How to Maximize Your Learning Opportunity at a Virtual Conference
With summer upon us and conference season already in full swing, virtual conferences are very popular ways to earn continuing education credits, explore new solutions to old problems, and network with peers. As the country moves away from pandemic mandates, not only are virtual venues here to stay, they are evolving to meet the needs of the workforce.
This trend is due to a variety of factors. They are time-saving, low in cost, easy to attend, and environmentally friendly — and you only need one or two devices to participate. Today, many virtual conference platforms mirror the components found at in-person events such as breakout rooms, keynote presentations, networking, and even after-parties.
These online events offer a whole new experience to conference-goers. Participants should be aware of how to optimize their experience.
Before the Conference
- Register early. Make sure you explore the conference platform tools. Virtual conferences often roll out a companion smartphone application to enhance the attendee experience. Download the conference app and become familiar with its features so you can use it during the conference.
- Review the schedule. Choose the sessions you will attend and mark the conference dates and times on your calendar. Time management is critical.
- Schedule breaks and meals. Plan for success by preparing meals in advance so you aren’t looking for something to eat instead of learning and networking.
- Minimize distractions. Tell the people around you that you will be unavailable during the conference so that you can focus. Close other applications and temporarily modify office, social media, and phone notifications.
- Update your technology. Make sure to reboot your computer to prevent hiccups. Update your browser in advance to ensure all conference features work. Untimely updates can be detrimental to a virtual experience.
- Check your gear. Make sure you have a good set of headphones and microphone so that you can hear and others can hear you. Ensure your camera is working correctly as well.
- Log in early. Ensure your internet connection is continuous and strong. Have a backup plan ready in case your connection cuts out.
During the Conference
- Make-believe you’re onsite. Dress for virtual conferences as you would an in-person conference (at least from the waist up). Keep only the conference tab open on your computer to maximize engagement. Be present in the experience.
- Network, network, network. Connect with fellow attendees. Set up appointments and meetings. Ask questions in the chat and other forums. If you can, unmute yourself to ask a live question. You can also raise your hand virtually.
- Take notes. Have a notebook available so you can jot down key takeaways. Don’t forget you can also screen capture information for retrieval later. Save resources given by presenters so you can revisit later.
After the Conference
- Review and rewatch. Set up a time to rewind sessions. One of the perks of virtual conferences is that you no longer need to choose between sessions. Every presentation is recorded so that you can view any sessions you may have missed.
- Reconnect. If a presentation stood out to you or you have additional questions, don’t be afraid to reach out to the presenter afterward via email. You can also send messages through LinkedIn.
- Have fun. Keep an eye out for post-conference events. If you made some connections with attendees, invite them to a virtual event after the conference — happy hour on Zoom. These casual events provide ideal opportunities to mingle online and ask peers about industry trends.
As virtual conferences continue to expand, use these tips to boost the benefit of attending online conferences. Have fun and enjoy the experience.