Sendsteps is a product that lets audience members give feedback during a presentation. Today I gave a webinar presentation to a roomful of professionals at the 2017 Presentation Summit and I used Sendsteps to enable extra interactivity during my talk. I thought I would share my impressions as a first-time user.
The first thing you need to know is that Sendsteps is relentlessly Microsoft-based. It works as an add-in to Microsoft PowerPoint and assumes you are using Microsoft Windows as your operating system. Mac users can stop reading right now. However, your audience members can interact from iOS devices.
You install Sendsteps on the computer you use to create and show your PowerPoint presentations. It adds a new tab to your PowerPoint command bar:
You can add a poll question (single answer only… No option for "select all that apply") or a question inviting open-ended text response. Polling questions can have up to 26 answer choices (A-Z):
Advanced options let you choose things such as which of 12 languages should be used for display, how results should be displayed (percentage or raw vote counts), and whether to use a timed voting cutoff:
Adding a text response question is similar, but the options include things such as how many responses may be submitted and whether to accept submissions only while the question slide is shown:
I elected to allow unlimited submissions and responses from the first slide until the question slide, which I placed at the end of my presentation. This let me set up a single item saying "Questions for Ken." People could continue 'answering' by typing in their questions for me, which I saw on a dashboard screen during my presentation.
As soon as you create your questions, Sendsteps adds slides to your presentation. These are specialized placeholders that get updated with instructions and poll results when you run your slideshow presentation. Attendees can respond via Twitter by adding a special hashtag, via text message by texting to an assigned number and using an identifier code, or by opening a web browser and navigating to your identifier code.
You must start up a Sendsteps "session" when you want to use the dynamic interaction. You will see the green arrow icon in the PowerPoint add-in picture above. At that point you can immediately start your slideshow mode or start it later on your own. A message comes up in PowerPoint telling you that Sendsteps has disabled Presenter View because it can create performance problems. I asked my Sendsteps representative about this, and he told me I could ignore the warning. I did so and used Presenter View with no perceived drawbacks.
I was happy to find that I could escape out of slideshow mode, make a change to my slides, and restart the show without having to restart the Sendsteps session. So using the product does not impact your ability to make last-minute changes if necessary.
Obviously the use in a webinar or webcast product relies on using screen share to display the dynamic PowerPoint slideshow running on your computer. You would not be able to use this with a conferencing product that uploads and converts PowerPoint slides for display.
Everything worked as advertised, and I was able to see questions typed in from my remote audience, watching in an "auditorium" format on a single screen at the front of the room. I also ran a successful poll, with cumulative results immediately available for display to the room.
I felt that learning to use the different functions was a bit harder than it should be. Some of the operations felt non-intuitive. I had a hard time at first figuring out where my results were displayed. Help is available on the Sendsteps website mostly in the form of prerecorded video tutorials. I have a bias against these, as they force me to watch an entire sequence of operations at their pace and in their selected order to get to the piece I'm having trouble with. There is also a PDF user manual available if you search for it, and I found that to be a more efficient resource.
You may have noticed a misspelling or two in the screen shots I included. American English speakers will note a few places where wording seems to be a little stilted or there is a typo in a heading. This is an artifact of the company's international scope, with offices in Amsterdam and Brazil as well as the USA. It never affected my ability to understand and use the software.
Pricing is hidden behind a "contact us" page on the Sendsteps website, but it does show that you can have free use for up to 20 audience members. So feel free to try it out and perhaps use it in a smaller classroom setting or conference room presentation. Anything that gets attendees more involved and engaged with a presentation is a good thing, and Sendsteps proved useful in my own remote session.