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Audience Response Systems — Should You Buy Or Hire?

audience response system

Audience response systems (ARS) are a great interactive tool to help boost the appeal and effectiveness of presentations and conferences, training events and business meetings of any kind. The little handheld keypads enable audience feedback or voting to take place quickly and anonymously, with the results available immediately via the software installed on your IT system.

Most suppliers of ARS equipment offer a choice of purchase or rental agreements – so should you buy or should you hire?

Purchasing ARS equipment

With audience response systems becoming cheaper and simpler to run, buying the equipment is a popular cost-effective solution for many businesses.

That said, there are many factors to consider before making the decision to purchase. Will the system be used for a single purpose, such as education or training, or even just a single event? Exactly what functionality is required? Is there in-house technical personnel in place who can be skilled up to operate the IT equipment?

It’s essential to have as much information and data as possible in order to make an effective cost-benefit assessment and calculate the Return-on-Investment (ROI) of a purchase. Clearly, ROI is going to be far greater if the technology is used to provide a company-wide solution, rather than as a single (department) use.

Here are 5 key preparations you should make before the purchase decision:

  1. Contact a current user of the system you’re thinking of buying to get an honest appraisal of its performance. The manufacturer or supplier should be able to provide you with a reference customer who uses the technology for a similar purpose to yours.
  2. Make contact with the manufacturer’s customer support centre to assess their responsiveness, service, and levels of product knowledge.
  3. Find out what sort of training is available after purchase? Are there training classes with the manufacturer’s rep, phone or online training?
  4. During the due diligence process, it’s a good idea to evaluate the supplier’s overall service commitment. How keen and empowered is the salesperson? How responsive and knowledgeable are the sales support staff?
  5. If your investment into ARS equipment is considerable, it’s worth asking for a real test of the system. Go for a turnkey rental (system plus operator) for your first use so that you can establish 3 key decision-making points during its first, and hopefully seamless, operation: evaluation of system functionality, ease of use, operational advice.

Hiring ARS equipment

If purchasing audience response equipment seems a big investment, you could consider renting instead. Equipment hire may be particularly suitable for the following situations:

  • Short term projects such as training, testing, migration, or as extra capacity for peak workloads
  • One-off exhibitions, trade shows, conferences or media events
  • In-house AGMs, presentations or training courses
  • Try before you buy
  • Stop-gap solutions to long delivery lead times
  • Continued and immediate access to the most up-to-date technology

The advantages of ARS rental can be substantial. Rather than committing to one solution, a hire contract will give you the flexibility to choose exactly the right technology for the right application, whenever you need it. This includes newly released higher spec models that your budget might not allow you to purchase outright. Rather than tying up capital in an audience response system, the flexible payment terms of a rental contract may make much more commercial sense.

Whether you choose a dry hire ‘equipment only’ option, or a fully managed installation, renting an audience response system could be the best solution for your company.

Best of both worlds?

Of course, in an ideal world, you wouldn’t need to choose between buying and renting at the outset – there would be flexible options to cover all bases. Guess what? Some suppliers offer exactly that.

Rent to Own

This concept mixes rental and purchase so that you can spread the cost over a preset time period. Once the rental period has come to an end, title of ownership of the system transfers to you with the final rental invoice.

Try Before You Buy

Take delivery of a brand new system to your agreed specification on a pre-agreed rental contract. Choose to buy at the end of the period, and your rental payments will be deducted from the purchase price. Choose not to buy the system and simply return it at the end of the rental period.

Proof of Concept

Use the ARS equipment in a live environment with your own infrastructure and users, and fine tune it to your exact requirements, with the help of the supplier’s support staff if necessary. You then have the option to purchase with full confidence or return the system at the end of the rental contract.

Ex-Rental Sales

Many reputable suppliers offer ex-demo, pre-used and refurbished equipment for sale that can prove to be a cost-effective way to purchase. These products can be delivered, installed and fully supported, with the remainder of the manufacturer’s warranty transferred to the new owner.

Any technology led device that adds some much needed interactive pizazz to your presentations, conferences business functions have got to be worth investigating. Going a step further, audience response systems can work beautifully in tandem with live engagement features offered by mobile apps for events, or social media interaction via social hubs and hashtag campaigns. Whether you choose a hire or purchase solution, interactive audience response systems are definitely here to stay.

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