Poll Everywhere Asks The Crowd To Spice Up PowerPoint Presentations

Despite using a plethora of flashy graphics and professionally designed templates, many lecturers have to grapple with one common dilemma: PowerPoint presentations are usually pretty boring.

One common way in increase engagement, especially in a large group setting, is to encourage audience participation using a polling service. Unfortunately, many of these systems use proprietary devices and software which make them both inconvenient and unnecessarily expensive.

Poll Everywhere, a Y Combinator company that launched last Fall, is a service that allows presenters to sidestep these obstacles by taking polls with mobile phones. Instead of using a proprietary device, users simply send a SMS message to a specified number. This data can then be displayed on a dynamic PowerPoint slide, allowing users to watch the results change on the fly.

Today the site is announcing beta support for a number of international markets, including Australia and countries in Europe and Asia. Poll Everywhere is also announcing that it will release its own shortcode in the United States next week, which will allow users to manually assign certain keywords to their polls (in the past the service has relied on another company’s shortcode). In order to take advantage of these custom keywords, users will need to be part of a paid service plan, as the free version only offers randomly assigned words.

While Poll Everywhere originally launched last September, the company’s founders say it wasn’t until they secured Y Combinator funding that they began taking the project more seriously (all of them have since quit their jobs or dropped out of school). And while the company will be taking on some well established players in this space, particularly in academic environments, its simplicity and relatively low cost make it a viable alternative (and it’s already profitable).

There are a number of sites that allow users to create their own SMS campaigns, including Mozes and Tagga, which we covered last month. Poll Everywhere differentiates itself by adapting the technology to produce dynamic PowerPoint slides, though these other companies could conceivably integrate this functionality without too much difficulty.