New Feature Update

Introducing “Presenters”

presenters

We just added a new concept in Conferences i/o allowing administrators to create presenters and assign presenters to specific sessions.

This new concept will allow Conferences i/o to add a wide breadth of useful functionality, particularly for panel discussions and sessions that have multiple speakers presenting.


What can you do with Presenters?

Session EvaluationsSession Evaluations

Create evaluation questions that are repeated for each presenter in a session.

Social Q&ASocial Q&A

Attendees can now tag which presenter a question is targeted for before submitting.

presenters3Joining a Session

Attendees can search for sessions on your app using just a presenter’s name.

PollingPolling

Associate polls with presenters to keep track of whose polls belong to whom.

Learn More About Presenter’s Here

Should You Encourage Device Use During Events?

We recently asked 100 people how they feel when they see someone next to them using their phone during a presentation or talk. Here are some of the responses we heard.

“It seems disrespectful to the presenter and others in attendance.”

“I would like to tell them how rude they are.”

“I want to kill them forcefully.”

Whoa. How can people have such strong opinions about the simple act of using your phone?

Well, let’s step into their shoes for a moment. Or into your own memories, since you’ve been in the audience at many talks and presentations. How do you feel when you see the people around you constantly on their phones? Are you able to focus on the presenter, or are you distracted?

We were stunned at how unabashedly people wrote about their disgust toward other attendees using their devices during a live talk. The reactions inspire memories of people using their phones at the movie theater, frustrating those around them.

From what we have uncovered, the same negative opinion carries over to live events.

Active policies toward attendee device use during live events

The opinions we have seen from attendees toward device use is the result of laissez-faire policies from event organizers. Almost every organizer is passive, neither encouraging nor discouraging device use during sessions. As an organizer, you curate almost every aspect of your event—so why stop there? Why not consider an active policy?

Discourage device use

Repressing or prohibiting device use is not easy. Attendees (or their employers) are paying to be at your event, and will feel entitled to use their phone whenever they want. So it’s probably not wise to adopt an across-the-board policy of device discouragement, unless you want to hear a steady stream of complaints.

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You could, however, enact prohibition policies at some sessions. For example, a keynote with a respected speaker should command the audience’s complete attention. But even in this situation you’d probably prefer attendees sharing quotes and photos on Twitter to an outright ban on device use.

Separate users from non-users

As an alternative to a prohibition on device use, you could restrict device use to a special seating section (preferably in the back or to the sides of rooms). This keeps device use out of the line of sight of most folks in the audience.

Encourage constructive use

If you are going to take an active approach to audience device use during sessions, encouraging constructive use is the best way to go. What qualifies as constructive use?

  • Sharing session highlights on social media.
  • Taking notes on the session.
  • Using an audience interaction app (like Conferences i/o) to add real-time polling, and crowdsource Q&A for speakers.

If you’ve never encouraged constructive device use at an event before, we recommend ramping up over a year or two. Start small with social media hashtags, create incentives for attendees to use it, and then layer in other technologies as they make sense.

The only downside of constructive device use is that you will have to consider forking over extra money to the venue for additional wifi coverage. While you could rely on attendees to use their own device’s data connections, a complete lack of free wifi creates the impression that the event’s organizers are cheap, especially if the registration fee is relatively high. But if you plan ahead, you can build some of that cost increase into the registration fee, find a sponsor to cover your wifi costs, and you will reap the positive reward of more fun and engaging sessions.

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Summing it up

Here are a few takeaways from what we’ve learned:

  • An active policy toward audience device use, in most cases, is better than a passive policy.
  • Discouraging device use or separating the audience may not be the best option, but can work in some situations.
  • Encouraging constructive use of devices will have many positive outcomes.

What Event Organizers Can Learn From College Professors

Photo of Raquel Tabak

My name is Raquel Tabak. I am a student currently enrolled at Michigan State University. Although professors and event professionals are a bit different profession-wise, they both accomplish the similar goal of pleasing their audiences while delivering high quality educational experiences.

I was curious about what my professors do that make them successful when speaking to their students, so I got in touch with a few here at Michigan State University. It is on a daily basis that professors and the alike need to ensure that they are giving the best presentation they possibly can. Thus, these tactics and theories can also benefit event professionals. Here are some key pieces of information I found from my research that event organizers can learn from college professors when it comes to speaking to an audience.

Sessions should flow from one to another

It is important when giving multiple presentations to create sessions that flow. If you attended college, you can probably remember a class you took that seemed choppy. This means that with every meet, the previous class did not seem to flow or connect with the following one. If you are giving more than one talk to an audience in one day, you should make sure that you stay consistent. This provides the presentations with a smooth tone that will make it easy for audience members to understand.

Keep attendees focused

Long lectures make it easy for people to lose focus. However, this can easily be prevented in a couple of ways.

Firstly, make sure that you stop for breaks as well as pacing the presentation. This will give listeners time to absorb the information they have been given. If you overwhelm the attendees with too much material at once, it can become confusing.

Secondly, according to Charles Ballard of the Economics department at Michigan State University, a good tactic to keep the group interested is to be animated, enthusiastic and energetic. It is important to bring energy to the lecture as it ultimately keeps the audience awake and intrigued. In other words, presenters should not sound robotic. A good way to keep the audience focused can be by telling jokes, which overall adds a “human touch” to the event.

Lastly, presenters should give attendees the opportunity to ask questions if they are confused or lost. This not only helps people who may need more clarification on a topic, but it simultaneously puts the presentation at a halt for the audience to soak everything in.

Create personal relationships

Creating personal relationships within sessions gives attendees a memorable experience. If you want your audience to stay engaged and enthused, then as the presenter you should reflect the same tone. Again, thinking back to large college lectures, your professor probably did not know your name as there were many students. Charles Ballard stressed how he always attempts to make his students feel like they are not just an ID number. This can be done in sessions by making eye contact, smiling, and asking questions. It may even be smart to keep the tone conversational, if appropriate. This overall creates a more personalized experience for the attendees.

Explain technical terms

Zach Hambrick, a professor from the Psychology Department at MSU, believes that he performs best when he remembers to explain fairly complex ideas in simple, comprehensible terms that his students would be able to understand. For example, he notes that if he uses a technical term, he makes sure to explain what the term means. This will keep the presentation complex, yet easily understood. This is important because while some topics may be clear to some, they may be confusing to others.

Photo of Zach Hambrick, professor at Michigan State University
Zach Hambrick, professor at Michigan State University. Photo originally found at MSU Today.

Presenters need to be neat, prepared, and punctual

Always come prepared to your session. If you are unprepared to give a talk, your audience will not want to listen. Make sure you know what you will be talking about throughout the session or you will easily lose the interest of your audience. Picture yourself in a classroom or lecture hall. Would you want to be there if your professor was unprepared and unorganized? The same goes for an event session. If you want your attendees to be interested in listening right off the bat, you should arrive to the session knowing what you have in store for them.

Further, when attending a lecture, it is very important as the presenter to show up looking as professional as possible. It may not have crossed your mind, but hygiene and professionalism play a huge role in presenting. You should arrive to your session looking well rested, clean and dressed properly. Doing so will gain the respect and interaction you seek from your attendees.

Lastly, as there is always the possibility of losing your audience’s focus during sessions, you can improve this by starting and ending on time. Attendees arrive to the session without the intention of having their time being wasted; therefore the presenter should begin at the exact time that is listed. It is just as important to finish on time. Just as college students find it annoying when the professor keeps the class longer than he or she should, this same idea goes for your event session. You should always pace the session in a manner that will help you end on time. Creating too long of a session can possibly cause your attendees to begin feeling disengaged and displeased.

In conclusion

These tips can be very helpful to event organizers who would their attendees to leave feeling engaged and happy. To summarize, event organizers and presenters should work together to create flow across sessions, have ample breaks, keep the group engaged by speaking with energy, give the opportunity for attendees to ask questions, personalize presentations, explain difficult topics in simple terms, come prepared, look prepared, and finally start and end presentations on time. With these cornerstones in place, presenters will have successful sessions, and event organizers will have successful events.

Happy New Year! Introducing EventLens and RaffleKit

For the holidays, the Conferences i/o team wanted to do something different. So we decided to build an interesting and fun tool for event professionals. And we liked that so much, we built a second tool. So happy 2016 to everyone, and enjoy these gifts.

Introducing: EventLens

What if you could easily collect attendee photos (without needing a Twitter hashtag) to display in a live slideshow during your event?

EventLens

EventLens is a super-simple photostream that allows attendees at your events to easily share photos without the need of a Twitter account and hashtag. All they have to do is text their photos to a phone number.

EventLens is a fun and easy way to engage your attendees. Here are a few simple use cases:

  • Have EventLens running on a monitor in your event’s registration lobby. As attendees are walking in, they will see what’s going on (in real-time) and will be pulled into the experience right away.
  • Encourage attendees to take photos throughout the event, and during the closing session, have your EventLens slideshow showing off everything that happened.

Attendees will love seeing their photos show up in your EventLens photostream. It’s a simple act, but it creates a strong sense of connection between attendees, and with organizers.

Please note that EventLens has a small cost associated with it. We’re keeping this fee tied to what our real costs are (a small amount to use phone numbers and handle incoming MMS). But don’t worry, you can try it for free. All you have to do is email a selfie with a thumbs-up to hello@eventlensapp.com, and we’ll get a promotional code to you right away.

(Don’t worry, we won’t share your photo with anyone.)

Here’s a quick introductory video for EventLens:

 

Introducing: RaffleKit

Traditionally, giveaway winners at events are chosen by picking a piece of paper out of a bowl. More recently, we’ve seen name badge raffles where a winner is literally read off a device that looks like a graphing calculator.

What if you could show a big Price-is-Right-esque wheel on a projector, flashing through every attendee’s name, slowing down and finally stopping on a winner? That’s what RaffleKit lets you do.

raffle-example

Aside from the convenience of digitally managing entries (and being able to import from sources like spreadsheets), RaffleKit is an easy way to add a fun presentation layer for your giveaways. When you’re ready to draw a name, you push a button and the wheel spins!

If you’re already a Conferences i/o customer, RaffleKit can be a great way to incentive participation during your event. For example, attendees can receive one entry per session evaluation that they complete and at the end of the event you can do a live drawing for a prize!

As an added bonus, RaffleKit is completely free to use.

Here’s a quick introductory video for RaffleKit:

 

7 Best Practices for Session Evaluations at Your Next Conference

Best Practices for Session Evaluations at Conferences, Events, and Meetings

Well-organized conferences typically have an evaluation form that attendees mark up, at the conclusion of a learning session, to rate presenters and provide other feedback. Response rates tend to be lackluster, and when attendees do leave responses, it’s not always helpful for anyone.

At Conferences i/o, we’ve been studying how our customers use session evaluations, and with hundreds of thousands of attendees worth of experience across hundreds of events, we’ve prepared a set of best practices you can follow at your next event, to make sure you get the most out of session evaluations.

Make the evaluation easy to complete

It’s an old saying, but if you want someone to do something, make that action drop-dead simple. Simplicity is an advantage of paper forms; despite being environmentally wasteful and time-consuming to tally afterward, it doesn’t get any simpler than putting a paper form in front of attendees.

Quick plug: with Conferences i/o, attendees can conveniently complete session evaluations right after they use our audience engagement platform to ask questions and respond to polls. That’s one reason why our digital session evaluations have higher response rates than traditional paper forms.

Keep the evaluation brief, in length

Usability data universally shows that the fewer fields a form has, the more likely someone is to complete it. While there are tricks to making a longer survey feel short, nothing helps quite like actually keeping it short. So think about what you want to get out of the survey and stick to what’s absolutely necessary.

Put thought into your session evaluation questions

I’ve attended dozens of events over the last decade, and at more than a few, it seemed like the event’s organizers downloaded a generic session evaluation template and swapped out the logo. When I see this, I put about as much effort into responding as the organizers did putting it together.

When you take the time to customize questions for your event’s audience, you will generally get better response rates and better data. Think through what you want to get out of the evaluation. If it’s a tool to help presenters, focus the questions on how the presenters can improve. If you want to gauge usefulness, keep the questions centered around what the audience got out of the session.

Set aside time to complete evaluations

A very common reason for low session evaluation response rates is that little or no time is left at the end of the session. Presenters and room moderators are often left with a sheepish look on their faces, half-heartedly reminding attendees to complete the session evaluation form. The trouble, obviously, is that the session has ended, and the audience wants to get out to their break, or head over to lunch, or hit the road after a long day.

But also be careful about forcing evaluations on attendees. If your crowd obviously wants to get out of there, you can always remind them at the start of the next session to complete evaluations for the last session.

Incentivize completion of session evaluations

Another creative way to get around low response rates is to create incentives for attendees. If your event has sponsor giveaways, the raffle tickets could in part come from how many evaluations an attendee completes. If a giveaway prize isn’t available, a simple audience honor like calling out the top evaluation performers, could be enough.

Alternatively, you can appeal to an attendee’s sense of duty. When asking attendees to complete a session evaluation, remind them that the evaluations are a great benefit for presenters, and for the organizers to make the event better next time around.

Make evaluations anonymous by default

A common phenomenon biasing session evaluations is a scenario where participants respond overly positive, because they think that’s what organizers and presenters want to see. It’s called good-participant bias. At a restaurant, it’s a bit like telling the waiter that the food is great, even though you think it’s mediocre.

Good-participant bias can be avoided, in part, by ensuring attendees that their feedback is being recorded anonymously. This is particularly important when anonymity is high-stakes, like at a corporation’s internal employee conference. (Would you be willing to assign negative ratings to an executive at your company, if your name was rubber stamped on the session evaluation?)

We recommend making anonymity the default, and, if necessary, allowing attendees to opt-in to identifying themselves.

Note: If you are incentivizing evaluations, you have to record who has been submitting them. Make sure you explain that identifying data will be discarded following the incentive’s culmination.

Finally, use the feedback

If attendees are spending a few minutes per session completing your evaluations, they’d absolutely appreciate seeing their suggestions recognized and acted upon.

After the event concludes, and after you have had a chance to compile responses, you can send an update to attendees explaining what you heard and how you plan to address it for the next event. This shows attendees that you value their feedback and that you’re committed to improving. This is also a step toward creating a community around your event (communities are powerful). Just make sure you follow through on improvements.

Putting it all together

    • Make it drop-dead simple for attendees to submit feedback.
    • Only ask what needs to be asked (keep it short).
    • Ask questions that meet your goals.
    • Set aside session time (not attendee time) for evaluations.
    • Consider incentivizing the completion of session evaluations.
    • Make anonymity the default.
    • Complete the circle by acting upon feedback.

What reasons have lead you to not complete a session evaluation? Let us know by responding to the poll below!

Conferences i/o Now Integrates With Live Streaming Platform Digitell To Bridge The Gap Between Physical and Virtual Attendees

Conferences io and digitell

Today, we are excited to announce a new partnership with Digitell, one of the leading Live Streaming Platforms in the industry.

Virtual and hybrid events are growing rapidly in popularity but one of the biggest challenges that organizations face is replicating the same level of engagement for virtual attendees as the in-person attendees experience. Live streaming services allow virtual attendees to view the presentation in real-time but enabling those attendees to actually participate is a different challenge.

The integration between Conferences i/o and Digitell is a major innovation for hybrid events. It bridges the experience gap by providing virtual attendees a platform to not only view the same content, but respond to the same Polls, and participate in the same Q&A as the attendees who are in the room. This type of interaction takes virtual attendees from passive listeners to active participants, resulting in a much richer and fulfilling experience.

The Story

Our relationship with Digitell began a few months ago when we discovered a mutual customer who was already using Conferences i/o to engage their in-person attendees and using Digitell to live-stream video to virtual attendees, often at the same events. After seeing how well the two products worked together, it was clear that there was a major opportunity to move towards a larger scale integration.

“Digitell is excited about our partnership with Conferences i/o as we see it is imperative to collaborate with best practice conference solutions, resulting in a better online experience for the end user”

– Jim Parker, president of Digitell

How The Integration Works

In-person attendees will continue to access the Conferences i/o application by simply navigating to a unique URL on their mobile device (smartphone, tablet, etc.). For virtual attendees, Conferences i/o is embedded directly within the Digitell platform, sitting conveniently alongside the video stream.

Conferences io Social QA

Attendees are able to use our Social Q&A feature to ask questions during the presentation, view questions submitted by other virtual, or in-person attendees, and upvote the questions that they want addressed.

Conferences io Polling

Poll questions will be pushed to the in-person and virtual attendees at the same time. The results will be displayed in real-time on stage, including the responses collected from virtual attendees!

How Often Do You Host Hybrid Events? Let Us Know By Responding to the Poll Below!

 

Conferences i/o adds direct integration with Windows PowerPoint

Today, we are excited to announce that we have made the Conferences i/o Windows PowerPoint Add-In available to all of our customers! (This plugin has been in beta for the last few months.)

Conferences i/o PowerPoint

Our PowerPoint Add-In allows presenters to embed Poll results and Audience Q&A directly into a PowerPoint presentation, making it easier than ever to project results on the big screen.

Direct integration with PowerPoint is great, but it’s just the start of our work to tie Conferences i/o Polling and Audience Q&A into presentation software. We will soon be adding a version for Mac users, so if you’re running presentations on Mac PowerPoint or Mac Keynote, your time is coming soon.

In celebration of this release, let’s take a moment to look back at the steps it took to get here.

Let’s start by looking at the criteria for an Audience Polling Tool in a Presenter’s Perfect World…

  • Allow me to control Polls without clicking buttons or using a mouse
  • Seamlessly transition between slides and Polls without any disruption to my flow
  • Display Polling results without ever leaving PowerPoint
  • Require as few steps as possible in order for me to make this happen

Solution #1: Presentation Mode

The first solution we introduced was Presentation Mode which allows you to display Polling results in Full Screen format so that they look great on stage and also makes it very easy to transition from Poll to Poll.

Presentation Mode

The concept was that a presenter would simultaneously run Conferences i/o and PowerPoint and simply toggle between their slides and the internet browser by using a Keyboard shortcut (alt + tab) when they want to display Poll results.

This was a crucial first step for us and satisfied item #1 on the Presenter’s Perfect World list. In fact, Presentation Mode is a perfect solution for Keynote / General Sessions when there is an A/V person in the room to control what is displayed on stage.

Why It Wasn’t Perfect

Most presenters do not have a separate A/V person in the room to help them and while it may sound easy, not every presenter is comfortable with this method. It disrupts their flow, if only for a moment, and also requires them to be near the computer being projected from, which is not always an option.

Solution #2: Upload Slides to Presentation Mode

The next improvement we added was the ability for a speaker to upload their slides into our application, embed their Polls, and project the entire presentation from Conferences i/o. As a bonus we even added a “slide sync” option that allows attendees to follow along with the presenter’s slides right on their device.

This was another step in the right direction and is still popular with many presenters today. It allows presenters to seamlessly transition between slides and Polls without any interruption to the flow and the “slide sync” feature is definitely a crowd-pleaser.

Why It Wasn’t Perfect

We learned that presenters are constantly making small changes / tweaks to their presentation. Sometimes minutes before they go on stage. This proved to be a major barrier for us with many presenters. Making last second changes is not a big deal when all you need to do is hit “save” in PPT but it’s a different story when you are required to export and re-upload slides… even if the process only takes a few minutes.

Solution 3: Windows PowerPoint Integration

The Conferences i/o Add-In for Windows PowerPoint is another HUGE step forward. It is a simple answer to the question of “How Do I Get Poll Results to Display on The Big Screen”.

The PowerPoint Add-In even includes some new features like the ability to play music while the Polls are being conducted, and an automated Slide Timer, which allows you to specify an amount of time that passes after a Poll is open before the results are displayed.

While the Add-in satisfies nearly every criteria on the Presenter’s Perfect World list we still have room for improvement. We’re excited about the integration but we’re not taking our foot off of the gas pedal. We will continue to look for ways to make the process even easier and welcome your feedback and suggestions.

 

Additional Resources:

5 Ways the Apple Watch Will Change Live Event Technology Forever

Last Thursday, I stayed up until just after 3:00am to pre-order an Apple Watch. From my phone, I ordered a stainless steel model, which is scheduled to arrive between April 24th and May 8th. I’m looking forward to it.

Though smartwatches have been around for years, event technology companies have finally been put on notice. Apple’s brand and marketing power can tilt smartwatches into the mainstream. As we start seeing these devices proliferate at events, we are going to need to know how to leverage them. We will only be successful so long as we can create better experiences.

Creating better meeting experiences is why we built Conferences i/o, the world’s premier live audience engagement platform (sorry, had to plug it), and for a while now we have been thinking about the impact of smartwatches.

Many of the things a smartwatch can do, can also be accomplished with a phone. So we have focused on high-impact moments where someone might be rushed, struggling with a more complex interface.

A smartwatch’s tiny display, while in one sense a limitation that reduces the scope of what users can do, will actually be a beneficial constraint because it requires simple interaction. Smartwatch apps will be easier to use because developers won’t be able to hide behind interface complexity.

Let’s look at a few ways smartwatches can impact events.

How the Apple Watch will change live event technology

Dead-simple on-site registration

Similar to NFC payments, attendees could hold their smartwatch next to a registration terminal. Identifying information is passed, and attendees are instantly registered.

Why not just take your phone out? Long registration lines can be overwhelming, and in the stress of the moment you can easily fumble with your phone’s security code, or struggle with the thumbprint.

Breakout room homing beacons

At large events, finding your meeting or breakout room is hard enough, as you have to wade through a sea of fellow attendees. Now imagine your smartwatch giving you simple navigation through the halls.

Event notifications

Most event apps give organizers the ability to send push notifications to attendees. The problem is that attendees will miss them, if their phone is in their bag, or even if it’s in their pocket and they don’t notice it vibrate. Smartwatches are more effective at alerting people to notifications, and with a quick flick of the wrist, attendees will see what needs to be communicated. (Don’t go overboard on this, though.)

Networking serendipity beacon

There are a few apps available that push the limits of networking. Imagine an app that grabs your professional profile, lets you pick out people that you would like to talk to, and then either coordinates meal meetings (with a homing beacon), or alerts you when you are physically nearby. Like event notifications, you might not notice your phone if it’s in your bag or pocket, but you will certainly feel your watch’s haptic feedback.

In-session audience participation

I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the nearly unlimited ways smartwatches can impact in-session audience participation. I think the greatest benefits will be for presenters and session moderators. Smartwatches can literally measure your heartbeat, so they are a natural fit for receiving notifications and glances on the pulse of your audience. Having so much experience seeing our technology used at events, we’ve got some great ideas here.

Bringing it all together

Smartwatches can impact events in many ways, but these impacts circle around a few key themes: glances, notifications, and proximity. As we see smartwatches showing up in ever-greater numbers, we should be thinking about how we can leverage them to create better experiences.

How MPI TechCon Used CrowdSourced Q&A to Achieve 360 Degrees of Engagement

MPI Website

The Modern Attendee expects to do more than just show up to an event. They want to be a part of the content creation and have an opportunity for their voice to be heard.

“Co-creating session content is the future of meetings. Technology platforms like Conferences i/o allow organizers to do this by crowd-sourcing questions and ideas from the attendees themselves.– Dahlia El Gazzar, Founder of The Meeting Pool

The Chicago Area Chapter of MPI recently hosted an entirely crowd-sourced closing session for their annual technology conference, TechCon.  The closing session was a major hit with everyone involved and we put together an infographic that walks through their goals, the steps they took to achieve them, and how you can integrate crowd-sourced content at your own event.

techcon2015