something surprising or valuable. I’d say use the surprising option at most once per talk though, because although it’s memorable, it’s also much slower than just telling people. (And it wouldn’t be surprising if used more than once. To paraphrase Craig Valentine, “If you’re always surprising, you’re no longer surprising.”) The idea about collecting and sharing relevant industry data’s great. I can see many people would really value knowing where they stood on that compared to their peers. As you suggest, I think most polls are a waste of time, because most presenters don’t know how to use them well. (Just like most people don’t know how to use SLIDES well, either!) Recently I asked what’s a really good poll topic, and suggested an idea, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on that: What’s the best webinar polling question ever? Maybe this…


Craig, Thanks for the comment. I appreciate you making the point about not overusing a technique. Good advice! Loved your post about the best webinar polling question ever. Hope people will click through to read your thoughtful post! I look forward to reading more from you! Kelly


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