World-travelling presenter, from home

Software Engineer’s Blog: September 24th, 2020. By all indications, just a typical Thursday. However, as a working professional, I’ve come to learn that “typical” means something very different in 2020. For instance: my morning ritual now involves refreshing the Dutch health website to see if I’m legally allowed to leave my house.

I’m Andrew Hoyt, Software Engineer at Irdeto, a stalwart in the digital platform security space. Irdeto is committed to raising awareness about security issues in Healthcare, where a rapid shift towards connectivity could require developmental shortcuts that could potentially endanger the lives and privacy of millions. What does this mean? Personally, I now find myself spending more time running virtual workshops than writing code.

Three presentations. Two countries. One day

Last Thursday was an exciting example of my “new normal” as I was scheduled to speak at three different events to three very different audiences:

  1. A software hacking demonstration to medical device manufacturers
  2. A webinar on protecting mobile applications to an audience of developers AND
  3. A cybersecurity trivia contest at a networking event

If 2020 were any other year, I’d be giving these talks live, in-person to a bustling auditorium. I’d get to make a personal connection with the audience to help get my points across. I could read the room and tailor content to their reactions and interest.

But in 2020, I was sitting at home, in my living room, speaking into the void. Soon, I’d need to navigate three different video chat platforms, each with their own quirks and features. I’d also have to do it all this while trying to ignore my girlfriend (Whose interests do NOT include reverse engineering), who was making faces at me from the couch.

With these challenges, it’s easy to become disheartened with the “new normal.” A frustrated presenter may give up or just go through the motions of these virtual sessions while longingly reflecting back to the days when “social distancing” was what you did to a crazy ex when you awkwardly run into each other at a party.

Not me. Instead, I’ve decided to turn the light of my relentless positivity to 11 and focus on identifying potential positive takeaways from this new way of working. Here’s what I found:

RIP PowerPoint (yay!)

Let’s be honest: We all hate PowerPoint, especially for technical talks. Slides can be a powerful tool, unless they are used as a full script read verbatim by a nervous presenter instead of a visual reference for the audience. Well, no mas! Now the speaker’s not even in the room and audience members are more likely to get bored, nod off or multitask during lengthy slideshows. So how do you keep a remote audience’s attention? Provide them with something more engaging than a static slide. For my 1st talk of the day, I shared my desktop with the audience and conducted my talk while performing a hacking attempt live! Sure, it won’t always go as seamless as a slideshow, but it’s far more visually stimulating.

I believe that having an occasional typo or update notification pop-up goes a long way to humanizing a speaker, which is vital during a virtual talk. It doesn’t have to be as elaborate as a hack, either. Maybe you can effectively reinforce your key point by typing them into a document in real time or with freehand drawings. And nothing is more intimate than an impromptu game of Pictionary!

Get intimate (It’s virtually encouraged)

Speaking of humanizing speakers, guess what audience members don’t usually get to see from a speaker? Their actual home! What better way to allow people to get comfortable and loosen up than by inviting them into your living room? To that end, my 2nd talk was a webinar we created so I could catch up with some former colleagues to learn more about what they’ve been working on. Just a casual chat between three friends sitting in their living rooms is such a new and exciting way of forming a closer connection with audience members and something that we never would have considered back when it was legal for three people to sit on a stage next to each other.

Embrace change or your self-driving car will eat you

Want a tough challenge? Try to create a network session like they existed in the pre-COVID era through a virtual platform. The opportunity to move around a room and have several one on one conversations in an informal atmosphere is something that probably won’t be coming back soon. So, instead of trying to mimic past experiences, let’s create fun new ones!

My 3rd session involved a raucous “Pub Quiz” style trivia contest about cybersecurity, complete with fabulous prizes and plenty of trash talking. In addition to having fun, there were several opportunities to have follow up conversations with interested people. Many contestants even stayed late to discuss some of the questions that surprised them. The best part? No travel was required! We could run these contests every week for a fraction of what we used to spend on networking events. (Let’s celebrate by raising the beer budget for presenters by 300%)

Safe distance this: I raised security awareness from home

When all was said and done, I’d spent a spectacularly productive day explaining the threats software developers are facing today and driving home the message that security needs to be factored in right from the initial design in innovative and exciting new ways. I’d made real connections with hundreds of strangers from different countries, backgrounds, and industries. We laughed together. Discussed the latest industry trends. Had drinks. And I did it all without once having to put on pants!

Irdeto offers modular cybersecurity solutions and services for smaller startups to scale up their cybersecurity capability to keep software and medical devices from vulnerability and cyberattacks, meet regulatory requirements and protect patient safety.

Click here to get in touch with Irdeto’s Connected Health team to learn more!

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