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What if You Could Google the Minds of Your Attendees

What if you could ask 500 attendees a question and receive relevant, prioritized responses in a matter of seconds? Just like on Google.

What would you ask?

Would you ask attendees your most pressing questions? Would you ask them for ideas? Would you ask them to help you prioritize objectives? Would you ask them to help you solve problems? Would you show them your vision for the future and ask them to poke holes in it? Would you ask them to help you make decisions? Would you ask them what they learned? Would you ask them to calculate ROI?

@samueljsmith twitter follwers

How would it work?

I see it working like this: You give attendees a problem, then in a mili-second they give you thousands of relevant, categorized and useful responses. Sometimes this will be based on life experiences. Other times it could be from company knowledge.

We can get a similar result when we use group collaboration technology and large group methods at meetings. You present a question, situation or problem to the audience. They reflect on it for a few moments and discuss in small groups. Then attendees enter their ideas, comments or opinions into a computer or mobile device. In some cases, a small group may categorize the responses. In other cases, the audience will do this step, too. Then,  the audience will rank and prioritize the categorized results. At the end, there is a massive list of useful ideas (or whatever you are seeking) that is categorized and prioritized.

A Word of Caution

Being able to google your attendees will not mean that you get perfect results. I imagine that you would still have some of the same challenges that you face with the Google search engine today:

  1. You may still need to be wary of advertisements that are disguised as meaningful results.
  2. You may still have to ask the same question several different ways to get the best results.
  3. You will still need to learn which keywords trigger the best results and which don’t.

Bottom Line

If you could google the minds of your attendees would you do it?  What would you ask?  How would attendees be able to help you that are unimaginable today?

Image Credit: Samuel J. Smith & profile pictures of his Twitter followers
3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sam, interesting post! First thing that came into my head is all the folks trying to sell stuff would be in the pay per click area sitting in the front (top) of the room and then flanking on the right (near the exit?). I’m not going to click on any of those (sit with them), but it’s nice to know who thinks they should be top of mind.

    One of the coolest points I think you make is creating collaboration and then follow up to help the learning stick. At IAEE I did a session and presented info that 90% of what we learn is lost shortly after the meeting. When we have active participation and then high quality follow up with more info to reinforce the learning, retention and application increase substantially. I think Ken Blanchard said it best in his book High Five…”None of us is as smart as all of us”

    Stay well!

    Dave Lutz – @velchain
    Velvet Chainsaw Consulting

    December 12, 2009
  2. Samuel:
    Well, I have tried it with 500 attendees and the results are often surprising. I used audience response systems and Twitter.

    In my opinion, the key is the audience engagement piece that you mention. It’s important for memory retention to have people discuss the issue or content too. Either before or after they give their feedback. That helps in implanting it in the brain so the attendee doesn’t lose that 90% of material after the conference…like Dave mentions.

    Another interesting twist on this is if you were a speaker, would you want to be able to stop time and see what’s on everyone’s mind while you were presenting? Would you want to see how they are responding to your presentation? Would conference organizers like to see that? (They can with back channels.)

    Today, for the first time, event organizers are dealing with real-time feedback from their conference attendees, whether they want it or not. Typically, meeting professionals get that feedback after the conference from discussions in the hallways or surveys. Real time feedback, just like Google’s real time search, is shaking things up and giving the power back to the attendee.

    The key is learning how to use these tools like crowdsourcing, real-time feedback and group collaboration tools to improve the attendee’s experience.

    December 14, 2009
  3. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for your comment. The visual of the sponsors or exhibitors sitting in a pay-per-click section had me laughing out loud! You are right – they would definitely be there waving their hands saying “look at me.”

    Thanks for sharing the interesting statistic about 90% of learning being lost shortly after the meeting. That is really amazing to me. It makes me wonder how much ROI and learning would improve if attendees were active listeners rather than passive listeners.

    Of course, reinforcing the learning objectives after the event would be effective as well – that’s a great idea. Though, I haven’t heard many good examples of this being done efficiently or effectively.

    – Sam

    ===============

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I agree with you. We can reinforce learning by engaging attendees in different ways (to accommodate learning styles) and at different times (before-during-after the event). I think this is important if you want to change minds and change behaviors.

    As you point out, with ARS, backchannels, group collaboration tools, twitter, etc. – we have the tech tools to “almost” google the audience, today. This real time feedback is shifting the power from the speaker to the attendee.

    Equally important, our audiences are more educated than ever before. I think attendees are full of insights, ideas and experiences that can help companies create new products, enter new markets, make decisions and solve problems. In my opinion, event organizers need to start thinking about how they can use the audience as a strategic resource. The tech tools exist. Now event organizers need to think about the best questions to ask and how they want to capture these insights and ideas.

    Thanks for your comment and input!

    – Sam

    December 21, 2009

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