If you are a subject matter expert with an audience, you already know that engaging with the people in front of you is a critical part of the social learning experience. And if you are teaching others, this engagement also serves to increase retention rates for your participants.
While there are bucketloads of methods for inviting participation, your options and choice will often depend on the size of your group, the purpose of your presentation, the audience composition, the time allotted, and your venue, to name a few. For example, if your presentation is in a large theatre or auditorium with an audience of 300 and you have been offered 10 minutes on stage, you wouldn’t necessarily opt for audience engagement that involves moving about the room – theatre-style row seating and the timing do not lend themselves well for that freedom of movement, although it can certainly be done.
But what if bums are firmly planted?
Does that mean you can’t engage the audience in a meaningful way? I know, you're already thinking, "I could ask them to raise their hands" or "I could ask them to stand" or "I could ask them to shout out a 'yes' or 'no' or some other auditory response."
And I agree.
However, with technology, we can engage our participants in some rather innovative ways, such as gamification. Now, if you’ve not heard of gamification, it doesn’t mean you’re going to ask your audience to carry around an Xbox or hop on a Twister mat (imagine your theatre-style audience attempting to do that!).
Gamification, simply, is the concept of applying elements of ‘fun and games’ into scenarios that traditionally are non-game experiences - such as in a presentation.
Gamification isn’t all that new, and it’s been used in professional development and many other types of learning for years. Applying game-type elements into the learning experience when you are giving a presentation of any sort (i.e. workshop, conference, course, etc.) has the benefit of captivating your audience and boosting engagement. It can pull people into your content, it can spark a more social aspect, as long as the ‘game’ application is easily accessed and navigated.
Here are three of my favourite free and easy-to-use gamification tools. Check them out, and let me know how you would use them in the comments below.
Poll Everywhere (PE) can be used to create polls and surveys and other nifty engagement opportunities (like word clouds and maps) that can then be embedded directly into your PowerPoint, Google Slides, or Keynote slide deck. As the presenter, you create the poll, export it as a slide, then place that slide in your existing slide deck.
When you navigate to that slide during your presentation, your participants can, in real-time, create word clouds, vote among a set of options, or otherwise weigh in with either anonymous answers (or not – that comes down to how you create the ‘poll’ in the back end during your preparation).
Poll Everywhere is a simple-to-use tool, it's compatible with common presentation software, and it’s free (unless you wish to upgrade to avail yourself of fancier features, such as using custom colours).
They open their regular ol' messaging app on their smartphone and send a text (e.g. TPARKERKEMP787) to the phone number on your slide (e.g. 37607) – this enters them into your game play, and they receive notification in their messaging app indicating so.
From there, they send another text; for example, the letter ‘A’ to vote on the A, B, or C options on your slide, or they send a phrase or word that pops up on a word cloud that is building on your presenter screen. All of this happens in the moment for immediate audience input and visible results.
Similar to PE, Kahoot has freemium and paid subscription tiers, questions and answer options are created in advance, and the game is played in real-time. It is, however, much more colourful than PE's freemium version and more game-like. It comes with an optional onscreen countdown timer and a quirky soundtrack reminiscent of an 80s Nintendo game.
As the presenter, you create a question (or series of questions) with up to four potential answers. Mid-presentation, you open the URL for the game and then display one question at a time. And that URL could be embedded in your slide deck for an even smoother transition during your presentation.
(TIP: You may wish to do an audio check in advance of the presentation to set the volume appropriately.)
They type Kahoot.it in a browser on their smartphone (e.g. Google Chrome) and, once the page opens, they are prompted to enter the game number - that game number should already be up on your screen. And, if you have the opportunity in advance, you can instruct your audience to download the app and be ready to open it instead of a browser.
In any case, once the URL or app opens, and they type in the game number, they then type their name or select from a list of amusing character names (again, based on your prior setup).
Once they are in the game, their name shows up on your presenter screen. After your participants join, you then start the game to bring up your first presenter question, and the participants can see the colour blocks representing the answers on your presenter view. They choose the corresponding block, and voila! You ‘poll’ or get your participants to respond at that very moment.
In addition to quizzing, Kahoot also offers 'drag and drop' Jumble gaming as well as surveys. Perhaps my favourite feature about Kahoot, if I had to pick one, is that it can be integrated with YouTube videos, which can be quite useful in introducing content before asking for the audience's response.
Similar to PE and Kahoot, Quizizz offers creative ways to engage with your participants; however, this tool is better suited to testing your participants rather than polling or surveying. You can use Quizizz to ask your audience about their top takeaways from what they’ve learned during your presentation. Or, this might be a great way to end a topic within a course you are facilitating before shifting gears. Consider this tool, as the name indicates, a quiz or test, with right and wrong answers that you have preloaded.
You can offer Quizizz in real-time but it also can be played asynchronously, which would come in handy if you assign the quiz as homework or use as a followup for a workshop. It’s also effective in gathering statistical information and to reinforce your audience's learning and retention.
As with Kahoot, if you are using Quizizz during a presentation, you can create a slide in your deck ahead of time with instructions and the game number to ease your audience into the competition. Yes, participants earn points for correct answers!
Again, like Kahoot, Quizizz comes in app form that can be downloaded on your participants smartphone in advance or early in the presentation. Then, when ready to engage, they open the app (or go to the game play URL: https://quizizz.com/join in their browser), enter the game code you provide, confirm their name, and they’re in.
They independently answer a serious of questions and earn points to scale up the leaderboard. And like Kahoot games, the timer on each question can be preset.
Do you have an upcoming presentation that this might dovetail with?
Whether gathering information or checking the pulse of audience understanding, gamification with these and other tools can energize an otherwise run-of-the-mill presentation with little effort and preparation.
Leverage the various setup features and options, get comfortable with both presenter and participant experiences in advance, and try one of them in your next presentation. Most gamification platforms offer access to templates and content created by other users too, so you can get comfortable with the user experience by engaging in the different types of gaming before delving into create mode.
I've played these 'fun and games' with executives and professionals in many industries, and they consistently bring positive audience responses - even a few belly-laughs when the competition heats up.
If you have sports enthusiasts, lawyers, doctors, or sales people in your audience, they will absolutely love it!!
Have you used any of these tools?
Do you have others that you would recommend?
Pop some commentary below and share your thoughts on how these applications could be incorporated in your next presentation.
- Tisha Parker Kemp
Original photo of Play Game from DG-RA on Pixabay: modified by Yours Truly
All other pictures are screen captures from personal use of these applications.