This post originally appeared on the Slido blog.

5 Types of Polls to Open Your Presentations with 15 + Examples

Being able to involve audiences in your presentations is no longer only a nice-to-have skill. It is becoming one of the key abilities in your public speaking toolbox. Delegates now expect interaction and engagement. They want to participate, not merely observe.

To make sure that your presentation succeeds, you need to engage your participants, ideally right from the get-go, and make them an active part of your talk.
And one of the easiest and most successful ways is to use live polling. If integrated well, it can have a profound effect on interactivity during your presentation, which will stretch far beyond the initial wow effect.

After witnessing hundreds of speakers and event planners leverage the potential of live polls, I’ve put down five types of polls that can significantly enhance your presentation and delegates’ learning too.
I know we, as speakers, love practical examples. I included those too. Enjoy.

1. Polls to set up learning objectives

The following quote from adult education pioneer, Malcolm S. Knowles, had a profound effect on how I approach my presentations.

“Adult learners are in charge of their own learning.”

A funny thing is that many adults are aware of this fact but they easily fall back into the back-in-school mindset — they just cross their arms and expect to be talked to. A good presenter or facilitator will help them get rid of this feeling of dependency.

The key is to help people identify what they want to learn at your session.

The key is to help people identify what they want to learn at your session. And live polls are really effective at this.
So at the start of your talk, run a poll inquiring about delegates’ motivation to join your presentation and what they strive to get from it. Give people one to two minutes to reflect on the options and then prompt them to send their votes in. Once the results update, make sure to comment on them. To bring in more interaction, walk among the audience and collect some responses from the floor.

Example polls

  • What would you like to learn today?
  • What would you like to get out of this event?
  • What is one thing you’d like to walk away with after this session?

2. Polls to highlight delegates’ knowledge

Adults come to your learning session with a rich background of knowledge and experience. Unfortunately, in most cases, it’s largely ignored. Nonetheless, this accumulated knowledge is an invaluable resource for you to build on as well as for other participants to tap into.
Running a few live polls at the start can help you highlight the knowledge your participants brought along so you can fully release it later on with interactive learning techniques, such as:
Peer-to-peer discussion
Live barometer
Problem-based learning

At our educational session during the Meet the Future event in London, we ran a live poll to unearth how much experience participants had brought with them.

Finding out that the cumulative experience was over 150 years, we commented that it would be a great pity not to tap into this great knowledge potential.

We spent the end of the session in an educative peer-to-peer discussion where participants exchanged the experience we helped to highlight at the start.

Example polls

  • How long have you been working in your industry?
  • What position do you currently hold?
  • Which sector or group do you represent?

3. Polls to learn about audience opinions

Effective learning cannot be done without delegates’ authentic engagement. And for many, engagement means being heard. People want to express their opinion.

Live polls give you a chance to engage tens or hundreds of delegates at the same time and find out about their stances on the presented topic. And as a bonus, you can effectively pull them into your presentation.

Before the Eventex session entitled Success Is Not a Spectator Sport, moderator Jan-Jaap In der Maur asked the audience an open poll question,

What determines success for you?

to prepare the ground for the keynote speaker. The entries were then displayed in a form of word cloud so the entire audience could see which factors the majority found the most decisive. You can easily replicate a similar scenario at your own presentation.

Example polls

  • What does X or Y mean to you?
  • What is the most important trait of a successful X or Y?
  • How would you define x or Y?

4. Polls to point out knowledge gaps

Providing Aha! moments for delegates is the holy grail for many speakers. And the most powerful Aha! experiences are preceded by the itching Huh? moments. The trick is asking the right questions to point out the knowledge gap that stirs the listeners’ interest to learn the answer.

In the book Made to Stick, authors Chip and Dan Heath featured Eric Mazur, a Harvard physics professor, who poses conceptual questions throughout his class and asks his students to vote publicly on the answer. “The simple act of committing to an answer makes students more engaged and curious about the outcome,” write the authors.

Before presenting the health report findings, The Future of People Powered Health conference let the audience guess the percentage of general practitioners that found patients’ data from health apps useful to their work. They revealed their findings only after the delegates had voted and were eager to know the answers.

Example Polls

  • What do you think is the most …?
  • How many people do you think …?
  • What percentage of industry experts do you think find/consider…?

5. Polls to collect valuable insights

With survey response rates keep dropping, running a live poll is an amazing opportunity to effectively generate valuable insights from 50, 100 or 500 experts attending your session. Captured data can then be used to nurture your blog, be shared with your followers and, as a result, extend the reach of your presentation beyond the audience sitting physically in the room.
After asking a poll question about current event trends, Michael Heipel revealed that 70% of experts in the room consider digital transformation as the most powerful trend that will impact the industry. After the conference was over, the Ungerboeck EMEA organizers shared the generated insights in a form of a blog post with the rest of their community, both giving additional exposure to Michael’s talk as well as extending the life cycle of their event.

Example Polls

  • Which trend will have the most profound impact on…?
  • Which is the most important motivation for people to…?
  • What’s your greatest challenge in your industry right now?

In conclusion

The traditional presentation methods are not able to live up to the expectations and needs of audiences anymore. Live polls are just one of the means for turning presentations into conversations. The options are infinite. Every presentation will differ in objectives and format, yet one thing is certain: the future of speaking will be more interactive and conversational.