By Rebecca Castellani
“If the coronavirus is going to reshape the way we work, as some have hypothesized,” writes Arielle Pardes for Wired, “it will also need to change how we do conferences, a trillion-dollar industry in which millions of people participate each year.” But even before COVID-19 quarantined us, the idea of a virtual conference offered distinct appeal to our global workforce.
Without the restrictions of travel, virtual conferences allow attendees to connect with ideas in Asia, resources in Europe, networking opportunities in the Americas, all at once and from any corner of the globe. Virtual conferences also cost less to produce -- lowering admission, increasing speaker budgets, and making content accessible to a broader audience -- but unlike single-session webinars, they still offer attendees the ability to participate in multiple sessions.
Visit the virtual lounge to chat with colleagues and friends at MGS GVC 1.0
And though the complete immersion of an in-person event might be lost, virtual conferences are far more dynamic than the webinars you’re used to. Engaging features like polls, surveys, and Q&A liven up sessions, while virtual messaging encourages efficient one-on-one and small group networking without the awkward chitchat. Even sponsor booths are interactive, enticing attendees to take part in giveaways and sharing exclusive web-based offers.
Optimize your virtual experience
What you get out of a virtual conference depends on what you put in; it’s one thing to be an active listener, but another to take full advantage of the resources and opportunities virtual conferences present. Like most things, your success depends on preparation. Here are some tips to make sure you make the most of these experiences.
Before the conference
- Review sessions offered during the virtual conference
- Create an attendance schedule
- Block off your calendar
- Get comfortable with any applicable tools or platforms
During the conference
The day your conference begins, it’s important to replicate the conditions of an in-person event.
- Silence your devices
- Eliminate distractions
- Arrive to sessions prepared and on time
During virtual sessions, participation is key. Interact to stay focused and optimize your experience.
- Take notes
- Ask questions
- Respond to any in-session polls or surveys
- Engage with fellow attendees in one-on-one meetings
- Visit the virtual trade-show floors
Take advantage of 24-7 networking at MGS GVC 1.0 to meet global mobile experts.
Marcell Vollmer, Chief Innovation Officer of Celonis, suggests taking participation even further: “Build your virtual community. At an in-person conference, you're normally just listening to a speaker and making small talk in the coffee line. Virtually, you have a chance to engage in more meaningful ways. Create and share insights by collaborating with others. Expand your network…”
After the conference
When the conference is finished, be sure to take advantage of the virtual medium and share your experience.
- Replay recorded sessions
- Follow-up with network connections
- Post conference-related content on social media (extra points if you use the branded hashtag)
With proper planning and active participation, virtual conferences can yield the same valuable insights you’ve come to expect from in-person events. They cost less to attend, are more accessible, and offer unique opportunities for networking, the digital nature of which easily translates to email, LinkedIn, or a shared Slack channel. More interactive than a webinar but less invasive than a hotel ballroom, virtual conferences allow you to make global connections from the comfort of your own home.
Rebecca Castellani is a freelance writer, marketing consultant, and content creator based in Connecticut.