Wednesday, June 18, 2008

When To Purchase An Audience Response System

Writen by John Timmerman

Whether renting or buying, investing in audience response technology can get a little pricey, especially if you're planning on outfitting a large group of people. For a one-off event, renting will most likely be the most cost-effective solution, but there are many situations where you might consider purchasing a system. Here are some circumstances to consider:

Frequency of Events - How often will you use the system? Once a year? Once a month? The more interactive meetings you expect, the more attractive purchasing your own audience response system becomes.

Size of Audience - Are you using 20 wireless keypads for executive decision making or a small classroom? Or are you hosting a delegate voting session with 1,000 stake holders? Larger audiences not only require more hardware, but often also require more expensive hardware that can handle the data transfer.

Staffing and Maintenance - Most audience response vendors offer a maintenance plan to cover equipment performance and software upgrades. But if you own the hardware, someone in your organization has to keep track of it, store it and make sure it's running properly when the time comes to use it again.

Type of Hardware - Are your wireless keypads and base station radio frequency (RF) or infrared (IR)? IR keypads are great for small groups. At under $2,000 for a 20-keypad system, infrared audience response systems are an extremely affordable choice. Larger audiences, however, will require more expensive radio frequency keypads to deliver reliable data.

To summarize, here are some general guidelines to consider when deciding to rent or buy your system:

When to Rent

  • Low frequency of events
  • Large audience
  • No resources available for storing and maintaining the hardware
  • Expensive hardware
When to Buy

  • High frequency of events
  • Small number of participants
  • Staff available to handle the hardware
  • Lower-priced hardware will meet your organizational needs
Hybrid Solution for Audience Response System Ownership

A simple answer of "rent" or "buy" may not always be the right solution. Sometimes it will make sense to do both. If your organization can use the audience response technology in multiple circumstances, than a hybrid plan may work best.

Fortunately, many ARS vendors' software will allow different hardware platforms to work together. So let's say you purchase 50 IR wireless keypads to use for small-group training and executive decision making. Once a year, you hold a company-wide event with 200 participants. You could use your 50 existing IR keypads and just rent 150 more (IR or RF) for the annual event.

Whatever your circumstances, make sure you evaluate your organizational goals and capacities before deciding to rent or buy. Adding interactive audience response participation to your events is a sound decision, but make sure the financial decisions are just as sound. provides free information about using audience response systems to increase attentiveness and improve knowledge retention in group settings.

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