(noun) 1. An interactive meeting technology that allows real-time polling of attendees

In a Nutshell

Audience response systems bring interactivity — and in some cases, honesty — to a meeting by allowing users to answer multiple-choice questions anonymously via a keypad. Almost instantly, results are collected and can be displayed on a screen or exported for reporting and analysis.

What's the Point?

Top reasons for bringing ARS into a meeting setting include faster decision making, improved attentiveness, gauging understanding of key points — or actual testing (a system can be set up to track individual responses) — and sometimes creation of a livelier meeting.

Budget Bummer

Price can keep planners away. ARS rentals cost $20 to $25 per response pad per day, plus one wireless base station for every 250 attendees at about $130 per day. For a one-day, 150-person meeting, the fees are north of $3,000 before you figure in the laptop computer, LCD projector, screen, and, most notably, a technician, who can cost upward of $1,000 per day. Companies that use ARS technology regularly should consider purchasing a system.

It's a Record

How large a group can use an audience response system? Option Technologies Interactive claims the record for the largest event to use a wireless ARS at a single location: Nobel Biocare's World Conference 2005 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, with 8,100 participants.

Up and Coming

Audience response systems that use attendees' own wireless devices — such as PDAs — are a promising frontier, but they are still in the early stages of development. With these systems, the session leader creates questions and assigns them an Internet address, where participants can log in. The responses are sent from the IP address to the leader. Another variation using cell phones and SMS (Short Message Service) technology has been developed by an Israeli company called Mobile Feedback; however, the service does not provide the instant feedback of conventional, dedicated keypads.

Sources: Wikipedia.com; Audience Response Info, www.audienceresponseinfo.com; Audience Response Rentals, www.audience-response-rentals.com/cellular.htm; Audience Response Place, www.audienceresponseplace.com/industry_pricing.htm; Inc. magazine, www.inc.com