How do you prefer your coffee? Let’s discuss polls and poll fatigue

Ellen starts her online presentation with a question: ‘How many women were diagnosed with breast cancer in Belgium in 2018?’ We see 5 options, from 2,500 to 20,000.

Polls. They are the darling of many speakers. This is only logical, because it’s a low-threshold way to interact with your audience. However, speakers do not always use polls in the best way.

Let’s take a look at some do’s and don’ts that will also power up your online presentation. For example, what do you do if no one responds?

And yes, there is also coffee!

The sooner, the better

Terrific idea for Ellen to include a poll in her intro. Her audience immediately felt engaged and just about everyone responded. Had Ellen asked people to respond in the chat box, probably only a handful would have put in the effort.

So don’t wait too long with your poll. Use it to introduce your topic, or to find out more about your audience. For instance, you could enquire about their previous knowledge of the subject or their needs (‘What do you struggle with most?’).

Keep it simple

In a poll, the question should be easy to understand. Keep it short and sweet. But make sure to tailor the answers to your audience.

Consider Ellen’s question regarding the number of Belgian women diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018. Fairly complex, right? And the difference between 2,500 and 20,000 is hard to grasp. Wouldn’t it make more sense to ask how many Belgian women develop breast cancer in their lifetime? From one in five to one in ten? That figure would surely stick.

Which question do you prefer: the original or the reworked one?

How many women were diagnosed with breast cancer in Belgium in 2018?
• 2,500
• 5,000
• 10,000
• 15,000
• 20,000

How many Belgian women develop breast cancer in their lifetime?
• 1/2
• 1/5
• 1/7
• 1/10

Do something with the information you compile

For example, if it turns out that one in seven women develops breast cancer, compare that to other countries around the world, or to other types of cancer. And address the fact that few or rather many attendees selected the right answer. You can then follow up with something along the lines of “Does this seem like a a high or low number? Let me know in the chat box’.

What if nobody responds?

You can only do so much to engage your audience, even with the help of a poll. But there are a few things you can do to increase the number of responses:

Avoid an awkward silence: asking a question and then remaining quiet for several minutes, while you hope someone will respond, won’t work. Why not go over the response options out loud. Chances are you will have received some replies before you even get to your last option.

Urge your audience to respond: suppose five out of ten people have responded. Then say, “I see that five have already answered. Where are the others? Are you still thinking? I want to see at least eight answers. Yes, the answers are coming in! Seven, eight, how about those final two…?’

How do you prefer your coffee?

A workshop participant found a smart trick to activate her audience. She will ask the question:

How do you prefer to drink your coffee? (multiple answers possible)
A. Black
B. With milk
C. With sugar
D. I don’t drink coffee

This poll always gets many answers. ‘So you are here after all!?!’ she then says. Following that question, the response rate to her polls is always higher. Try it out for yourself!

Using polls in your next presentation? Terrific idea. But make sure you have clear questions and do something with them. Of course, don’t overdo it, because that leads to poll fatigue. Do you agree?

  • Completely agree
  • Not sure
  • Don’t agree
  • I want coffee!

Would you like to learn more about how to score with your online presentations? We’d love to virtually visit you for an interactive to-the-point workshop ‘How to Present Online?

Translation: Leslie Van Ael