Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

The Remote Meetup Experience

It’s common for me to speak at events such as tech conferences and Meetups. My most recent Meetup event was the Rabat Kotlin User Group. This was a new experience for me, as this is the first time I’ve spoken at an event remotely! I’m so thankful I was able to participate in this way, and I want to share my experience with you.

Being remote

Talking with people remotely is something that has become pretty normal for me. I am a remote developer at Buffer, so all of my communication with my fellow team members is online. Almost daily I am talking to people over video calls, so communicating over video feels pretty natural for me.

One thing I love about doing things remotely is that I’m able to connect with people around the world. Through working and doing this Meetup remotely, I’ve been able to connect with people I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I think it’s great how we have the technology to be able to do this.

Pros of remotely speaking at this Meetup:
- I was able to connect with people in another part of the world
- I didn’t have to travel

Cons of remotely speaking at this Meetup:
- I didn’t get to travel

I love the travel I’m able to do when I’m speaking. Traveling is something I really enjoy. However, traveling takes time, and I’m not always able to budget the time to be able to travel to events. It often makes me sad when I have to say no to a speaking engagement because of the travel time commitment.

I know my time is constrained for the rest of this year, and I can’t fit in much more travel than I currently have planned. If I wasn’t able to present my talk remotely, I probably would have had to sadly say no to this speaking opportunity. By having this as a remote opportunity I was able to say yes, opening the door to the new connections and experiences for both me and the attendees.

How did I get involved?

Short answer: Twitter

Long answer: I was lucky enough to get connected with Abdellah on Twitter. He heard that I would be speaking about Functional Programming at droidcon NYC. The Meetup event I was asked to speak at had a functional programming theme, and he seemed to make the connection. Abdellah asked me to to present remotely at the event, and I agreed! We were then able to sort out the details and get ready for the event. I couldn’t pass it up!

The technical details

From my end, it was pretty easy to get set up. We used Google Hangouts to share video and screen share. We initiated a call, and my video was put up onto a projector. Our hosts had a great set up!

One thing to note about Google Hangouts is that while you are sharing your screen, you can’t see video of the other people, and they can’t see video of you. You’re both looking at the one screen.

I hindsight, I wish I had dual monitors set up. I currently do not have a second monitor set up in my home office, which means I could only see my slides. No speaker notes. As I generally rely on speaker notes, I exported them, and loaded them onto my Kindle. The reason I chose my Kindle was so I could advance with only a tap, and wouldn’t have to worry about scrolling or zooming.

Interacting with attendees

My interactions with the attendees was the biggest difference for me when comparing it to a traditional Meetup experience. Naturally, I was unable to meet people personally and shake hands with them. We had to improvise on the best way to handle things.

Where this mattered the most was during the Q & A after I finished presenting. We handled this in two ways: a moderator and Twitter.

For live questions, Ossama was kind enough to moderate. He was able to pass along any questions from the attendees that I was unable to hear so I could answer them for the crowd.

We also had Twitter opened up for any questions. Here, I was able to answer questions asynchronously — truly a characteristic of remote interaction!

On to you

I’m truly grateful to have had this opportunity to share, learn, and connect. The idea of remote presentations allows people to hear from others that they might not have been able to otherwise, and make new connections around the world. I’m curious if you’ve had any experience with remote presentations, either presenting or attending. What did you think of them?

If you’re interested in what I spoke about, you can see the slides here.