Bean polls

A simple bean poll, where people are asked to put a bean in a bottle labelled Yes or No in response the question Do all plants contain genes?At many events, it can be difficult or even inappropriate to ask all attendees to fill in evaluation forms. Sometimes events are free-flowing, with people coming and going as they please; at others, evaluation forms could be distracting.

At events such as these, the people who fill in the evaluation forms are often those who feel strongly about the event or topic, those who have something to say. While this can provide useful information to event organisers, the evaluation is unlikely to be representative of the entire audience.

At these types of events, an alternative or supplementary method might be to conduct a bean poll, a simple evaluation to get a snapshot of attendee’s responses to the event, using one question.

Attendees are asked to ‘vote’ for their response using beans or voting chips. This method of evaluation is easy to set up, and both quick and easy for attendees to complete. All attendees should be asked to take part in this evaluation. Depth is sacrificed for a greater response rate.

A bean poll can be carried out on its own or in combination with a survey, depending on the event and audience.

How to run a bean poll

  • Set up jars or containers labelled clearly with each option – you might want to colour-code these.
  • Using opaque or covered containers hides previous responses and minimises the risk of participants being influenced by the responses of others.
  • Ask attendees to put a bean or voting chip (e.g., small plastic chip, bottle cap) in the jar which represents their answer.

Voting with beans or chips is the easiest method, but you could also:

  • Display large sheets of paper or card – one for each answer. Ask attendees to put a sticker, stamp, or smiley face on the sheet which represents their answer.
  • Have smiley faces printed on strips of paper or business cards. Ask attendees to circle the one which represents their answer.

Possible questions and responses

  1. What did you think of today’s event/activity?
    1. Didn’t like it
    2. It was ok
    3. Loved it
  2. Were you inspired today?
    1. Not at all
    2. A little
    3. A lot
  3. Did you learn something new today?
    1. No, nothing
    2. I learned a little
    3. I learned a lot
  4. Did [this event] affect the way you think about [the topic]?
    1. Not at all
    2. A little
    3. A lot
  5. How do you feel about [the topic/event]?