Ideas for Conferences

Learning Statement: Learning Statement: In this scenario we’ll look at the different things you could do with OMBEA Response at a conference.
Audience: This article is aimed at all OMBEA users.


You’ve been asked to present at a conference or meeting and you’ve heard the words, “The voting system will be available. Feel free to use it.” For some people coming up with questions is a breeze but for the rest of us it might bring on a mild sweat as we try and think of a legitimate way to use the voting technology without shoe-horning it in to our presentation. Below are some ideas and after that, some links to useful articles in the Guidebook and elsewhere on the Web.

Ice-breakers and wake-up calls

Before you ask anything critical it’s always handy to let your audience practice voting with a couple of non-critical questions. They will become confident with the OMBEA ResponsePads or ResponseApp, and you’ll get to know exactly how many people are in the room so you’ll know when to close polling in subsequent questions. You’ll also get to check that everything is working as you expect which will boost your confidence as you move through your slides.

But what to ask?

You’ll find a wealth of good quality stuff on that recent invention they call the Internet, and if you watch television programmes like Stephen Fry’s ‘QI’, you’ll possess the raw material for some excellent curve balls. Everybody loves a good bit of trivia but remember to avoid anything too controversial. Your ice-breaker doesn’t have to have a right or wrong answer either. Anything that gets the audience thinking, chuckling, or both will do the trick. Here are some example questions - we’ll leave you to fill in the distractors and enjoy a bit of internet research as you do so:

  Who wrote the Game of Thrones books?
  What’s the name of the comet that the 2014 Rosetta mission landed on?
  What is the biggest grossing movie of all time?
  Where would you find a 'tittle’?
  What was John Cleese’s father’s surname?

Depending on your location, Google has a nifty trick up its sleeve to help with ice-breaker questions. Just search in Google for ‘Interesting Facts’ and the first result should be a random fact that you can use for inspiration.

The following articles will help you with this scenario:

  • Your first polling slide
  • Slide enhancements

Find out why your audience came along

In our experience many conference delegates attend for reasons beyond the headline title. They might be there to network, or to meet a specific person. Or on a more detailed note, they might be there to hear presenters speak on a specific niche issue, unique to their industry.

It’s easy enough to build a multiple-choice question that helps you understand why people came along. You could go a stage further and make it a priority slide. This way you can, for example, provide more time for networking in the breaks if that turns out to be the highest priority for your delegates.

If you’re using ResponseApp you can enhance this question and really give people the freedom to tell you what they want. We recommend using the word cloud with a question like:

  In one or two words, tell us what you're looking to get out of today's conference.

The resulting word cloud will give you, and everyone else in the room, a clear picture of why everyone turned up.

The following articles will help you with this scenario:

  • Advanced Questions

Check your audience’s knowledge or opinion

So you have a topic you’re going to cover. And you have some kind of take-home message. Before you start talking to your audience, check their current position or understanding. This way you can make sure you pitch it right. For example, if you’re going to talk about effective ways to manage a social media presence, and your take-home message is to have people cover their Twitter channel beyond just 9-5, you could ask the following question:

  How do you cover out-of-ours social media presence?
  1. I don’t know.
  2. We don’t have a social media presence.
  3. We haven’t thought outside the 9-5.
  4. We take turns to monitor it.
  5. Our in-house team does it.
  6. Our outsourced agency does it.

Here’s another example. Say you’re going to talk to your colleagues about the availability of workplace training. And say you want to find out how seriously people prioritise training versus ‘the day job’. You could ask this in two questions:

  When was the last work-related training course you attended?
  1. Inside the last month.
  2. Inside the last 6 months.
  3. Inside the last year.
  4. It’s been a while.
  5. I’ve never attended any training.

Follow this question up with another to find out why people might have struggled to get training, as follows:

  How easy do you find it to get access to the training you need?
  1. It’s easy.
  2. It’s difficult.
  3. I don’t know.

If you use a Group Assignment question as well, you’ll be able to find out which kinds of people struggle to get training access.

The following articles will help you with this scenario:

  • Your first polling slide
  • Advanced Analysis

Before and after

Following on from the above, you could use OMBEA to paint a before and after picture for your group, especially if you are about to explain something that is counter-intuitive to them. Here’s how:

  1. Ask your audience a question to check their opinion at the start.
  2. Run through your material. Hopefully you’ve changed their world-view!
  3. Re-visit and repoll the original question.
  4. Use OMBEA’s ‘Comparison’ slide to chart the differences between the first instance of the question and the second, making it clear for everybody to see the precise effect of your session on the group as a whole.

The following articles will help you with this scenario:

  • Your first polling slide
  • Advanced Analysis

Analyse Group Demographics

You might already know that you can use OMBEA to track the responses from individual participants. If you didn’t then, well, you’ve learnt something new!

The thing is that in many cases you’ll get more open and honest answers from a group that knows they are not being tracked. When this is important you can still get powerful insights into different types of people and their responses. Any situation, in fact, where you could segment your audience into different like-minded ‘tribes’ is open to you.

Want to know how the tea-drinkers compare with the coffee-drinkers? Or how marketing, sales, and the back-office teams compare? It’s easy – just use the ‘Group Analysis’ tool within OMBEA.

Share your demographically split results with the group after the session by emailing the presentation around or generating some reports. In our experience the group is always keen to know the detailed outcome to see if any patterns emerged._

The following articles will help you with this scenario:

  • Your first polling slide
  • Advanced Analysis Slides

Should you gather opinions or test knowledge?

When asked to describe OMBEA, many people use the TV quiz show ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ as their reference point. Thinking this way leads us into believing that OMBEA can only be used to test audience knowledge. This is a useful and completely valid application, especially when you consider the power available in OMBEA’s Reports Manager and Competition Settings, but it’s not the be-all and end-all.

Try using OMBEA to gather opinions and ideas. Check your group’s current understanding upfront and you can tailor your presentation to their needs more accurately. You can also use this technique at the end of your session to check that you’ve delivered your teaching successfully as well.

Moving on to the idea-gathering side of the coin, the truth and honesty in the room when a group uses handsets to respond can be astonishing. Here in the UK we’ve noticed a trend towards presenters using voting to gather opinions more often than to test knowledge over the last few years. We think it might be because of the honesty effect. After all, what use is a meeting when people aren’t sharing what they really think?

If you’ve been using the system exclusively for one type of question then expand towards the other – the results might surprise you!

Run a quiz. Award a prize.

Even if your conference is on a serious subject you could well benefit from injecting an element of fun by peppering quiz questions and spot-prizes throughout.

If you divide the group into teams you can have them work together and bring in an element of team bonding as you go. For more information on running quizzes with OMBEA Response take a look at our article on Competition Settings.

For inspiration on quiz questions, the following resources may help:

Use Priority Slides to distinguish between multiple responses

With OMBEA you can collect multiple responses from each participant when you need to. Sometimes it’s enough to design a multiple-response question where people choose, say, their three favourite options from a list. OMBEA’s charts will then show you how the options compared against each other.

But let’s say you have a really contentious question, or something where it’s _really _hard to identify the ‘right’ answer. That’s where the OMBEA Priority Slide can help. Here’s an example:

Which of the following poses the greatest threat to our population in the next 10 years? Pick your top three in order of priority.
1. Fuel shortages
2. Global warming
3. Economic poverty
4. Food poverty
5. Water poverty
6. War and terrorism

With this type of question OMBEA assigns differing weights to each vote a person casts. For example (and this is the default setting), their first choice will be worth 10 points, their second worth 9 points, and so on. OMBEA will then aggregate the scores and, because of the subtle differences in total scores everyone will get a more refined view of the overall favourites, with the ability to distinguish between very close contenders.

The following articles will help you with this scenario:

  • Your first polling slide
  • Advanced Analysis Slides


If you go to the trouble of asking a question, and the audience goes to the trouble of giving a considered response, then stop and pay attention. At the very least you should provide some comment on what you find interesting about the results but you can go even further by using this as an opportunity to involve the audience.

For example, invite verbal feedback from the audience once the chart is visible. Rather than a generic, “Does anybody have any comments about that?”, try and focus on one response option. Try, “Any ideas as to why ‘personal jet packs’ was the most popular option?” (This isn’t a real example but we’d love to be part of a vote where ‘personal jet packs’ was a real option. It would be great wouldn’t it?!

This works better with a ‘warmer’ audience, i.e. one that has already started to engage verbally with you. If you ask the whole audience a question like this too early, you may get very little feedback._

As an alternative to throwing such a question ‘out to the floor’, get your group warmed up by inviting them to discuss the results chart with each other. If you do this early in your session and then keep the tone going, you will be surprised by the amount of interaction, collaboration and networking that goes on.

Measure delegate feedback

This is normally the starting point for our conversations with many customers which is why we’ve featured it last.

If you use OMBEA to measure delegate feedback using a Likert scale, consider dropping the middle ‘sitting-on-the-fence’ option because it rarely tells you anything useful.