The current book draft positions the impact of polling on presenters as giving them more information about what is going on with the participants in order to make better choices in the moment. A speaker or a trainer can find out what the audience thinks or knows and make adjustments. A facilitator can let the audience have some influence over some facilitation decisions. A conference organizer can probe how attendees are feeling about the conference on issues they can influence, and potentially make adjustments to any number of things – length of sessions or breaks, temperature of rooms, duration of question and answer segments, et cetera. This is all well and good, but there is something deeper I must pursue in the re-write. It has to do with intentionality. Even though you can make up questions on the fly, for the most part, polling questions are created in advance, which means that if you want to use the technology, it is important to think through in a detailed and specific way a few questions that are relevant to that particular moment of the participant experience.
- Given my objectives for the gathering, what do I expect to be the participants’ emotional, intellectual, and energetic focus at this moment?
- What does it make sense to ask the group to confirm that I need to stick to my designed process, or perhaps make an adjustment?
Both of these questions underline the idea of intention: when I planned the gathering, what was my intention for this moment? What is my intention now? Facilitators should always be very mindful and clear about their intention, but the explicit process of focusing the group on a constructed question - and all the perils that accompany doing so - is something that focuses the mind.
It’s one more thing that pushes presenters away from just winging it and toward thinking things through.
The way the keypads force me to think through a question is more significant than the fact that I can get good information from the answer.