Involving your audience with interactive tools

One of the biggest challenges during live-streaming is keeping your audience engaged with the content, and the speakers, when they have the ability to hide behind their screen.

Some interactive tools you can use to better engage with your audience: Padlet, Kialo, Crowdsignal and Mentimeter

Luckily, there are several different types of tools that can be used to give participants an opportunity to share their feedback and get them involved during live streamed events.

In this article we will look at some different types of interaction, including:

  • Backchannel conversation
  • Live polling tools
  • Note based feedback
  • Online debating

Backchannel conversation

The simplest form of audience interaction is probably a forum for backchannel conversations (that go on in the background of the main event between members of the audience) using social media tools like Facebook or Twitter, or dedicated tools like Backchannel Chat. Backchannels give an audience a sense of community and add an extra dimension to the experience.

Each digital platform has their own features, for example events can have a dedicated Facebook page, or a specific Twitter hashtag (and maybe a dedicated account), while tools like Backchannel Chat are more targeted to an educational context and can be better controlled and monitored.

Live polling tools

Another, more structured, way of engaging the audience is to give them the opportunity to respond to specific questions, and there are plenty of live polling tools around that can help you to do this.

The trick is to identify which tools provide which features (preferably without cost) and allow enough audience responses to suit the context. Mentimeter is one of many options, and a tool we frequently use here at The Mind Lab.

One key advantage is that the free version allows you to have an unlimited number of responses to your questions. It also provides a number of different options for the types of questions and quizzes that you can share with your audience. The free version has all the basic features and there are some quite cool feedback options including an open-ended question scroller where the audience contributions will continually scroll by on a presentation slide. Another nice feature of Mentimeter is that when you create a word cloud it will accept multi-word phrases with spaces, which can be a useful feature.

There are some downsides to Mentimeter. One problem is that the contributors cannot see the answers straight away – if you want people to be able to respond to something and immediately see the results you can use a tool like Crowdsignal, which lets you create polls and surveys that not only gather the data but allow those who contribute to see the results immediately without you having to present them back yourself. Responses are not unlimited, but the free version allows up to 2,500 “signals” (question responses) per poll or survey.

Note based feedback

Note based feedback means any tool that replicates the same kind of experience that sticky notes provide in a physical environment. The idea is that the audience can add their own thoughts on some kind of virtual note or card, and others can read them and perhaps comment on and/or vote on what has been shared. In many cases the notes/cards can be dynamically rearranged and/or connected.

Our go-to tool for this here at The Mind Lab is Padlet, since it is very easy to use and share. There are several different formats that you can choose for how the cards are laid out and related to one another. The free version is fully featured but limits the number of Padlets that you can create on your account. 

Online debates

The final option that we find great for live interaction is the online debating tool Kialo-Edu. This is an excellent way of hosting a structured debate. Of course, this is only appropriate if the event being live streamed has some proposition related to it that could usefully be debated. For example, a school sports day might have an online debate around the proposition that school sport should be competitive and only winners should receive awards.

Those who wish to participate can then be given a side of the debate which they are required to argue. This, of course, is the great value of a debate. You don’t get to argue from what you already think you believe, but are often required to argue in favour of a proposition that is not necessarily one that you currently agree with. Kialo-Edu is such a powerful tool for helping to understand the viewpoints of others. 


There is a range of tools that can be used to engage the audience at a live streamed event, and the one(s) that you might choose will depend on issues such as cost, size of audience, immediacy of feedback and the type of response that you want to gather and share. 

Make sure you’re choosing based on your audience and what will create the best level of engagement, in the most appropriate way, for them.

David Parsons is the National Postgraduate Director at The Mind Lab. He teaches on the Postgraduate Certificate in Digital & Collaborative Learning, the Digital Skills for the Workplace micro-credential, the Postgraduate Certificate in Leading Change for Good and in his spare time plays guitar with his daughter and recently published his first novel.

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