Trainer's Notebook: Online Interaction Tools To Engage Your Audience in the Room and Beyond | Beth's Blog

Trainer’s Notebook: Online Interaction Tools To Engage Your Audience in the Room and Beyond

Instructional Design

This past month I’ve done several workshops where I experimented with different audience online interaction tools to engage people in the room as well as a remote audience tuning in through a live video stream.   These were workshops at Cause Camp,  Global Giving, and the Hartford Foundation.

My instructional needs were simple:

  • Question/Answer back channel where participants in the room or faraway could post questions
  • Flash polls
  • Online versions of assessments for participants that would can calculate individual scores and show aggregate results

I tested a few different options and here’s what I learned so far.

In Hartford, I had challenge of a large number of participants, a “master class” type set up, and but a room and time constraints that limited the amount of full group interactive exercises.  I did not have a remote audience.  I wanted the ability to do report outs visually and quickly, flash polls, and an online Q/A function.    Colleague Jeremiah Owyang mentioned a tool called “Slido” he was using in Paris at the Conference.

Slido allows you to crowd source questions from the audience who can use the web site from their mobile phones or laptops in real time.  The questions appear in a cue and participants can vote them up or down.  You can also moderate the questions, but that is a paid feature.

It can also do polls, either close-ended multiple choice questions or open-ended questions that display the responses as a word cloud.  The free version limits you to three polls.

Once you register, Slido assigns you an event number.  You direct participants to the site and it prompts them to enter the event number.   Meanwhile, in the admin panel, you activate your polls and share results.

I experimented with using the polls as part of the opening exercise in the workshop.   The purpose of an opening is to get people ready to learn and comfortable with each other.   For this workshop, I wanted to people share a big or small win with networks or social media with a peer and their challenges.  I also wanted them to share with the full room.

When you have a large group (over 100 people), it can take up a lot of time to get everyone to share during the opening and you don’t want to eat up all your agenda in the doing the opening.   For the question about challenges, I had them use Slido’s open-ended question feature and asked them to share just three words about their challenges.  It generated the word cloud below in real time:

I also experimented with a close-ended poll.    As part of the workshops, participants take a maturity of practice assessment that allows to evaluate their maturity of practice when it comes to leveraging networks.    They can be at Crawl, Walk, Run, or Fly.    When I have more time and different room set up, I use an exercise call “four corners of the room” where participants talk to others at their same level.   Instead, I had them respond to their poll so we could see visually the levels in room.

This was helpful for me to be able to figure out in real time how deep to go in some of the planned presentation materials.

Slido’s Q/A feature is well designed.   It was useful to be able to scan the questions as they were coming in and at different points address them. I pulled up the page on my mobile phone.   If you have done any webinars with a back channel chat, it is a very similar.    I probably could have worked in this feature in the formal Q/A part of the workshop, but that is something to think about and experiment during the next workshop.

I do have a file with the questions, so I can do an analysis of the questions and think about how to improve my materials.

Slido would work well for both the face-to-face audience as well as remote participants – and especially for  Q/A and polls. I like better than some of the other applications that I’ve experimented with for online interaction.

I also need to find a good tool for people to take an assessment online versus paper and one that automate scoring for participants as well as aggregate results.    I have found two good roundup posts, “Top 10 Online Quiz Makers for Teachers” and “30 Tools to Create Online Quizzes” but have not checked them out.

Now I’m curious about experimenting with weaving together online interaction with interactive exercises in the room as part of training.   Stay tuned.

What audience interaction tools do you use to engage participants at a training – in the room and remotely?


Ashley Tan has written a blog post  and Frank Strona also wrote a post answering this questions and suggestions some additional tools and techniques for audience engagement.


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