# How to tally audience voting?January 23, 2014 8:46 AM   Subscribe

You've got an audience of 350 people. They've just heard two poems recited on stage. You want to know which one they like best. How do you do it?

Applause volume is the usual solution, but it's pretty imprecise. Another way to go is something more visual, like: Stand up if you like poem A. But even that could be hard to tally, if the vote is close. And actually counting takes too much time. Plus, you're asking your audience to stand up -- and what of the elderly, or those in wheelchairs? Phone voting is another solution, but not everyone has a smart phone. Is there some superclever statistical way to handle this? Thoughts?
posted by Hobbacocka to Media & Arts (19 answers total)

Can you have the poems printed out, on two separate sheets, underneath each chair, then ask the audience to take home the one they liked best, leaving the other behind?
posted by jbickers at 8:48 AM on January 23, 2014

Put two colored cards on each seat, the name of a poet on each card. Have the audience hand in the card of the poem they preferred, collect, and tally.
posted by Think_Long at 8:48 AM on January 23, 2014

Interesting ideas. Some clarification: the winner must be assessed within, oh, a minute after the call for voting, so her name can be announced to the audience. So, not sure a minute is enough time to collect and count votes.

It seems like such a simple problem, in a way, and yet, there appears to be no simple solution!
posted by Hobbacocka at 8:51 AM on January 23, 2014

Give everyone a token that is some precise weight. Maybe a coin or metal washer? Send volunteers out to collect the tokens in one of two long-handled baskets, much like they collect donations at church. Weigh the baskets onstage. Might be a bit longer than a minute to do the collection, depending on the size of the audience.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:52 AM on January 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Maybe do the cards thing, but have the person on the end of each row tally their cards, then just add up the tallied amount from their reports?
posted by Think_Long at 8:53 AM on January 23, 2014

You can try to break up the counting task so that it can be carried out in "parallel." For example, maybe you have 15 people responsible for counting within groups of ~ 25 each. Each person tallies (votes for person A - votes for person B) within their group and relays this number to a central coordinator. If the total is positive the A wins, if's negative B wins.
posted by leopard at 8:55 AM on January 23, 2014

I'm not sure what you mean by phone voting (using a specific app?) that you would need a smart phone. What about texting? Using two different staff member's phones. If you like poem #1, text to phone number A. If you like poem #2, text to phone number B.

You wouldn't need people to have smart phones. And maybe if someone didn't have a phone, they could ask their neighbor to text for them. I suppose that could open the door for texting multiple times for a candidate. I'd like to think that people going out to listen to poetry could be relied upon to use the honor system.
posted by Beti at 8:57 AM on January 23, 2014

If you are willing to spend some money, Audience Response Systems are what you are looking for.

Audiovisual rental companies rent them. Many of them use Powerpoint and the tally or graph can be shown on screen as it happens.

My company is such a provider, PM if you want details.
posted by tomierna at 8:57 AM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

We've done sitting/standing at town meeting when the usual Aye/Nay thing isn't precise enough. Usually by sections and there are a few people designated to count. People who can't stand can raise an arm up and be counted. I think the big question is whether you want people's votes to be anonymous or not.
posted by jessamyn at 8:57 AM on January 23, 2014

For the phone option, you could try http://www.polleverywhere.com/! I've been in an audience where it was used and it was fun and fast. It will exclude any audience members who can't/don't text though. (Since it can be done by text, it doesn't require a smartphone, just any cellphone.)
posted by purple_bird at 9:04 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is there some superclever statistical way to handle this?

No.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:11 AM on January 23, 2014

Applause plus a \$20 RadioShack SPL Meter.
posted by Jairus at 9:13 AM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

How high are the stakes here? When I've seen the applause thing used, it's usually for situations where the competition in question is mostly just for fun, like a talent show or poetry slam or something.

However, the bottom line is that if the stakes are high enough that you need a precise count, you're not going to get it in the course of a minute or so simply by looking at the audience. You have to choose whether it's more important for the winner to be acknowledged right away, or for you to have a precise count of votes.

One suggestion that might be more apparent than a show of hands or applause-o-meter would be to put a large brightly colored card (maybe one of these custom printable fans?) on each seat and have the audience members raise the corresponding card? That way you could see clearly whether the room was more red or more blue.

If it's very close, what about some kind of tie-breaker or Ultra Super Final Bonus Round that would be conclusive without the audience needing to vote again?

How much of this competition is a fun game, and how much of this competition is something that is going to make or break the competitors' lives?
posted by Sara C. at 9:39 AM on January 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Fast, good, or cheap: pick two. You say fast tallying is a requirement so you can either abandon cheap and use an expensive system like the "audience response systems" suggested by tomierna or you can abandon good and use an applause meter at the loss of precision and certainty in who is the real winner. You're not going to find anything which is fast AND cheap AND good.
posted by Green With You at 9:39 AM on January 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

If this is in an educational setting where attendees would already own iClickers or a similar device, you could use them. You can watch A and B counts go up in realtime, even put them on a display to show to the audience.

For the iClicker, you might have to enter the ID numbers as attendees enter.

Applause plus a \$20 RadioShack SPL Meter.

If I wanted to win this competition, I'd write a terrible poem that specifically appealed to people who like to be loud.

Racecars racing
living the life of noise
fireworks explode
we are not the meek

etc.

You can argue that loudness of applause is correlated to overall audience appreciation, and give a prize based on loudest applause. But if you want to compare the number of people voting for poem A v.s. poem B, that is not the same thing as applause.
posted by yohko at 12:25 PM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is your audience at tables, or auditorium style?

You could have a tabled audience tally each table and write the relevant numbers on cards (Sally 7, Mike 3) and hold those up. Then do a quick tally onstage, maybe with a chalkboard.

If in rows, have one card per row with Sally and Mike written at the edge of a table/grid, and let each person in the row add a check mark in the boxes next to the names. At the end of the row, you have a finished card - last person tallies up and passes to the front, where you do the same routine with the chalkboard.

if the tone of your event is right, you could/should make the tallying performative - I like the weighing suggestion above, and inviting a "math genius" up to do the tallying - or making the tallying into a race or something - would be fun. Doing math in front of people is hard, but can be played for funny.
posted by Miko at 2:31 PM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would use Socrative or Poll Anywhere to have people vote.

Then if there are people without smartphones, have a simple paper ballot or two different colour cards that they can use instead.

I'd be surprised if there are more than 20 in 100 who wouldn't use a smartphone.
posted by guster4lovers at 2:52 PM on January 23, 2014

So there's a tv show here called Ready Steady Cook in which the audience votes at the end for their favourite meal. Each audience member is given a card with a large red tomato on one side and a large green capsicum on the other. The host asks everyone to hold up their vote at the same time.

Often, the vote can be guessed just by looking at the distribution of red and green cards, but if necessary, a count is made by one of the staff on the show.

Could you use a system like this by giving everybody a large card that's a different colour on each side?
posted by Georgina at 7:13 PM on January 23, 2014

Came in to say Poll Everywhere also.
posted by tamitang at 7:34 PM on January 23, 2014

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