Audience Response System – FAQs

  1. What is an Audience Response System
  2. Why use an Audience Response System
  3. What are some Specific Applications for ARS in the Church?
  4. What are the Benefits to Using ARS?
  5. How does a Wireless Audience Response System Work?
  6. What Should I Know about Writing Questions?
  7. What Types of Questions Can be Asked?
  8. What are the Options for Displaying the Response Summaries?
  9. What Types of Reports and Summaries are Available?
  10. How Important is the Role of the Speaker/Facilitator?
  11. How do you Introduce the System to an Audience?
  12. What are some Tips and Best Practices for Using ARS?
  13. A Brief History of the Audience Response System


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1. What is an Audience Response System?

An audience response system (ARS) is a wireless network of remote handheld keypads that enables everyone in an audience to be an active particpant in anonymously connunicating their thoughts and opinions while sumultaniously displaying the results on a video screen.

The ARS network works by keypads communicating via radio frequency with a receiver that is linked to a computer. The computer, running a software program that integrates with PowerPoint, is in turn linked to a video projector that displays questions and their corresponding audience responses within seconds for all to see. All the data is captured in a database and are converted into both graphic displays and Excel spread sheet format for further follow-up study and planning.


2.  Why use an Audience Response System?

      • Engage Your Audience
      • Promote Learning
      • Gather Facts
      • Gauge Opinion
      • Test Knowledge
      • Measure Change
      • Team Building
      • Brainstorm
      • Survey
      • Inform
      • Challenge


3.  What are some Specific Applications for ARS in the Church?

      • Interactive Preaching/Teaching – interactive involvement identifies needs, tests knowledge, promotes learning, challenges to response and measures change
      • Surveys – Gather information & opinions anonymously then explore in further depth with discussion and follow-up planning
      • Collaborative Planning – Gather input, test the consensus of opinion, achieve buy-in and reach an agreement for action.
      • Creative Brainstorming  – Generate & develop ideas, prioritize them & focus the meeting on the critical issues
      • Problem Solving & Conflict Resolution – use for data gathering & analysis – an efficient, accurate way to gather facts and gauge opinion
      • Critical Decision Making – Capital Campaigns, Staffing & Program Changes etc.
      • Team Building & Training – Challenges, assessments, enhanced learning, motivation and fun
      • Educational Interactive Games – teach while having fun and using team competitions,
      • Event Celebrations


4.  What are the Benefits to Using ARS?

      • Increases learning retention – Aids in teaching by keeping listeners engaged longer & focusing on key points
      • Engages listeners at deeper levels of thought through challenges to personal reflection & response
      • Fosters a safe, accepting environment for newcomers offering immediate participation through opportunities to response anonymously. It helps “People Belong before they Believe”
      • Cultivates an increased sense of community as everyone collectively responds and then simultaneously sees their results together.
      • Affirms that no one is alone and helps dispel feelings of isolation especially for those who are seekers, struggling spiritually and/or in the minority.
      • Accurately reveals the diversity of belief & experience within the church regarding pertinent issues.
      •  Helps leaders identify people’s needs (beliefs, feelings, struggles and behaviors) & better understand how to meet those needs
      •  Allows the speaker to adjust and tailor the message to the need and interest of the listeners by identifying felt needs
      •  Saves valuable time & money by providing instant survey results
      •  Simplifies complex data gathering & analysis
      •  Facilitates creative out-of-the-box thinking
      •  Fun & Excitement – No more boring meetings and messages!


5.  How does a Wireless Audience Response System Work?

PowerPoint slides are prepared with the questions that a speaker/facilitator wants to ask. Question/Polling slides can be integrated with other slides necessary for the presentation.

    1. Each person is given a remote keypad very much like a small TV remote or credit card calculator.
    2. As each question is asked by the speaker it is projected onto a screen in the form of a PowerPoint slide.
    3. Everyone in the group is invited to enter their response using the keypad.
      (During the response time (10-20 seconds) appropriate pre-selected background music can even be played – like a game show.)
    4. Results are then instantly tabulated and projected in slide form onto the screen in a graph format showing the response percentages and/or the actual number of respondents.
    5. All the data collected from the meeting/event is captured in a database and and converted into both graphic displays and Excel spread sheet format for further follow-up study and planning.


6.  What Should I Know about Writing Questions?

Crafting the wording of a question or statement requiring a response is the most important factor in obtaining objective and usable responses. 

      • Brief – use questions or declarative statements that are short and to the point.
      • Unambiguous – pose questions or statements are easily understood.
      • Valuable – ask questions that are relevant to the topic and will contribute meaning to the experience.  Avoid questions that are superficial or have obvious answers.
      • Probing – challenge the audience to a depth of thought and/or feeling in determining their response.
      • Appropriate – never ask anything that might demean someone or that you do not want publicly answered.
      • Positive Phrasing – generally it is better to use positive statements and phrasing when asking for evaluation or measure of agreement.


7.  What Types of Questions Can be Asked?

      • Yes/No
      • Yes/No/Abstain
      • True/False
      • Multiple Choice
      • Multiple Choice with Correct Answer Indicator
      • Rating (Likert) – typically using a scale of 1 to 5 up to 1 to 10
        ( i.e. Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree, Extremely Unimportant to Extremely Important, Very Unlikely to Very Likely etc.)
      • Priority Ranking – allows the audience to priotitize their top choices
      • Demographic – allows responses to be tracked and sorted by such things as gender, age, etc.
      • Demographic Comparison
      • Ice Breaker slides – analogy & word scramble
      • Moment to Moment – continuous polling over time with a rating from -2 to +2.
      • Impromptu – capture input from the audience and instantly create impromptu questions for the audience to vote on.  This empowers the audience and drives a discussion based on the audiences specific needs or wants.


8.  What are the Options for Displaying the Response Summaries?

A variety of options in bar graph and pie chart form are available for displaying the response summaries. A choice of colors is also available.

      • Bar – Horizontal
      • Cylinder – Horizontal or vertical format
      • Pie Chart – 3D & Distributed
      • Donut
      • Comparatives with previous polled questions displayed Side-by-Side

In addition several other display types are available with other programs.



9.  What Types of Reports and Summaries are Available?

All the data collected from the meeting/event is captured in a database and can be converted into both graphic displays and Excel spread sheet format for further follow-up study and planning. 

      • Results by questions with graphs
      • Participant result reports
      • Data summary from each keypad
      • Demographic reports & comparisons (Demographic questions must be included in the presentation for this feature to work)


10.  How Important is the Role of the Speaker/Facilitator?

The role of the speaker/facilitator in engaging the audience/congregation and encouraging their ongoing involvement is a critical one.  It goes way beyond simply reading the questions and the accompanying response results.  It is the speaker/facilitator who transforms a mere technological exercise into meaningful communication between all participants and a community building experience.  The following are key ingredients that make for a successful speaker/facilitator role.

    1. Translate the results graphs into sentences that accurately capture the participants sentiments
    2. Draw conclusions from the results and suggest applications where appropriate
    3. Never make a negative comment or derogatory remark about any group of respondents associated with a particular answer.
    4. Affirm everyone’s answer choice no matter how they responded
    5. Encourage every person, especially those with others in a minority answer choice category, that they are not alone.
    6. When giving a message be prepared to adjust the order of your points based on the corresponding prioritized response result of each question
    7. Be sure to emphasize how important the results are as an integral part of your message.
    8. When appropriate encourage audience discussion based on the response results.
    9. Intersperse the presentation with humorous or light hearted questions to keep the audience engaged.
    10. Don’t wait too long for everyone in the audience to respond to a given question.  Typically a small percentage (5% – 15%) of the participants will abstain or fail to respond within the time limit..
    11. Do monitor and be sensitive to a significant fall-off in responses as the meeting progresses and when necessary address the issue and/or make adjustments as you go.
    12. At the conclusion of the presentation you might want to use a few knowledge assessment or presentation evaluation questions to gauge your success in communicating your informational.


11.  How do you Introduce the System to an Audience?

The audience/congregation will need a brief introduction to the system and use of the keypads. This is best done by a key leader and/or the speaker/facilitator

    1. Take the time to explain why you are using an audience response system.  Explain the benefits you and/or the gathering will gain from its use.
    2. Hold up the keypad and briefly point out its basic functions (using a slide with a picture of the keypad with it features is also helpful)
    3. Explain that each person’s answers will be anonymous
    4. Encourage them to be honest and input their true feelings and opinions, not as they would like to appear or think the pastor/church leader would want.
    5. Explain how the presentation of the question and input process will work – the uses of the countdown clock and accompanying music.
    6. Explain if they change their mind they need only enter another answer and that the computer only accepts the last response given.
    7. Use one or two fun ice-breaker questions in order to familiarize everyone with how it will work.
    8. The typical order of a audience response question:
      • Question is displayed on the screen
      • Question is read aloud by the speaker
      • Countdown Clock & Music are started
      • Audience enters their respective choices on their keypads
      • Results are displayed in graphic form on the screen
      • Responses are reviewed and discussed


12.  What are some Tips and Best Practices for Using ARS?

      • Ask fun “ice-breaker” questions to introduce the use of the interactive system & the keypads.
      • Keep the technology in the background, never prominent, to enable the facilitator to reach into the audience for thoughts, ideas, reactions, prioritizations, opinions, knowledge etc.
      • Only ask questions that offer value or are used as training, icebreaker or entertainment type questions.
      • Control the tone and culture of the question by crafting the wording of the question and choices to achieve the desired objective.
      • Use a countdown timer (10-20 Seconds) with accompanying music to energize and stimulate a timely audience response.
      • Select music that is appropriate to and enhances the significance of the question
      • Ask all primary demographic questions at the beginning.
      • Never pose open-ended questions or questions with negative choices if you have any concerns about viewing worst case results.
      • Follow and model your culture and meeting messages – use humor, music, assessment, graphics, demographics, and participation to reinforce your desired environment.
      • Insert and use impromptu questions to follow-up points that need clarification or further consideration.
      • Highlight the “correct answer” for those questions that have only one correct answer.
      • Late in the presentation, consider asking a repeat question to compare side by side whether opinion was changed during the course of the presentation
      • At the end of the presentation use a question that summarizes the messages key points asking the listeners to indicate which point helped them the most.  This provides the speaker with an accurate evaluation of the effectiveness of the message and helps for future message planning.
      • Communicate the personality and culture of the leaders by asking leading questions such as:  “What do you think I prayed about most when I woke up this morning?”  Us the responses of the audience to share insight into the leader’s personality and concerns.
      • After the program, all results and all demographic data can be analyzed for additional value.


13.      A Brief History of the Audience Response System

Also Known as:

CCS – Classroom Communication Systems

SRS – Student Response Systems

PRS – Personal Response Systems

  • Developed by a former NASA engineer in 1985 for Physics instruction by networking student graphing calculators to a Mac Computer as the instructors command console.
  • This hard-wired system called Classtalk was commercially available from 1992-1999.  However it was expensive and required special installation in each classroom.
  • In 1999 a new generation of wireless remotes called “clickers” replaced Classtalk. These were supplied by several companies with proprietary computer software and receivers with both infrared and radio frequency transmission.  These systems were also expensive but readily adaptable to any setting.
  • A third generation of ARSs are now appearing with clickers and receivers that are compact, durable, affordable and have software that integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Office Programs.
  • Primary usage up to now has been in Higher Education and Business Applications
  • ICR is now on the cutting edge of bringing this interactive innovation to the church world offering the leading and most affordable ARS available on the market today!


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