Meet with Confidence

Best Practices for Polling Questions

Posted by Anthony Salas on
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Today’s post is the second in Anthony’s series on polling. Check out the previous post.

polling during a webinar or web conferenceDuring a webinar, polls are an easy way to learn more about your audience and their experience level, to check whether they can recall important information you have presented, or to gather feedback on the efficacy of your presentation. As you formulate standard poll questions, refer to the guidelines below to build effective polls.

Be sure to start with your goal in mind. If you plan to ask a lot of questions – before you start writing them – remember you are asking your audience to do some work. One thing to note is that you should request as little as possible of the attendees so the response rate stays high. Be clear about the goals you have for gathering the information (qualitative or quantitative) and what you will do with this information once you have it. The answers you obtain are only as reliable as the clarity and simplicity of the questions you pose.

Now you are ready to start writing your questions. Below is a list of general poll-writing suggestions as well as some specific to using the ReadyTalk tool.














  1. Keep your poll questions simple.
    Interpretation is a key concept to keep in mind, so the simpler the question the better the chance that everyone in your audience will be on the same page when they answer.
  2. Avoid combined questions; display one question at a time.
    Make sure your questions do not have multiple answer options. If your question uses the words ‘and’ or ‘or’ chances are you have a combined question with more than one possible answer. In these situations you should create two separate questions. An example of a combined question would be The use of color in the document is a nice touch, and the information is easy to understand. In this question a participant might agree with one part of the question but not the other. This should be split into two questions or rewritten so it truly asks only one question.
  3. Add ‘Does Not Apply’ as an answer option.
    Many times a participant may not have experience with or can relate to the question being asked. By adding ‘Does Not Apply’ as an answer option allows all participants to continue to interact, and it provides you with further insight into your audience and their level of knowledge or experience.

  4. Write polling questions that will benefit the participants’ experience.
    To make polling questions effective at stimulating participation and interactivity, they must be presented in terms of your participants’ self interests. If your polls tend to be demographic or self-serving for you as a presenter, participants may feel they are being treated as experimental subjects providing you with value but getting none themselves. You should be able to accompany every poll with a statement of “By answering this question, you will benefit in the following way…” Possibilities include knowing more about how they compare to the community of their peers, getting you to focus your remarks on areas of greatest importance to them, getting you to talk to their level of expertise and prior knowledge, or helping to determine what webinar topics you should present in the future.
  5. In advance, determine how many polling questions are appropriate.
    If your presentation is going to last for at least one hour, you should plan on incorporating at least 3 polling questions, and space them out so they are approximately 5 – 10 minutes apart. Also, while participants are responding to each poll question, be sure to continue your presentation or have some comments ready. Do not allow for “dead air” time while you are waiting for the results. This will create an awkward situation for both you and the participants.
  6. Instruct participants where and how to enter answers.
    In the event you are a regular ReadyTalk customer and have participants that attend many of your webinars, you may want to take a moment to let participants know how to interact with the polling feature. You can either insert a slide to display during the introduction or make a verbal statement prior to starting the polling question. Let the participants know they will actually click on the radio button next to the answer they want to select. They should NOT write their response into the chat box.

  7. Note that the speaker view of a polling question may be different from the participant view.
    If your polling question is particularly long, as a speaker, it will appear that some of the words are cut off or missing. If you hover your mouse over the question the entire question will show for a moment; however, participants will see the entire question on their screen. This is due to the fact that there are other boxes in the speaker view (participants, chat, audio) that take up some of the screen. Speakers are encouraged to have copies of the polling questions available to read from if necessary.
  8. Participants MUST answer a polling question in order to see the results.
    As you know, ‘Skip to Results’ is an option you can select to show the participants the poll results as they come in. It is a great way to show the interaction of the audience. However, if a participant chooses not to answer the question they will not see the results. This was designed to drive participation from everyone, so you are encouraged to let your participants know they must answer if they want to see the results!
  9. Polling questions cannot be edited or deleted during a live event.
    If you need to edit or delete a polling question be sure you have not clicked the green ‘Start Meeting’ button. Once a meeting is started you cannot make any changes to your questions.

  10. You don’t have to reveal your audience size when discussing poll results.
    You have the option to show poll results as percentage figures rather than absolute numbers. For example, your audience doesn’t have to know that the 25% response rate on answer #1 only represents 2 people! If you are hiding the fact that you have a smaller than desired attendance, just talk to the percentages in the same way you would if there were more people participating.


Are there other tips you would add to the list? Share in the comments section below.

As an event manager, Anthony works with clients on all aspects of their audio and web conferencing needs. Prior to working at ReadyTalk, he was a ReadyTalk customer, so he brings a great understanding of developing and running webinar programs. He enjoys spending time with his family and two dogs, watching movies, reading and exploring Denver’s top restaurants.

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Time: Tuesday, April 12, 2011

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