Ask event organizers if they’d prefer attendees to lean in or disengage with conference content and they’ll overwhelmingly choose engagement. But aside from moderating social media streams or pushing a poll through a conference app, there’s little they can do measure audience sentiment in real time.
Microsoft’s Bing Pulse hopes to change that with a self-serve model of its online real-time voting platform that can “pulse” audience members every few seconds through smartphones and tablets to see if they like or dislike what’s happening.
Starting today, meeting professionals can set up free Bing Pulse accounts for any size event at pulse.bing.com. The free trial period ends Feb. 1. Pricing for future plans has yet to be announced.
“It’s like when they had dial groups for politics,” says Josh Gottheimer, Microsoft’s general manager of corporate strategy. “You would sit in a room and turn the dial every time the president said something you agreed or disagreed with, and it gave real-time feedback.” Bing Pulse’s online dashboard allows event professionals to create a pulse for a particular session or speaker, customize what kind of data is collected and gives an URL to share with attendees. Using that URL, attendees access Bing Pulse with their mobile Web browsers. Results can be shared with the audience or kept private.
During its maiden engagement — President Obama’s State of the Union address broadcast on Fox News — Bing Pulse recorded 12.9 million votes. Among Fox’s findings: More viewers stayed tuned to the channel during the broadcast, while younger viewers were drawn to the channel by the technology.
Gottheimer says the Pulse idea comes from changes in how we use mobile phones and tablets. A 2012 Nielsen report found that 85 percent of us use our smartphones or tablets while watching TV at least once per month; 40 percent do so daily. The number of people who use these “second screens” to engage, discover deeper content and share what they’re watching with friends has increased over the past couple of years. Anyone who’s attended a conference knows that pattern of behavior occurs publicly as well as privately.
“We’ve all been to meetings. We all do something else while we’re there,” Gottheimer says. “We asked ourselves, ‘What could we do with second-screen technology to make it more engaging, to keep people there and pay attention more actively to what people are saying onstage?’ ”
After enhancing live news broadcasts on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, Gottheimer says Bing Pulse quietly debuted at conferences like the Aspen Ideas Festival. Today’s launch marks the first time this technology has been available to the public at large.