Talking Audience Polling and Dial Testing with Realscreen West Content Director Barry Walsh

audience polling, dial testing, live event research, Realscreen West panel discussion

Realscreen West 2017: Let’s Make a (New) Deal session featured real-time audience polling using Dialsmith’s Perception Analyzer technology. Credit: Rahoul Ghose Photography


Most market researchers associate dial testing with focus groups, numbering typically 8-25 participants. However, Dialsmith has executed audience polling to much larger audiences. We have put dials in the hands of hundreds of attendees at large conference venues such as TED and the Banff Media Festival. Just recently, the Dialsmith crew set up shop at Realscreen West 2017, the premiere annual event for the unscripted entertainment industry, where we did real-time polling for approximately 250 delegates in the audience for the event’s main panel session.

Since this is not the typical use case for dial testing, we thought we’d ask Realscreen Content Director and Editor-at-Large Barry Walsh to shed some light on why they were interested in Dialsmith for their audience and what he thought of the experience.

Why did you decide to bring Dialsmith in for the panel session? What were you looking to get out of it?

The Realscreen Summit had previously held “interactive” sessions in which we attempted to include direct audience participation throughout, but we hadn’t found an interactive solution that provided the means to poll the audience at large in real time. For the “Let’s Make a (New) Deal” session, we knew we wanted to have audience feedback on the topics being discussed – the key issues facing the unscripted and non-fiction production community today. So we needed a system that would provide both the polling mechanism and also the means to analyze the results quickly. Dialsmith’s services looked like they fit the bill.

audience polling, live event research, Barry Walsh, Realscreen West 2017

Credit: Edward Pond

Had you had any prior experience with audience polling for live feedback or other media research?

Our event producer, Tiffany Rushton, had worked with Dialsmith at the Banff World Media Festival, before coming to the Realscreen team, and she brought the company to our attention.

Can you talk about your experience with Dialsmith at the panel session? Did it provide the value you were looking for? 

The Dialsmith team worked closely with us to ensure that our use of this technology would run smoothly, and it did. The system itself is easy for audience members to use, and people seemed excited to have the ability to weigh in on the topics being discussed.

Was there anything unexpected or that surprised you about the results or the experience with the dials?

We were most impressed with the speed displayed in gathering the results for the questions. …From my perspective, it was good to know that the majority of respondents felt optimistic about the future of the unscripted and non fiction production industry. That bodes well for the business… and for our events! 

Did you get any comments or feedback from audience members or panelists in regards to using the dials?

Yes, and they were unanimous in their praise. A few audience members who coordinate their own events expressed interest in finding out more about the product, and the company.

In retrospect, was there anything you would’ve done different in how the dials were used?

In a panel format that runs for an hour, you’re limited in the amount of questions you’re able to pose to the audience. We probably could’ve extended the session to get even more use out of them!

Would you use the dials for a session like this again or recommend them to a colleague?

We would certainly look at using these again, and would highly recommend them.

Thanks for the insights Barry and we look forward to sending our team back for a repeat engagement next year. Do you have ideas for audience polling or other non-conventional uses for our dials? We’d love to explore it with you, so give us a shout.