5 Tips for Maximizing a Virtual Conference
2020 has challenged our conventional thoughts about how we do business and interact with our peers. Hardly any traditionally in-person events are immune to its influence. This includes professional conferences. Check out our 5 tips for ensuring your virtual conference experience is a successful and worthwhile endeavor.
By Emily Guajardo
Let's face it, working remotely, virtual team meetings, and scheduled in-office hours are the new norms for working professionals in the era of COVID. While the daily and semi-normal workday hasn't fully stopped, many business-related events such as conferences, public launches, and international briefings have been forced to go virtual.
In numerous articles and journals, scholars and professionals have had to launch massive research initiatives to figure out the perfect formula for successful virtual conferences while effectively replacing in-person conversations over dinner, face-to-face networking, expert panels, and best-practices working sessions.
With hundreds of conferences embracing the new virtual setup, including the National Association of Lease and Title Analysts (NALTA), Responsible Business Alliance Foundation (RBA), and other mega-professional conferences, here are five tips for effectively participating in, and even enjoying, virtual conferences during the pandemic.
- Embrace the Awkwardness
Although technology has become an integral part of the 21st-century work environment, it isn't necessarily everyone's cup of tea. Therefore, it's okay to embrace the awkwardness of having your unfiltered face and voice displayed for dozens-to-hundreds of attendees. Give yourself some grace for not unmuting your mic, forgetting to look directly at the camera, or having someone walk through the room. Across the globe, hundreds of working professionals are no longer working in their state-of-the-art facilities and therefore, must learn to work with the devices and surroundings at hand. Everyone, including those who are more tech-savvy than others, feels as awkward and vulnerable as you.
- Get Yourself in the Conference Mindset
Take yourself back to the pre-COVID conference days when you woke up early, got your cup of coffee, and had your conference schedule and notepad in hand. Even in the virtual world, you don't need to stop those important details in order to get ready for a major conference session. Whether that means getting out of those pajama pants, finding a quiet space to listen and take notes, or planning your day around the sessions you'd like to attend, virtual conferences don't need to feel like a drag so long as you plan and treat it just as you would have before.
- Intentionally Interact
In an article by Nature Briefing, Lynn Cominsky, an astrophysicist at Sonoma State University in California, mentioned that while virtual conferences lack the intimacy factor of a physical gathering, it's still possible for attendees to connect with each other. During question-and-answer portions of a session, don't be afraid to speak up. Have a question about the presenter's point? Go ahead and shoot them an email. Want to show your excitement or agreeance during a session? Leave something in the chat such as an emoji, comment, or simply a statement of agreeance. All of these types of interactions not only help you get involved with the conference but also encourages both the speaker and attendees to feel some sort of interconnectivity.
- Take Notes for Future Discussions
If you've enrolled for a virtual conference, chances are that you are interested in that particular industry or conference topic. Therefore, you should continue to push yourself to take notes on some key points you took away or questions you might have for the end of the session. QPS, a compliant contract research organization, stated that "since most conferences do share slides and recordings from presentations, you don't need to frantically write down every insightful detail. Instead, only take notes when you find the information especially enlightening." This way you can go back and pinpoint the necessary information needed to ask specific questions or even which session to go back and listen to again.
- Take Advantage of Recorded Sessions
With today's conference technology and streaming services, many sessions are recorded and published to allow attendees to go back, listen, and on occasion, share the information with other members of the public. Leverage these recorded sessions for staff professional development, team meetings, or additional education purposes. For those in more executive roles, having these recorded sessions at your disposal can allow you to share your experiences and thoughts on a particular subject with your team without purchasing multiple attendee tickets.
Virtual conferences are definitely not the most ideal. However, like any new piece of technology, these types of events can, and will, become more frequent and common as the years progress. Don't let your fear of technology or the virtual world keep you away from expert opinions, networking, learning from your peers, and accessing new scholarly works.
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