Software

How to add real-time audience responses to a PowerPoint presentation

Using nothing more than an add-in, you can build live polls into your presentations.

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Image: iStockphoto.com/kasto80
Live response systems allow a presenter to electronically solicit opinions and ideas from an audience in real time. For instance, you might want a breakdown on the participants' favorite hobbies—gardening, hiking, reading, and so on. Instead of trying to glean an estimate from a show of hands for each hobby, you can ask the audience to choose the appropriate response using clickers you provide. Members of your audience point their clickers at the screen and the software captures their responses. These systems have been around for a while, but they're limited by location and hardware.

Now, thanks to an add-in, members of your audience can use their mobile devices to respond to live polls, either by internet or text. The premise is the same, but setup is easy and you don't have to provide clickers for your audience.

I'm using PowerPoint 2016 on a Windows 10 64-bit system. There's no downloadable demonstration file.

SEE: Free PowerPoint add-in offers integration with Facebook and Twitter

The add-in

There are a few add-ins you could choose, but I opted for Poll Everywhere because it's easy to use and has a free version so you can work through this example without making a purchase. The free plan includes live PowerPoint polls, web response, widgets, Twitter, and downloadable results, so you may never need more than the free version. However, it limits each poll to 25 responses.

Using Poll Everywhere, you can solicit real-time responses from your audience. It works as you might expect:

  • You display a poll in your presentation.
  • The poll slide displays a graphic representation of your poll and instructions for responding by text, Twitter, or a URL.
  • All responses are directed to a web server where they are counted and displayed onscreen in real time.

To use Poll Everywhere, you need an account and the software. Then in PowerPoint, you create the poll and when it's ready, activate it. You can reuse the same poll in a presentation, but you must clear each session's results.

To get started, open PowerPoint 2016 and add Poll Everywhere as follows:

  1. Click the Insert tab.
  2. Click Store in the Add-ins group.
  3. In the resulting dialog, enter Poll Everywhere in the Search tool (Figure A).
  4. Click Add and Poll Everywhere will display the Insert Poll slide (Figure B).
  5. For this example, click Multiple Choice. There are several to choose from and you'll want to explore all those options later.
  6. Enter the information required to create an account (Figure C) and click Create Account. Once you have an account, simply log in.

Figure A

Figure A

Search for Poll Everywhere.

Figure B

Figure B

Getting Poll Everywhere is easy.

Figure C

Figure C

Create an account.

At this point, Poll Everywhere will display a generic poll slide. Replace the generic question and options with your own, as shown in Figure D. Notice the option at the bottom that lets you limit each participant to a single vote by default. Click Insert New Poll when you're ready.

Figure D

Figure D

Create a poll.

To access the poll's settings, mouse over the top-right corner and click the Settings icon shown in Figure E. We won't spend any time on the visual settings, but you'll definitely want to explore them on your own.

Figure E

Figure E

Customize your poll.

The other icons activate and deactivate the poll, lock it, and clear it. Before running the presentation and activating the poll, you can resize the poll to fit the slide, or not. If the poll covers the entire slide, a click won't advance to the next slide because you're clicking the embedded poll. Keep this in mind when sizing a poll. On the other hand, the navigation buttons at the bottom of the screen still work as expected, so losing that click advance might not matter to you.

SEE: Five presentation apps to replace PowerPoint

When you're ready to run the presentation, press [F5]. Accessing the poll slide will activate it, as shown in Figure F. The instructions for participating are at the top of the slide. For this example, I sent a text and used the website by accessing the displayed URL shown in Figure G. Figure H shows the poll after I voted twice.

Figure F

Figure F

Your poll is activated and ready for responses.

Figure G

Figure G

You can vote using the internet, text, and Twitter.

Figure H

Figure H

Your poll updates automatically as participants respond.

Now that you've created your first simple poll, you're ready to explore Poll Everywhere's many settings so you can customize your polls.

Worth noting

Once you have Poll Everywhere, you can add a poll to any presentation, but you can have only one active poll at a time unless you purchase a more robust version. You can, however, have more than one poll in a presentation.

Depending on your audience, a short, fun practice poll might be a good idea. You might also want to anticipate some of their concerns by sharing the following information:

  • Participation is free, but carrier fees are applicable when texting.
  • You can't see their phone numbers; responses are private (anonymous).
  • When texting, case won't matter but spacing and spelling will.

Participants can't readily cheat, but do take notice that although I limited participants to one response, I was allowed to respond using text and the URL—it was me both times but the software can't possibly know that.

Poll Everywhere works on most browsers, but according to Poll Everywhere, you'll have the best results with the following versions:

  • Chrome 49 and later
  • Internet Explorer 11.0 and later
  • Safari 9.0 and later
  • Firefox 45.0 and later

Poll Everywhere runs on both PCs and Macs. You can use it in PowerPoint 2016 and 2013. Neither TechRepublic nor I have any financial interest in Poll Everywhere; nor do we endorse this product beyond its use in this example.

Send me your question about Office

I answer readers' questions when I can, but there's no guarantee. Don't send files unless requested; initial requests for help that arrive with attached files will be deleted unread. You can send screenshots of your data to help clarify your question. When contacting me, be as specific as possible. For example, "Please troubleshoot my workbook and fix what's wrong" probably won't get a response, but "Can you tell me why this formula isn't returning the expected results?" might. Please mention the app and version that you're using. I'm not reimbursed by TechRepublic for my time or expertise when helping readers, nor do I ask for a fee from readers I help. You can contact me at susansalesharkins@gmail.com.

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About Susan Harkins

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

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