Choose your options wisely

Some of my clients ask me this: “When I use a voting system and I ask a question, what is the maximum number of answers I should offer? What is best practice?”

As usual, this question doesn’t have a single answer. Here are a few things to consider:

The hardware

What number does the hardware (the voting units people have to participate in the vote) allow?

Depending on the equipment this can be 10, but in some cases the number can be a lot higher, like 999.

Ease

10 is a good maximum as people can make their choice by pressing a single button.

10 is also probably the maximum number of questions that you can comfortably fit on a single slide to show on a screen.

More than 10

Providing more options can make a lot of sense in, for example, a market survey, where you want exact figures like people’s age, weight or income.

Then you might want ask the audience to type in the correct number and ask them to confirm.

Please note that going higher than 10 will require people to press the ‘confirm’ button again.

Do not forget an option

It might be tempting to limit the number of possible answers to make it easier for the participants to make their choice.

However, make sure that every possible situation is covered. If you are asking the participants for their age and you have 4 options: ‘20-30’, ‘31-40’, ‘41-50’ and ‘more than 50’, be sure to also cover the lower end of the scale. You never know if a 19-year-old is in the audience, so add ‘Less than 20’ even if you believe the chances are slim that there will actually be one in the room.

The above example might sound obvious, but there can also be less obvious situations. Suppose you ask for the profession of the participants. You might have included all categories that are relevant according to your knowledge, but still it might be good practice to add ‘Other’, just in case.

 

So, as you see, the appropriate number of answers depends on the situation, but the general message is: ask for what you need, not more and not less, and bear in mind the practical limitations of the equipment and displaying the results.

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