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by Michael Shapiro | December 22, 2015

Last week, Microsoft's Bing Pulse rebranded to Microsoft Pulse and relaunched as part of a multiplatform service, integrated with Microsoft's other business communication applications. It might sound like a small change for the audience-response tool, but moving Pulse from under the Bing umbrella and making it a more prominent part of the Microsoft arsenal signifies the increased exposure such tools will have in our industry over the coming few years.

Pulse rolled out last year as a free platform for getting instant audience feedback. While initially used primarily for broadcast television -- largely for political speeches and debates -- its potential usefulness in other types of live events has gained recognition, with Pulse gaining exposure at International Convex and the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Summit, to name two examples.  

One big reason audience engagement mobile tools are growing in popularity is that organizers are recognizing the value such data can have in terms of customer insight and market research. Pulse's evolution capitalizes on that trend. The product has been beefed up a bit, the organizer dashboard simplified, and integration with other tools streamlined -- namely Microsoft's Azure Media Services (video), Skype for Business (meetings), OneNote (sharing), Yammer (enterprise communications) and PowerBI (analytics). In other words, what started as basic audience response is now more accepted as part of data-driven suite of tools.

Microsoft has been seeing a lot of demand for Pulse from organizations that produce live conferences and video, says business lead Lee Brenner. The tool, he says, has a flexible application programming interface, meaning it can be easily integrated into an event app if desired. That said, most of their users have thus far opted to use Microsoft's mobile web platform for the tool, which is streamlined, easy-to-use, and requires no login. With any Internet-capable device, audience members can be directed to a specific URL to respond to poll questions and provide feedback. Show organizers can access the data via the new dashboard. What's more, Pulse can be used now with as many as 10,000 attendees for a Skype for Meetings broadcast.

Pulse may not be as complex or multifeatured as other audience engagement tools that are emerging, but it does have Microsoft behind it (and it is free), which means it could find easy adoption in a business enterprise environment that already uses Microsoft applications.

Have you used Pulse for any events? I'd love to hear about your experience. Feel free to comment below or to e-mail me with more information.