A Brief History of Audience Engagement

It may surprise you, but audience response systems have been around since the 1960’s.

Tom Dally, November 9, 2018

One of the earliest examples stems from the Audience Studies Institute of Hollywood, California. Their use case came about from gaining audience feedback for soon to be released films, TV shows and commercials, helping to shape future content as a result. It was an analogue system with a dial located in seats. Attendees would turn the dial to indicate their interest. This was updated the following decade becoming fully digital to include Yes/No buttons, and numeric keys for entering numbers.


Another pioneering audience response system was the Consensor, developed by William Simmons, an IBM executive who later founded Applied Futures along with Ted Gordon and Harold Becker. The Consensor was a system of dials, wires, and red, yellow and green lights. A question would be asked verbally and the audience would turn their dials to a number between 0 to 10. If the majority of the audience agreed, the green light would turn on, if not either the yellow or red light would light depending on the level of disagreement.

As technology evolved and became more portable, audience response systems shifted from requiring extensive wiring as the case in their infancy to handheld wireless portable receivers.

Clickers first entered the scene in the 1980’s along with big hair, spandex and mullets. They became commercially available in the 1990’s with the adoption of handheld response pads and infrared or radio frequency signals to transmit data.


Clickers continued to evolve throughout the years, much like Rachel's hair from Friends. In the 2000’s, clicker technology was no longer confined to handheld response pads, utilising laptops and personal digital assistants (PDAs).

rachel hair

With the advent of tablets and smartphones in the 2010's, audience response systems jumped across the hardware-software chasm. This meant solution developers could get a lot more creative and delivered far more comprehensive experiences for the audience. The idea of Bring your own Device (BYOD) caught on with tablets and smartphones connecting to a local wireless network, mobile network, or both. It was also one less thing for event organisers to worry about!


It was around this time that Mike Piddock, our CEO, realised there was a specific need for a more encompassing audience response solution. With his background in marketing and knowing how much of the budget was allocated to events, Mike saw the need for a solution that did not just enable an event organiser to gather an audience’s responses but to quantifiably measure the success of an event. And that's how Glisser was born.

Glisser transformed audience response solutions by placing a greater emphasis on audience engagement rather than simply responses. With features such a live slide sharing and digital note taking, Glisser stressed content sharing in addition to live polling, audience Q&A and interactive quizzes. This enabled event organisers to gather more in-depth event data and capture insights that would not be possible on other audience response solutions. The analytics can then be integrated seamlessly into their CRM, MarTech and other event tech solutions. 

I'm sure you'll be chomping at the bit to learn about what the future holds. Well, it's here...

Last week we wrote an in-depth overview of the next generation of audience engagement

Now you may be wondering just what exactly makes the next generation of audience engagement so incredibly profound. After all, audience engagement solutions have been around since the 1960's. 


If you're interested in learning more about how the next generation of audience engagement will take your events to the next level, request a demo below!

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