Tech Presentations Vs. The Second Screen

I recently did a presentation about React JS for the El Paso Web Development Meetup. We were fortunate enough to get a classroom on the University of Texas at El Paso campus. It was fantastic because our attendance was boosted because it is more accessible to students in between classes or willing to stay later into the evening. However, there was a downside that I’ve seen with students and at tech presentations where the audience is equipped with the latest gadgets and gizmos. Before I started the presentation a wall of screens came between me and the audience! It felt unnerving for me to feel like you are competing with something for attention during your own presentation, but I pressed on.

Doing a post mortem on my presentation I realized that dealing with the second screen is the new reality. Luckily most people at tech presentations are already tech savvy. I tried a few things to win the second screen and came up with a few ideas to try next time.

What Is The Second Screen Experience?

Skip ahead if you already know what the second screen experience is. Wikipedia describes the second screen as:

A second screen involves the use of a computing device (commonly a mobile device, such as a tablet or smartphone) to provide an enhanced viewing experience for content on another device, such as a television.

AMC’s The Walking Dead has been one of the pioneers of the second screen experience. They encourage viewers to take to social media as they watch the live show. It’s a fun experience for the most part, that is until you get a few spoilers because you are in a different time zone.

Ways To Take Back The Second Screen

Publish Your Slides Before You Present

This is an easy one. Put your slides online before you start. Use a service like Bit.ly to make the url easy to enter. I made bit.ly/RT-ReactSlides for my presentation. The analytics Bit.ly gives you is an extra bonus. If you’re lucky a few members of the audience will be following your slides on the device of their choice.

Use JsFiddle Or Another Online Editor

JsFiddle is a great tool to play with JavaScript. One of the best features is that you can run your JavaScript, CSS and HTML out of the browser. That means no environment set up. It just works! You can even save Fiddles and share them. For my React presentation I created bit.ly/RT-ReactDemo. I got a few clicks during the presentation because I put the link front and center when describing what code we would be looking at. I think it worked well.

Use Twitter Or A Disposable Chat Room

One of the hardest part is keeping an interaction going. I always try to interact with my audience and fell flat this time. I asked a few questions and got crickets. I wonder if I would have success if I were to create a hashtag on Twitter or use a disposable chat room? Next time I’ll consider putting up a hashtag for questions that I’ll review at the end of the presentation. Also, I might consider using a service like hack.chat and have someone keep an eye on it while I present.

Use Google Slides New Features

presentationI learned this one after giving my presentation. I don’t know how old this feature is, but it is new to me. Google slides offers a thing called Presenter View. More importantly it lets you create a bit.ly style link where the audience can submit questions. It is pretty snazzy. I wish that they had a way to follow along with the presentation to make it a seamless experience.

Embrace The Second Screen

The second screen is here to stay. Tech presenters are more likely to fall prey to the second screen because their audience is full of early adopters and gadget lovers. Embrace the second screen when you create your next tech presentation. It will be interesting to see if Google will evolve Presenter Mode or if another competitor will create a presentation platform with a full blown second screen experience. Seems like a cool idea.