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Apps Add to Events with Real-time Polls

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Next time you attend a conference or seminar, be sure your smartphone is fully charged. You may be asked to contribute to the proceedings. Often these days your registration comes with a special app that gives you detailed information about the event and allows you to communicate with other attendees. By conducting real-time polls using the app, event organizers can tap into the collective wisdom of the participants and gather useful feedback.

Steel Market Update made effective use of its app at its Steel Summit Aug. 29-31 in Atlanta. Periodically, during the course of the event, SMU CEO John Packard used the app to take the pulse of his audience and get a sense of the prevailing sentiment of those in the room.

Who was in the room? The excellent program attracted a good cross-section of industry executives. Smartphone polls showed that nearly half represented service centers or toll processors. The second-largest segment were manufacturers of various types, followed by steel mill executives and miscellaneous companies. The event drew key decision-makers. About 15 percent were the chief executives of their companies, 38 percent were in purchasing or inventory management and another 33 percent were in sales and marketing, among a few other job functions.

Generally speaking, the SMU crowd was a fairly optimistic bunch. Asked to forecast 2017, about 60 percent said they expect business to be better. Only 5 percent expect it to be worse. The other third expect more of the same.

Hot-rolled steel prices may weaken a bit next year, if another poll response proves accurate. Only a few percent said they expect steel prices lower than $450 or higher than $650 per ton in 2017. The majority, 63 percent, put the price of steel at this time next year in the $450 to $550 range. Another 31 percent see prices staying in the $550 to $650 range where they are now.

Just for fun, SMU posed a non-steel-related question: Who are you voting for in the upcoming election? If the 150 who cast ballots on their app in Atlanta that day got to pick the next president, Donald Trump would have won by a landslide with 48 percent of the vote, compared with Hillary Clinton’s 22 percent. The remaining 30 percent were split between “other” and “who cares.” But that was before the presidential debates. And a gathering of affluent white-collar steel executives is not exactly a cross-section of the American electorate. Imagine the impact on voter turnout someday if electing a president actually becomes a simple matter of punching up the Democracy app on your phone.

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