Integrate SMS polling into Keynote with Poll Everywhere

There's market prominence, and then there's sheer ubiquity. Even though it's been called a drain on our nation's military prowess, in the business world, you really can't get away from PowerPoint. Microsoft's presentation station within Office is a core participant in meetings large and small, and there's an enormous ecosystem of add-ons, plug-ins, and collaborative apps that extend the basic product.

Most of these enhancements are Windows-only affairs, and some of them are downright useful (I'm thinking of Articulate Studio in particular, which would be plain awesome on the Mac). If you want to do audience response measurement within a meeting, for instance -- letting attendees vote or answer questions on the fly -- you're pretty much locked in to displaying those results within PowerPoint.

There's hope on the horizon for Keynote, though. The SMS-centric Poll Everywhere service, which allows an audience to quickly answer questions using their cellphones, has introduced beta support for Keynote and PowerPoint 2008 that gracefully displays the response percentages on multiple choice questions. You can try it out yourself with a free Poll Everywhere account; the unpaid plan allows you to collect up to 30 answers per poll, while paid plans go way higher. The tool requires Snow Leopard and Keynote '09 to work.

Instead of the embedded Flash SWF playback widget that Poll Everywhere uses to display results in PowerPoint 2003/07/10 on Windows, the Mac approach leverages a helper app and on-demand downloads of QuickTime movies to handle the answers. It's pretty sneaky, and pretty effective. If you need to collect feedback from a roomful of drowsy colleagues, try out these tools and see if things get spiced up a bit.