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What are Audience Response Systems?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated: Jan 30, 2024

Audience response systems are systems that allow an audience to interact with a host, panel, teacher, or other presenting body. Audience response systems have a wide range of uses, and with the advent of wireless technology and affordable hardware, they have become much more popular and widespread.

The first major use of audience response systems was for Hollywood studios to be able to gauge their audience’s feelings about a movie before it was released. Audience response systems are still fairly widely used for this purpose, with most movies being subjected to at least one audience screening early on, and many being shown numerous times. Production studios might use audience response systems to test different endings for a movie, what genre a movie should be classified as, the likeability of characters, whether people enjoy a movie well enough to recommend it to a friend, or any number of other questions. The most simple audience response systems used for movie screenings are simply a dial that represents how much the audience enjoys the movie, with more complex ones incorporating yes and no buttons or even numeric pads.

Audience response systems are also widely used in game shows as a way of increasing audience participation. On the television show Family Feud, for example, audience members use input systems at their seat to answer questions that are then asked to contestants, who attempt to match the audience answers as closely as possible. The hit show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? also made use of an audience response system in one of their “Lifeline” features, allowing the audience to tell the contestant what they felt the answer to the question was.

Other television shows might also use audience response systems to garner participation in the form of audience voting. The show America’s Funniest Home Videos, for example, makes use of such a system, allowing audience members to select which of the videos shown each evening is the funniest. Shows like American Idol also make use of a type of response system, which takes input from a wider audience by allowing viewers at home to call special phone numbers to register their votes.

Outside of television and Hollywood, audience response systems also see a great deal of use in the corporate and educational world. Using similar systems to those used on television, presenters can solicit input from a corporate audience in a seamless manner and have the resulting data on hand to easily collate and present. Teachers can use audience response systems to check in on how well their students are retaining information and to easily pinpoint trouble areas to cover in more depth.

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Discussion Comments
By anon67115 — On Feb 23, 2010

I have recently used an audience response system from showmode audience response and it was exactly like who wants to be a millionaire - was great fun and would recommend!

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