In a webinar, what’s the best poll question you’ve ever heard? I just thought of a doozy, I reckon, yet I’ve never heard a presenter ask it. (It’s only “6½” words long, too!)
More on that shortly. But first, why not think for a moment about what might make a good poll question?
As webinars become more common, to me most polls tend to be one of their 3 biggest time-wasters. That’s because, if you run a poll, you need to wait for most people to respond, yet you can’t easily adjust your talk to suit the results anyway.
Improve your polls by asking the poll questions beforehand
So, recently I suggested how you can improve your polls by asking the poll questions beforehand (when people register for the webinar), rather than during the event itself. That lets you build your whole talk around the results. So your audience’s feedback is (deservedly) central to your message, not just peripheral to it – and nor do you waste anyone’s time!
The “doozy” question I mentioned earlier’s an exception though, as it can only be asked live. That’s because it’s designed specifically for you to adjust your talk (on the spot) to suit the answers you get, which as I mentioned is completely unlike most polls.
So what’s this “doozy” question I’m talking about? Just this:
“How’s the pace of this webinar?”
- Much too slow
- A bit too slow
- About right
- A bit too fast
- Much too fast
Could a question get much simpler? Yet its effect on your audience’s perception of you and your webinar will be profoundly positive, for 2 reasons:
- It’s clearly meant to improve the webinar, for them.
- They’ll immediately see you respond meaningfully to their answers.
Your audience will adore you!
The pace of webinars is often much too slow, and that’s one of their biggest issues. Yet I’ve never heard a presenter ask this basic question. So if you ask it and respond accordingly, your audience will adore you!
Mind you, asking that question turns the presentation paradigm on its head: If you ask your audience about your pace, you need to have more content than you think you’ll need. (That way, if your audience thinks the pace has been too slow, you can speed up, and hence cover more of the content you’ve prepared.) And if your audience says your pace has been too fast, you should slow down, in which case of course you’ll cover less of the content.
You’ll blow your competition out of the water!
So I’m not saying this flexible approach is easy, but I’m sure it’s worth it. And when it comes to webinar presenters, you’ll blow your competition out of the water!
(By the way, if you’re wondering, the “½” word I mentioned near the top of this post is the “’s” in “How’s”.)
Over to you
- What’s the best (or worst!) webinar poll question you’ve ever heard, used, or thought of?
- How helpful (and workable) would it be to ask your audience about your pace?
- Please have your say in the comment box below.
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Pingback: Put your Participant First in End-of-session Polls | James L. Simers
Thanks for this! When presenting live I usually ask to be told if I fall into the trap of getting too quiet. I like the idea of acknowledging I might not hit the communication mark on all points in a webinar, too, and reassuring participants that they can flag this up and I’ll take it on board. Takes the sometimes perceived ‘faceless’ element out of the online medium, a bit.
My favourite polls are those that offer some insight on who other participants are, or illustrate a point being made, even anecdotally (“How many here have experience in the field we’re talking about?”, or “Which of the following adverts would be more likely to encourage you to buy?”, as examples from the top of my head).
Thanks for commenting, Tamara. Asking people to give you feedback about being too quiet is a great idea. It shows your audience that you don’t want the session to be a one-way “lecture”.
Interesting that you like polls about who the other listeners are. To me, it’s a better use of time to make that an optional question during sign-up. Then you could still show the results during the event, but there wouldn’t be the hold-up caused by asking the question and waiting for the results.
Especially with asking how much experience people have, as a presenter I’d really want to know the results before putting the content together –
either by asking during sign-up, or by wording the promo material to make it very clear how much experience the target audience should have.
With your example of asking about ads, that does sound like something it could be good for the audience to experience live – provided there was something valuable to say no matter what the results were!
Craig, as a joke, I’ve used this as an example of a DUMB question to ask during a webinar: “Are you multitasking right now?”
You have (most? some?) attention from the percentage of people who answer NO. But that leaves the rest of the audience — if they don’t answer at all, you know they are probably not engaged!
It’s a fun way to accomplish two goals: Remind folks that webinars are inherently loaded with online distractions, plus reinforce the need to deliver a well-designed presentation that keeps everyone riveted.
Thanks for taking the time to comment Shelley. (I’ve just returned from a couple of trips, so can now reply.)
I’m all for novel ideas like yours, which make your audience take notice and think!
I entirely agree that the pace of many webinars is too slow. But I’d disagree that the question you pose above is the solution.
In the world of public speaking, there’s an old bit of wisdom that you shouldn’t ask the audience a question where you’re sure to displease part of the audience. Example: What do you think about the temperature in the room?
Alternatives could include asking:
– An open-ended question that comes into chat/Q&A in a way the audience doesn’t see.
– A related question that serves as a proxy for what you’re getting at (e.g., “What pace do you think is appropriate for webinars?”).
– A question that asks the audience to apply the idea AND gives you a sense of their preference (e.g., In the type of webinars you deliver, what pace is best for YOUR audience?).
Ken’s also correct. I’ve long been an advocate of adjusting to the audience (non-linear, spending more or less time on a topic based on expressed interest, using illustrations that are appropriate for an expressed experience level, etc.). His exact suggestion can’t be done in most platforms, but you can get the job done. I applaud the fact that you’re doing this with pace!
Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Roger.
Yes there are risks with drawing attention to an issue where you can’t please everyone, but to me the bigger risk is to skirt the issue, or to just ignore it (like most speakers).
Some people will likely be bothered by an issue, whether you mention it or not. So discussing it directly and sharing the poll results shows people you value their input, and that you’ll do what you can to address it.
Suppose you poll people about the pace and most people say it’s too slow, but a few think it’s too fast. At least when people see the results, they’ll understand why you need to speed up! It’s likely a few will then leave, but that’s appropriate if their needs were unlike the majority’s.
If the audience is evenly divided about the pace, there’s not much you can do. But again at least people will understand, and so be less frustrated.
As a speaker, when you ask how the pace is, if you’re meeting people’s needs then most will say “about right”. And if you’re not meeting their needs, surely you should find out quickly and reliably, without asking obscure questions. (If someone thinks the pace is a problem, I think mentioning it without directly asking their opinion will still inflame them, with the added frustration that you’re not asking about the problem they’re feeling!)
I like it, especially because I’m going to be holding a webinar in about 10 days. The “question” is going to come in really handy. Thanks for sharing!
Cool! Thanks for commenting Carl, and I hope your webinar goes extremely well.
Let me know how the audience responds to the 6½-word question!
Sorry, man. The point is a good one, but I’m afraid I can’t give you credit for coming up with something never thought of or used! 🙂
I have used that question for many years (particularly in Adobe Connect, where I can leave it open on the screen for continuous updating by the audience). I also sometimes use a simple 2-answer choice of: “Keep talking about this” or “Move on to the next point”.
Yes, these are great ways to involve your audience and give them a say in the way the webinar runs.
Thanks for your comment Ken – your insight’s always very welcome.
And no need to apologise – I wasn’t seeking credit for the best question, I was just seeking the best question itself. So no toes have been trodden on!
Great to hear that you thought of the same question, and have been using it successfully for years. As I’ve not yet had a chance to use it myself, I’m glad it’s been fully field tested!
It’s good to hear, too, how you use this question in different ways.
If you agree that this is the best question you’ve heard, I’m very satisfied with that. (I hesitate to say “Great minds think alike”, but what the heck, it just slipped out anyway! :))
By the way, do you have any tips on customising the presentation on-the-fly to respond to the answers you get?
I just did a presentation last night on that very subject for an audience in the South Pacific. I call them “nonlinear presentations.”
The trick is to divide your talk into topical groupings and segment out detail from overview information. Then you can use audience feedback to guide you on the order of presentation according to their priorities rather than yours. You can also choose to dive down into detail when they want it and skip over it when they don’t.
It requires more careful planning, more rehearsal, and more “mechanics” during the presentation, but it can make the audience feel like you are there to serve their needs rather than the other way around.
Excellent tips Ken. Thanks again!
Brilliant idea, dividing the content and then asking the audience where they want to focus on their priorities! I have to give that one a try!
Great to see you here, Kelly!
You can watch a recording of one of Ken’s non- linear webinars, which I thought was excellent.
One of my favourite parts of Ken’s webinar was when he wrote on an onscreen whiteboard – but far more neatly and professionally than using a freehand tool. He shows you how it’s done, and you can even use the same technique for face-to-face presentations (just by using PowerPoint).
At the end, he also uses the tip I call “stopping Q&A hypnosis”, which involves jumping to a picture-only slide to match the type of question that’s asked. I’ve never seen anyone else do that before, so I was pleased he liked the tip so much that he used it himself. See what you think!
Great material Craig! Thanks for sharing the link to Ken’s webinar. I picked up several new tips – and am already plotting my first nonlinear presentation!