“I'd like to ask the audience, Regis.”
Audience-response systems have been around for more than 20 years. (If you don't know what an ARS is, flip to that network showing all game shows and watch them ask the audience a question on that Who Wants to be a Gadzillionaire show.)
For meetings, the problem has frequently been that audience-response systems are pricey to implement and need lots of prep work. With the explosion of Web 2.0 tools forcing us to consider interactivity in all parts of our meetings, it's good to see some products that are affordable and user-friendly. For a traditional approach (using hand-held devices), check out Turning Technologies' Turning Point system (www.turningtechnologies.com). Even cooler is PollEverywhere (www.polleverywhere.com). Instead of proprietary devices, attendees use their mobile phones to text answers to a Web site that displays the results in real time. Either way, you can't go wrong.
So do you know about Twitter (www.twitter.com)? It's a mobile blog where participants answer one simple question: What are you doing now? In the new, always-connected world, Twitter allows you to follow what your family, friends — or perhaps prospective meeting attendees or sales clients — are doing. So what about the Martian thing? Well, somebody who deserves a raise at NASA decided that the current Phoenix Mars Lander mission should use the Twitter technology to tell us earthlings what it's seeing. You can get tweets (Yes, that's the term used!) about what the space mission is uncovering, and you can interact and ask questions (http://twitter.com/MarsPhoenix). If NASA can find a way to use it on Mars, I have to believe that you can find a way to use Twitter for your meetings.
Have you heard about the Pulse SmartPen from LiveScribe (www.livescribe.com)? Released just a few months ago, it's a pen. Well, actually, more than just a pen; it's a pen that has a built-in microphone so that when you're writing your notes at a session, it is also recording the presentation. What's really cool is when you use LiveScribe's specially designed notebooks, the pen can access any part of the audio presentation by just clicking on the note you were writing when that part of the message was delivered. Imagine your kids using these to help them with their schoolwork … or, just maybe, it's a corporate gift. Perhaps a bit expensive for that now ($149 for 1GB, $199 for 2GB), but it is a seriously cool tool.
That's all for now.
James Spellos, CMP, is founder and president of Meeting U., a New York-based company that provides training and consulting to meeting professionals. He is a frequent email@example.com technology at meeting industry conferences. Contact him at