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I occasionally conduct the necessary evil of keynotes and seminars using Google Slides (samples), so I was glad to hear about the new Audience Tool.


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I wondered if it functioned like Pigeonhole or Dotstorming. The former is a passcode-accessed space for ranking questions from an audience. The latter is an open tool akin to online stickies.

I also wondered if the Q&A tool could act as a backchannel (like TodaysMeet) for audience members to become even more active participants of a talk.

The Google Slides update rolled out and I explored the features of the Audience Tool.

In the desktop version, the Audience Tool is activated via a dropdown menu under the “Present” button.

Google Slides: Audience Tool

In the mobile app version, the Audience Tool is counterintuitively activated via the “Present to a new video call” option.

Google Slides: Audience Tool (mobile app)

Here are ten of my notes on the Audience Tool:

  1. When you start the tool, an overlay with the URL to access the tool appears over the top of your current slide. The goo.gl shortener to the Audience Tool is convenient, but I also like to provide a QR code to make it easy to access.
    Audience Tool URL as overlay.
  2. The tool works well on desktop or mobile. If you can type or SMS, you can use the tool.
  3. It can be used as a basic backchannel, but note the next point.
  4. The voting up of questions or comments works efficiently and allows popular statements to rise to the top. This also changes the order of entries based on their popularity.
  5. You cannot thumb up or thumb down your own question. This prevents some abuse.
  6. Participants are anonymous. If you are signed in to Google Drive, you have the option of being anonymous.
  7. As the presenter, you have the option of displaying questions or comments via the Audience Tools panel. The questions or comments can be selected one at a time and replace the current slide. Clicking on the slide advances the deck to the next slide.
  8. If you accidentally close the Audience Tools panel, you need only resume the Presenter View and you have the option of starting a new session or resuming the previous one.
  9. The Q&A history is saved with the slide deck and appears in the mobile app (three dots menu) and desktop versions (Tools menu) of Google Slides.
  10. If you close the main Google Slides presentation, the Audience Tool stops working.

I cannot say for sure if the Google Slides Audience Tool is a TodaysMeet or Twitter backchannel killer. At the moment, it:

  • does not highlight the users, questions, or comments with different colours;
  • provides no options to delete questions or comments;
  • has no options for exporting the text for archiving or showing a projector view;
  • is not a persistent feature unlike most backchannels tools.

I do not think that most presenters will miss these features. The Google Slides Audience Tool is certainly a threat to other free Q&A and backchannelling tools.

This month I am conducting two seminars on flipped learning. One is with a major edtech vendor and the other is for an institute of higher learning.

Here are some insights into my preparation for the first one.

The seminar runs today, but the official paperwork was only confirmed a week before. I do not normally take such tight deadlines, but having done a quick run on a different topic with another group before, I decided to challenge myself.

I am familiar with the content, but I do not believe in blindly copying and pasting. I fine tune every slide deck and activity to the expectations and context of each new event. So my modus operandi is to meet with the organizers in person and then poll the participants with Google Forms. Collectively their inputs help me determine what to focus on.

My go-to tools are Google Slides (presentation), TodaysMeet (backchannel), QR apps (for quick access to resources), and Padlet (exit ticket: reflection and feedback).

But since I had just a week to collate and create content as well as prepare the platforms, I opted to use a slide template by SlidesCarnival. I had previously used one of the free templates for a presentation on social media-based PLNs. (Full disclosure: SlidesCarnival does not sponsor me.)

I chose the Oberon template because it is simple and clean. Its backgrounds are bold colours and serve as visual shifts for different segments and concepts. For example, here is one of my main WHAT slides.

It differs in background colour of my self introduction, content-oriented, and thank-you slides.

The use of colour as a visual cue to trigger cognitive processes is something I understood as a teacher and it was reinforced when I did a Masters in instructional design over 15 years ago. This was something I used to teach informally to student teachers in Singapore and formally to college students in the US who took my course on web design. It is something I apply to this day.

I find that a little thought goes a long way in making a presentation effective. Audience members might not be able to articulate why they “got it” more easily, but I do and that is very satisfying.


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