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June 2012 . www.conference-news.co.uk . 43 PARTICIPATIONresenters are constantly looking for new ways to engage audiences but, until now, many have been ignoring the most powerful tool available, and it is sitting right in front of them. Large groups offer a hidden form of intelligence that can be unlocked to reveal surprising results. We see this in nature when colonies of bees or fl ocks of birds work together with invisible, innate precision. Now, using the latest audience participation tools, organisers can tap into the 'swarm effect' of crowds and unlock their hidden potential. And the results can be astonishing.The trick is to keep it simple. Organisers can use a system that gives each person a hand-held wand with two sides: red or green. By holding up their wand, each audience member sends a signal to the computer as to their colour choice, which enables them to collectively control what appears on the screen. This system can be used to play games with audiences to achieve a diverse range of outcomes including audience motivation, teamwork and positive thinking.An example of one such game is an under-water themed version of the retro video game Pong, in which the room is split into two teams. Each team has to work together to control an on-screen paddle that moves up or down. This simple game demonstrates how large groups can co-operate in 'swarm behaviour'. This game has proven to create real excitement to the point that people jump out of their seats. As well as energising audiences, it teaches people the power of teamwork and competition. The game can also teach people that a diverse group can work together to overcome issues, leaving audiences with a positive feeling towards their shared objectives. Where we see this working best is when company employees or stakeholders are brought together to discuss objectives or industry issues. By involving everyone in a game, individuals gain a sense of collective achievement, pride and positivity. Company directors or industry leaders can draw on this knowledge and show people that by working together they can achieve great things, be it a change in strategic direction, addressing tough company issues, facilitating a change of structure, or aiming for new goals and targets. As well as playing games, speakers can use the interactive system to get clear, direct feedback from the crowd by asking questions answered by a show of red or green that translates to an instant on-screen result.London School of Economics (LSE)Department of Management's Garrick Jones has used Cinematrix multiple times to help get his message across. He used the technology to demonstrate how large groups could work together at the Jeddah World Economic Forum in Saudi Arabia, a conference of senior international policy makers. He found that while some people seemed sceptical at fi rst, they quickly realised that people can achieve great things together through collaboration and teamwork. LSE also found that where the technology is most impressive is in its ability to give each individual a voice. By having real-time, on-screen feedback, people see that their vote counts.Ensuring that a conference delivers its key objectives is always a top priority, be it about teamwork, collaboration, management structures, trusting your colleagues or a change in strategy. Organisers who want to introduce an innovative way to deliver messages, energise crowds and send delegates home feeling excited and positive, should consider interactively as the next step in conferencing. Audiences no longer need to be condemned to the same old format, but can be given the power to interact and feel involved in the event. ExploringDirector of audience participation technology provider Cinematrix, Mike Reddy, explains how motivating audiences to work together as teams and actively participating in conferences not only results in a more fun experience, but also more effective information recallthe audience DNAP