Category Archives: Presentation Tips

We don’t do Turning Point…

We sometimes get asked if our voting systems are Turning Point compatible or if we have Turning Point keypads. The answer no it is not compatible, and no we do not stock Turning Point, and finally we will not be going down that route either!
The reason we don’t use Turning Point is it is too inflexible, it is also a PowerPoint ‘plug in’ which needs to run on the main presentation machine. This has risks in terms of presentation stability which if it fails it will knock out both voting and presentation so leaving no space for recovery.
Our systems runs on a separate PC that runs in parallel to the presentation machine and is cut in via a seamless switcher. This allows us to edit the questions and test while the main presentation is being run. It is not unusual for us to be carrying out last minute editing, at the request of the speaker, while the main presentation is already running. It also allows for much greater control in terms of screen content. The presenter need only verbalise what they want to see on the screen and it will be made so by the technician. This unshackles the presenter from the lectern and allows a more dynamic presentation. The operation of Turning Point requires key strokes that can’t be controlled by an industry standard cue light so the presenter has to control the presentation from the lectern.
Turning Point Keypad

Turning Point
Good for Education Bad for Event Production

We also find that the Turning Point graphics are not flexible enough to cope with the production demands of  larger shows. Turning Point is a good education and training tool but we feel it is not suitable for use in larger events where the voting content is mission critical or where the event has higher production values.
Just so you know we have available 3 different keypad types (Reply IQ, Reply +, and Reply mini +) and 4 different softwares (ARS Pro, Win Quiry, Power Com and SNAP) to suit varying client requirements. Please view our Audience Response pages here to see the full range of interactives we can provide.  We can use any software and keypad combination where as Turning Point will only ever work with Turning Point software so there is no upgrade path for clients to travel. Snap is a simple software (like Turning Point) which works with our Reply Mini + keypads for dry hires but also we can use the same keypads with the ARS Pro software which is a true event production voting software.
We undertake to programe our systems and require in advance the questions, in an electronic format, and the master slide of your presentation.These need to be submitted to us a few days before the event. Edits can be made on the day but this allows us to proof read the content and format the graphics.
Turning Point has its place in the market as a training and education tool but we do not perceive it to be suitable for event production.
We hope this helps.

Audience Response and Social Media can be mutually supportive

When used at your events, audience engagement and response services can be used to provide fresh content for your social media channels, in the same way your social media channels can provide content for audience response. Mark Kisby explains why and how…

A bit of back ground… Does your organisation have a presence on any of the following social media channels? Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Flicker, YouTube, etc… Do you blog or micro-blog? Do you believe the trend gurus that without a presence or a plan for social media you will lose the ability to gain referals as now these channels are increasingly the ‘friend’ that people will turn to to gain a recomendation.

It does not matter that the recommendation is from a person they have not met or ever will meet. It is indeed this fact which possibly makes the recommendation (or horror story…) all the more valid as it appears to be unbiased. This is not lost on the likes of Google and other search engines as they move away from static site listings to monitoring social media for ranking a subject’s current relevence in searches. Essentially if you don’t tweet, blog, facebook, linkin, you risk slipping off the new “radar”.

It is not easy to maintain all these channels and it takes time and effort to build this body of content. One of the tricks is to get others to help you through ‘retweeting’ and ‘friending’ your organisation or even better to get others to generate their own output linking back to you through engaging your audience.

To do this effectivly you need good, useful, content as standard marketing messages no longer apply as they will be recognised as just another biased sales pitch and treated like spam.

Audience Response Voting Keypad

An audience response system can help in generating content for use on social media

Audience engagement and audience response systems can help in generating content for use on social media channels. Here are a few tips how to use them.

Take ownership of the search criteria: On twitter this is the creation of a Hash tag (#). Simply add a ‘#’ to a word you would like to be used as a search word for your event. Ideally a short word so as not to use up too many of the 140 characters available in a tweet… e.g. ‘#mirth’ is used for our local comedy club ‘Mirth of Forth’. This should then be announced as part of your posting style from the first announcement onwards so everyone can search and see the content generated.  You can now also send normal text messages  to twitter so allowing those not registered to make a contribution via their mobile phones to on line content.

To generate activity organically you need to ensure that the basic content is of interest out side of your immediate circle. This may seem a given but you would be supprised at the number of events we have witnessed where the content is not ‘news’. An Ecology conference attended by ecologists would not be supprised to learn that “100% of those polled thought that ecology was very important”. It is a ‘non’ question where the out come was so predictable as to make the asking of the question a waste of time.

A better statement put to the same group would be “Ecology is slipping in importance to the public eye…” This would create a result which could be broadcast via social media and in turn the public can reply saying why it is slipping. The speed of social media would allow reply comments to be fed back into the conference, via audience response or engagement systems, to be debated further, all greatly increasing the value of the time spent together. The process will have also greatly increased the event’s profile with the the public and media.

So audience response and social media can sit very well together but as always content is king.

What is a discussion microphone?

What is a discussion microphone? How is it different from a conventional microphone? Mark Kisby explains… Now updated on the 6th of June 2017, please see additional text at the bottom of the post.

Commonly referred to as a discussion microphone, delegate microphone, conference microphone, or Push to Talk. This type of microphone is used as part of a larger system of microphones where the use of a conventional microphone is impractical.

Discussion Microphone

A discussion microphone also known as a ‘delegate’ or ‘conference’ microphone.

What makes a discussion microphone different to a conventional microphone is typically a discussion microphone will have a built in pre-amp, this allows for an installation that ‘daisy chains’ the microphones in series and sending the audio along a common ‘bus’. The conventional microphone as used for music or recording has no pre-amp instead this is contained in a sound desk or mixer. This conventional arrangement requires individual cables to be run from the sound desk to each microphone. The discussion microphone is usually enclosed in a table top enclosure that houses the microphone, pre-amp, an on /off button, and possibly an amplifier with a small ‘personal’ speaker.

Both types have different applications, conventional microphones are used for music (both in live sound, recording) and in speech applications where individual tonal / gain controls are required. i.e. lectern or top table. Discussion microphones are used for situations of extended speech reinforcement applications ie. Conferences, Board rooms, Council Chambers, Parliaments, etc… With these applications in mind a discussion microphone system has features which are unique to its type.

Boardroom discussion microphones

Discussion microphones set for a boardroom style conference

Designed to allow the orderly control of a meeting, these features include:- Push to talk (PTT) on /off microphone activation switch to allow delegate operation. A microphone mounted light to show the microphones status, not only the user but also other delegates / chairman.  A limit on the number of microphones that can be ‘live’ at any one time is applied, typically 6-8 microphones, to prevent too many microphones becoming live and causing feedback (howling speakers).

The limiter is normally adjustable to various modes of operation including ‘Automatic’ where delegates switch ‘on’ and ‘off’ their microphones at will. The ‘Manual’ mode is where delegates ‘request to speak’ and their microphone is made live by the chairman or a technician when it is their turn to speak. Another feature is the ability of a chairman’s or president’s microphone to over ride all others.

Discussion microphones connect via a ‘daisy chain’ cable network that puts the microphones in series running back to a central controller. The controller outputs a single audio connection which allows up to a hundred microphones to be connected to just a single audio input on a sound desk or amplifier. More modern digital systems may make use of common cable types such as Cat5, some systems may use a proprietary cable which is unique to the system and can add greatly to the cost of an installation.

The daisy chain cable arrangement suited the traditional table layouts of board rooms and council chambers however this has now developed in to wireless models which allow the use of these systems easily in a cabaret table style arrangement. Wireless systems also allow for the installation of such a system in a listed building where a cabled installation would be invasive or where a room needs to be multi purpose requiring the easy removal and re-installation of the equipment.

Control of the system is by a chairman’s unit or a comprehensive technicians control panel which allows full remote control of all microphones.

I hope this helps explain this type of microphone. Look out for another post soon on how these microphones are used in simultaneous interpretation systems.

Update. 6-6-17

Since originally writing this post over 6 years ago technology has moved on and the pro audio description and definition of some of the terms used to describe a system have become more specific. These can be set out in the following definitions.

Discussion Microphones.
A simple microphone discussion system only provides audio. i.e. it is only a microphone system and is limited to that function. It can provide the opportunity for a delegate to speak and it gives the chair person some elements of over ride and some queuing controls to maintain a procedure and order. It will allow connection to an external audio system for amplification and recording.

The above unit is a discussion microphone, it has no other features other than the microphone, a speak button and an integrated speaker.

Conference Microphones.
A conference microphone is like a discussion microphone but with additional features to facilitate a conference or congress so it is not just the main audio source. A conference microphone may have some or all of the following additional features.

  • Delegate identification via chip card or RFID
  • Simultaneous interpretation with built in channel selectors and headphone sockets.
  • Audience response and voting.
  • Messaging
  • Content and Agenda displays
  • Wider technician control network
  • Camera control

The phrase conference microphone when searched can still bring up everything from a single microphone as used in connection with video conferencing or tele conferencing systems to a full system as described above. I expect the definition of Conference Microphone to further develop and the term used to describe a complex conference microphone system to become a Congress Microphone System.


The unit above is a Conference microphone, it has the mic, speak button and the speaker of the discussion microphone but also a chip card reader for delegate ID, integrated touch screen that allows local display of agenda and provides voting buttons, headset volume control, interpretation channel selection. Etc…

Push To Talk Microphones (PTT)
This term is now largely exclusive to the type of microphone you would find connected to a two way radio transceiver of the type used on board a boat or CB radio. This is where you physically have to press, and hold, the button while talking. Releasing the button switches you off, releases the frequency and allows another to transmit. An announcement PA in a school may have a similar desktop version of a PTT microphone as shown below.



The user of a system may still refer to all the known terms (Push to Talk, etc..) in describing what they require, and it will be up to the supplier to drill down to the requirement and provide the needed solution. We are here to help in that regard.

Add value to your event with Audience Response

Audience response systems can add a great deal of value to your conferences and events. Mark Kisby explains how…

During the recent ‘Credit Crunch’ organisations were under pressure to cut their conferences and events budgets. What they saved by reducing the size of the stage or by going to a cheaper venue shouldn’t have effected the basic content of the day or the goals for staging the event in the first place. Audience response systems (ARS) were often cut early in the budget review but this can be a mistake as an audience response system will add tremendous value by giving tangible results and feed back from delegates attending.

An ARS can show whether or not the key the aims of staging an event have been met or not, it can reveal any sticking points. This allows your event to measure its effectiveness during the day and give evidence of its success to all the stakeholders.

Audience Response Voting Keypad

Audience Response Voting Keypad

Audience response can also maximise the available time at an event by asking delegates which themes are of most interest, so allowing you to apportion time appropriately. It costs a lot to get every one in one place so it makes sense to ensure their time together is as productive as possible.

Using these systems also sends a clear message to the attendees, that ‘we are listening and your opinion is valued’.  Presenters in the dreaded post lunch grave yard slot will appreciate the regenerative powers of asking a flagging delegate a question on which they need to ponder before responding.  ARS has been proven to increase retention on the subject polled and certainly your chair person will marvel at the ARS’s capability to break the ice during Q&A sessions and promote delegate interaction as they begin to discuss options with their neighbour, so leading to improved networking.

Asking post event evaluation questions at the end of the last session will save your staff days of data input from a paper based questionnaire.

So how do they work? In its basic form an audience response system comprises of a display to present the question and a range possible options / answers, and a ‘keypad’ to allow the delegate to select the option / answer which best matches their opinion.

The results of the poll are displayed immediately after the close of the 10 second voting slot. The equipment is usually radio based and wireless so allowing free distribution amongst an audience.

Some systems also offer the ability to communicate directly with the presenter through the ’free text submission’ of questions so allowing the delegate to ask their own question, or submit an idea, rather than just responding to predetermined options.

All in all if the budget is being trimmed it pays not to cut the one item that can prove the days effectiveness and show value has been obtained for the spend. If you are still looking for ways to save, go for the cheaper dessert option, cut the sparkling water and have a smaller lighting rig!

AVD can supply a range of Audience Response Systems including:-
Voting Keypads

Mini Voting Keypads
Deletext – SMS
Deletext – Engage

When is a Laptop not a Laptop?

Why you should consider hiring a laptop for your presentation, conference or event. Mark Kisby goes through some of the pit falls in using an office based laptop for a presentation.

When is a laptop not a laptop? When the laptop you want is a ‘presentation laptop’ and the one you have is an ‘office laptop’… there is a difference in the settings if not in the physical machine. Usually a corporate laptop will have been configured to an IT policy which prevents you from adjusting such things as screen resolution, external monitors, and power saving settings. All these settings are required to be reset for your presentation but unless you have ‘administrative rights’ you may come a cropper.

You need to set your power settings to ‘Presentation’ which will set your Monitor, Hard Disks, System Hibernate and System Standby to ‘Never’. Failure to do so may result in you running back to the laptop to wiggle the mouse to prevent the screen going blank and the PC starting to hibernate… this might restore the image to the laptop screen but now the projector has dropped out and  you need to find that function key again that toggles between screen set ups… and where was I… meanwhile the audience is now thinking… ‘Very slick, do we really want to buy from this person?’

Screen savers kicking in mid flow are to be avoided, presentations interrupted by star fields and family photos stick in the mind for all the wrong reasons. (Nice swim suit by the way…?)

Screen resolution is another potential pit fall. If using a small form factor PC like a netbook you may find that if you simply ‘mirror’ the screen, i.e. you have the same image on both laptop and projector, you may find the image on projector differs or distorts as the native resolution of the projector differs to the PC’s screen. To rectify this you need to  adjust the image size of the second screen. This again requires administrator rights to change.

Both these settings, for a Windows PC, are accessed by right clicking on the desk top and selecting ‘Properties‘:-

For power and screen saver settings.. select the ‘Screen Saver‘ tab. Set the Screen Saver to ‘None‘ then go on and press the ‘Power…‘ button. In ‘Power Schemes‘ select ‘Presentation‘ or set all to ‘Never‘, and then ‘Apply‘.

For resolution settings… select ‘Settings‘ tab. Click and select the ‘2nd‘ monitor, adjust the screen ‘resolution slider’ to match the projector’s native resolution. And ‘Apply‘ It will ask you if you wish to keep these settings. If not then wait 15 seconds and they will revert to as before.

We hope this helps, an easy alternative is to just hire a presentation laptop from us… job sorted. 🙂