I hear it time and again from guest presenters on webinars... "I miss seeing my audience's faces. I can't get clues to tell me if they are nodding along in comprehension, if they are bored, if they are enjoying my jokes or rolling their eyes. It's unnatural not getting any sense of feedback from the people I'm talking to."
It would be easy enough for a webinar software vendor to implement a feature to address this need, but so far nobody has stepped up to the plate. So I hereby submit an RFP to the vendor community at large. Make it happen!
Here's the general idea (and we know that the cosmetics, placement, and specific implementation will be different based on your product design and the way you choose to iron out the details).
Participants can access (or always see) one or more slider controls that let them continually provide feedback for the presenter. Something along these lines:
Zooming in to isolate my little slider bar mockup:
Each participant can continuously adjust the sliders as the presentation proceeds. The webinar software digitizes the slider into a number, averages all numbers across the population, and displays the average as a slider bar for the presenter, showing the consensus average opinion in an easy to interpret dynamically updated image. A savvy presenter can adjust her style or pace accordingly.
That's just the high level conceptual view. Each vendor is left to hash out details as they want to implement it:
- How many sliders can a presenter include? (I think 1 or 2 is ideal. At 3 or more, it gets a little overwhelming.)
- Does the vendor provide pre-set labels such as the ones I mocked up? Can presenters override them with their own labels?
- Can presenters hit a reset button to return all sliders to neutral if they suspect the data is "stale" and people aren't actively responding anymore? I think this is an important feature.
I better not get a vendor comment saying "We already have smiley face / frowny face icons that audience members can tap." Those are useless and provide almost no interpretive value. Get rid of them.
This is also different than showing periodic polls that interrupt the flow of the presentation. Having the feedback indicators constantly accessible and non-invasive lets the content proceed normally while also keeping audience members actively participating and feeling like they are engaging with the presenter throughout the talk. It's important psychologically as well as practically.