Involving the Audience with Event Technology


Pollice Verso was an Ancient Roman form of audience interaction at events involving gladiators, bears, condemned criminals and a fair amount of bad luck. The response system was binary. Thumbs up meant you were going back to the dressing room. Pollice Verso, or thumbs down meant no, you were staying here on the sand.

Canvassing audience opinion, the use of voting systems, audience response systems and next generation event technology is transforming major presentation and conference events.Bespoke devices or apps running on smartphones enable a real dialogue between speaker and audience. Slow death by Powerpoint is becoming less common as speakers harness event technology to tap into the collective intelligence of a room.

The worst teachers, of course, are those who never listen. They have their notes, they have their linear structure and in forty turgid minutes are going to make their point in the way that they, and perhaps only they, understand it.They are excellent at making us feel stupid. Real experts can explain something to a ten-year-old or a PhD student in ten minutes or ten weeks. A real expert takes great pains to ensure s/he is understood. For participants the move to interactivity is transformative. A well designed presentation module allows an audience to prove that “I get it.”

Rather than leaving the Q & A to the final quarter hour, speakers are now able to monitor in real time the levels of comprehension being achieved and modify the presentation accordingly.

There are, of course, challenges. Lazy or uncreative speakers will have difficulty adjusting their one-way-fits-all approach to a system where “expertise” can be questioned.Audience members hoping for the chance to doze for the afternoon may have to perk up a bit.

“I’m going to fire the bottom ten percent in the room at the end of the afternoon. I’m glad I have your attention. Shall we proceed…?” The change in dynamic from one-way presentation to an interactive forum has myriad benefits. Audience response systems increase involvement, ownership and understanding. A conversation is more easily remembered than a lecture.

In the end it’s the audience who judges. Pollice Verso?

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