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How to Encourage Participation with Second Screen Technology

John Santaferraro
on 05/4/17 06:00 PM

John Santaferraro is the chief analytics officer at Educational Measures. With 20 years of experience as a big data analytics imagineer, he is responsible for driving the next-generation of meeting and event analytics. Previously, he was the interim CMO at Diyotta and vice president of marketing at ParAccel until it was purchased by Actian, where he stayed in that position to help guide the transition. He began his career in technology as the co-founder of a data warehouse software startup that eventually sold to Teradata. Along the way he has held executive big data marketing positions in top tech companies including Tandem, Compaq, and HP. When he’s not hiking, skiing, or snowshoeing in the Colorado Rockies, John loves to cook gourmet, collect fine wine, and brew craft beer.

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Wake up! Have you ever watched someone fall asleep in a conference session? Their head nods slightly, but they catch themselves.

They nod up and down a few times, then slump over. It’s not pretty.

While most attendees stay awake during an average session, boredom and distraction can prevent them from hearing, learning or making the decision you desire for your event. Second screen technology is designed to keep an audience engaged, but not everyone knows how to use technology to engage an audience. If you are investing in iPad technology, why not make the most of that investment? 

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Here are a few tips on how to successfully keep your audience engaged and get the outcomes you desire:

Know exactly what you want to accomplish.

It was Stephen Covey who said,” Begin with the end in mind.” Strategizing meeting participation is no different. Just as you do with other elements of a meeting, determine the goal of audience participation from the get-go. For example, you may want to utilize participation as an avenue to improve knowledge retention or you might hope to garner more information about each attendee’s learning style and personality. Regardless of what you are hoping to accomplish, define your goals at the beginning to ensure that you utilize your technology effectively.

Build interaction into key slides.

When you build your presentation, identify content that is best for audience engagement. For example, build some slides that could be saved for reference and mark them with a “save slide” emblem. Your recommendation will go a long way toward prompting action at key points. After the meeting, look at the data and see if your audience responded the way you expected. Consider designing some slides with blank spaces and crafting activities during the meeting where participants can either type in notes or draw a picture with a stylus. Strategically place polling questions at the points where you know interaction will drive discussion or wake up the minds of the participants for more important content.

Art and Science of Asking Good Questions

Don’t forget to remind!

Never underestimate the power of a simple nudge and remember that repetition elicits response. When you are covering critical information, tell the audience to hit the save slide button. Slides that include a presenter’s original research should always come with a reminder. If you sense confusion or consternation in the room, stop to remind participants to enter questions into the system. Don’t hesitate to build in instant polling questions or open text questions to gauge what the listeners are thinking and feeling at various points throughout a long session. For slides that were difficult to create, ask for a simple one to five-star rating. Find out what works and make improvements next time you go to bat.

Make the most of the between session air-time. Along with a quick introduction of the next speaker, be sure to remind the audience that all saved slides and notes will be sent to them after the meeting so they can spend more time participating and less time taking photos of the content. All humans have a short attention span, so it’s important to have multiple reminders throughout the event.  Mention how second screen technology can make their meeting experience more valuable. Utilize any individual who might be taking the stage as a channel to encourage participation.

Encourage more than one Q&A time.

One of the best keynotes I’ve seen was delivered by Michael Dominguez, chief sales officer at MGM Resorts International, at the 2017 Global Pharmaceutical and Medical Meetings Summit.  Instead of the typical Q&A at the end of his session, he paused to take questions several times throughout his talk. This was particularly impactful because it gave the attendees a chance to digest highly relevant information in smaller chunks. In sessions, that are particularly technical or long, the audience may forget their questions by the end of the meeting. Most sessions will have natural break points. Take advantage of them.


These tips are a starting point for encouraging participation in your meetings. There is no perfect formula, but second screen technology offers you a variety of options for turning ordinary meetings into extraordinary experiences. What are some of ways you’ve utilized meeting technology to engage your audience? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

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