Tools Audience Response Technology Shines at SXSW

SXSWedu used a new audience-response platform to facilitate Q&A — and collect valuable information about attendee social-media use.

For the last four years, practitioners and entrepreneurs within the education field have flocked to Austin for the four-day SXSWedu conference — part of the South by Southwest festival — which features interactive workshops, the LAUNCHedu startup competition, and an open-plan “playground” for interactive displays and gaming, in addition to more traditional keynotes, panels, and sessions. Since disruptive thinking is at the very heart of SXSWedu, the producers wanted to up-end the traditional approach to Q&A.

Enter A web-based, real-time feedback platform that debuted three years ago, allows attendees to connect via computer, tablet, or smartphone without downloading an app or even signing up for anything. “We believe that technology needs to be nearly invisible in order to bring value,” said Peter Komornik, CEO of “It should be so unobtrusive that users don’t even realize that they’re using it.”

Event organizers can use to conduct polling, and have the ability to moderate questions before they appear in the platform’s live feed. In addition, displays tweets from an event in real time, and after the program can be used to build custom infographics that track interaction stats on social networks. Some planners have used archived audience questions to do post-event Q&As with speakers.

SXSWedu decided to partner with after the platform was used successfully at SXSW V2V, a Las Vegas–based event for entrepreneurs held last summer. “It wasn’t a tough decision,” said Greg Rosenbaum, one of SXSWedu’s founders and producers. “Peter [Komornik] was willing to come out to our event and assist us in getting the ball rolling, introducing the program to our audience and seeing how they reacted. It was a great fit for us, because Peter understood why we wanted to take things slow at first.”

SXSWedu used’s Q&A platform for several components of its program — held at the Austin Convention Center on March 9–12 — and its ease of use was a boon to presenters as well as attendees. “In one of our sessions, the presenter was familiar with and used a tablet to employ the full gamut of its capabilities, including Q&A, polling, and real-time feedback, with tremendous success,” Rosenbaum said. “His was a unique situation given his familiarity with, but it was a great example of what the program is capable of.”

Next year, SXSWedu expects to use the platform at even more sessions. “We had such a great experience this past March, and the platform is capable of so much, that we hope to blend more of its functionality in with our event,” Rosenbaum said. “For us, it’s a win-win in that it provides a more unique and engaging environment for the attendees, as well as those real-time statistics and feedback that all event organizers crave.”

Kate Mulcrone

Kate Mulcrone is digital editor of Convene.