The Intersection

The Queen of the ‘Second Screen’

Second Screen 101

When Nicole Prentice Williams was working for Current TV in 2010 and into 2011, helping re-launch the network — then co-owned by Al Gore — for the upcoming presidential election, she quickly realized that the second screen was not the enemy. A veteran, Emmy Award-winning broadcast-news producer, she saw that the smartphones, tablets, and other touchscreen devices people use while they’re watching TV actually could help them to help her — by lending Current’s coverage additional depth and perspective.

“The second screen became really important in live programming, first, because you want to interact with those viewers,” said Williams, who today runs Prentice Williams Media, a media training and consulting company. “Especially for a live event like an earthquake or a presidential election night, where you’re only going to be covering one topic, it’s really important to keep the conversation fresh and moving forward.

“And using the second screen was really helpful for us,” Williams said, “because we could get feedback from people outside the studio, where [previously] we were just getting AP wire [reports] or updates on the phone. Whereas [now] we were getting real-time feedback from viewers — people on the ground at the event…. It was something we came to rely and depend upon for our programming.”

Event-oriented news coverage has a lot in common with planning and running a meeting or conference, so it’ s no surprise that Williams’ comments resonate so strongly with “Claim the Second Screen,” the latest video from The Intersection: Where Technology Meets Inspiration, presented by PCMA and PSAV Presentation Services. In the video, Brent Rogers, PSAV’s vice president of digital services, offers some direct advice for meeting professionals: “Rather than continuing trying to fight that second screen, trying to keep it in [an attendee’s] pocket, let’ s use it, let’s take advantage of it. It’s a powerful device that can be used for so many different things.”

The key is to use the second screen to foster conversation — not just pushing additional content at attendees, but monitoring their response to your programming as it’s presented. “They always say you want to get your word out on social media, get your message out, make sure you’re posting,” Williams said. “But you need to listen on social media. That’s really important. You have to encourage [attendees] to respond and speak out and give their opinions, because those are all valid, and probably the rest of the audience wants to hear them as well.”

Five takeaways from PSAV’s Brent Rogers:

1. The second screen can become a tool for communication and interaction rather than a distraction.

2. Plan for the second screen like you would plan for a live event; start early and give it proper attention.

3. Ask your supplier how well they can handle last-minute operating-system changes and online/ offline capabilities.

4. Audience interaction depends largely on venue bandwidth. Plan accordingly.

5. Begin the mobile-device engagement well before the event.

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.