A key to public speaking is interacting with your audience, but so far technology has been more of a distraction for the audience, rather than tool for engagement. A lot of people are carrying around a device that can interact with the internet, and Mentimeter is taking that processing power to make it easy to get audience response. We covered the company last November, but now we should catch up with their major design update and mention they have a new collaboration with Swedish top-domain foundation .SE and their event, The Internet Days Conference 2012 (Internetdagarna).

Mentimeter has made it pretty frictionless in setting up your questions and polling your audience. To set up your questions, you just go to the Mentimeter website and create your question with multiple-choice answers. When you are ready for the polling to begin, you then instruct your audience to go to http://vot.rs and type in the “Vote ID” which will take them to your questions. As they vote, the results can be shown on screen in real time or can be hidden until the polling is over.

Since the service is all web-based, pretty much any phone that can access the internet will do the job. Mentimeter is free to use, but they have recently announced they will be launching premium features that will build off of the feedback they’re received on the product, and will also “push boundaries and giving users what they do not even know they want.” The first to demo these premium features will be the .SE foundation and their event, The Internet Days Conference.

“The basic premium model is that you get access to some of these new features and some features you will get more access to,” says Jonny Warström, co-founder of Mentimeter. “But what is core to us in developing Mentimeter is that there is still a great product being delivered for free, attracting customers and helping people not able to pay to interact with audiences.”

The company has also released a nice looking design update that should make the service accessible to more than just the obvious business and educational settings, such as engaging the audience during speeches at wedding dinners.

Mentimeter has been self funded, with Warström saying that customer driven funding is the surest sign they’re on the right track.

“We are influenced by a lot of inspirational and ground breaking innovators in the technology world. From Eric Ries on MVP, Steve Jobs on giving users not what they are asking for but want they need, to the great Rory Sutherland for teaching us (a bunch of engineers) that we do not have to build a high speed railway.