Virtual conferences are all the rage these days. Since March, major conferences have been cancelled across the United States. Huge conferences that were never meant to be held remotely have turned virtual. You are probably receiving advertisements to attend different virtual conferences all the time now! But how do you know if it will be worth the money to attend? A national conference that is normally held in-person will be very different held virtually. As you decide which conferences you will attend this year, you are probably factoring in the amount it will cost to attend compared to the value you will receive from it. Will the conference you normally attend in-person be worth attending virtually? While I don’t have a crystal ball to tell you all of the answers (although that would be cool if I did), I included a handful of tips you should consider when deciding to attend, in addition to, tips on how to get the most out of the conference when attending!
Is the Conference Worth the Money?
This is the million-dollar question everyone is asking themselves right now. If the conference is free, then you should absolutely attend if money is not a factor and you are interested in the content. If it is not free, you will need to determine if the agenda/content will be of value to you. There are a few key questions you can ask yourself to help determine this:
1. Is this a conference that is normally held in-person? If so, compare the agenda to year’s past. Is it just as meaty or does it seem a little weak?
2. When you are looking at the agenda are you finding yourself immediately picking out sessions you want to attend? Are you drawn in to several of the topics?
3. Is the content relatable to your company? Do you see value in the topics they will be presenting that you will be able to apply back at your company?
Asking yourself these key questions will help guide you in the right direction.
Additionally, as you are debating about attending a virtual conference, be sure to avoid the demeanor that a virtual conference is second best to in-person. If the content is what you are looking for, the way you receive that information is the only thing that is different. Furthermore, if it’s a conference normally held in-person and is valuable, chances are the virtual conference will be just as beneficial if it’s covering topics you are interested in. Organizations who are taking the time to transform the conference into a virtual event are going to do everything they can to make it a great one.
What Are You Missing from an In-Person Conference?
This is the next question you want to ask yourself. The main component you are missing is the networking aspect. When you attend conferences one of the benefits is being able to mingle and meet others who do the same thing you do. It is very difficult to incorporate this into a virtual event, but conferences are still hosting virtual happy hours, virtual networking sessions, chat sessions, and more to engage with other attendees. While this is not the same as networking in-person, it shouldn’t be a huge factor for you to not attend a virtual conference since it is a universal limitation across conferences right now. If networking is important to you, you can focus on the conferences that will be holding virtual networking sessions.
Besides the networking component, ask yourself if there is anything else that is missing from the conference that you normally have in-person. Assess what is missing and decide if it’s a big factor that is turning you away from attending the conference virtually.
Now let’s dive into some of the key benefits of a virtual conference.
Virtual conferences give you the flexibility to hop on and off. You can choose which sessions are most important to attend. This allows you to take care of business while still being able to attend the portions of the conference you want to sit in on.
Save Time and Money
The good thing about not needing to attend an in-person conference is the time and money you will save. You will save time on travel and save money in many different areas including airfare, hotel rooms, food, drinks, registration for attendees, and more. Registration is also cheaper for a virtual conference so you will also save money on the registration fee. Additionally, you might consider registering only a few employees for a virtual conference instead of the usual amount you would bring with. If you did only register a few employees, those that attend can take notes and give a presentation to the team on key takeaways from the conference.
Presentations are Being Recorded
If you miss a session or would like to revisit one you attended, most virtual conferences are recording the sessions and sending it out to attendees afterwards. This is a benefit you wouldn’t have at an in-person conference. If there is a session you aren’t able to make live, you will still be able to view it later on.
Education and Inspiration
Let’s not forget about the main reason we attend conferences to begin with. Even though it is being held virtually, the goal of all conferences remains the same: to be educational and inspirational. Everyone always feels good after attending a conference. You gain new industry insights that you can take back to your company. You become inspired listening to motivational speakers and experts in the industry talk. All of this helps you bring new ideas and best practices back to your company. Conferences are beneficial. Otherwise they wouldn’t exist. By attending a conference virtually, you won’t lose out on these key experiences.
Tips When Attending a Virtual Conference
If you decide to attend a virtual conference, be sure to make the most of it and be fully engaged. Often times when you are on a webinar, it is easy to get sidetracked in doing another task. Avoid multitasking. You are attending the conference for a reason, not to half listen. In order to avoid distractions, close out of your email and out of all communications. I would even put your phone to the side so you don’t get distracted by a text or phone call. Disconnecting during the sessions you are attending is the only way to ensure you will be fully involved with the conference and get the most of it.
Interact with the Speaker and Attendees
If you are able to ask questions during the session, don’t hold back. Ask questions as if you were there during an in-person presentation. Also, participate in the networking and chat sessions with other attendees. While it isn’t the same as in-person, it is a nice way to share best practices and get to know others in the industry. You will get more out of the conference, the more involved you are.
Login 10 Minutes Early
Everyone is using a different webinar platform these days and have different features turned on/off. Be sure to login 10 minutes early to get the technology setup so you don’t miss the beginning of the presentation. Sometimes you need to download the webinar platform to your computer, other times it may be confusing to get the audio/visual setup. To avoid any confusion and stress, login early to ensure you are ready to go before the presentation.
Ready to Tackle Your Next Virtual Conference?
We went over key questions to ask when deciding to attend a virtual conference. We also reviewed the benefits and tips while attending. So, should you attend the next virtual conference? The answer lies in your hands, but I hope this will at least be a helpful guide for you to get started. What we do know, is that virtual conferences will replace all in-person conferences for the foreseeable future. Chances are you will be attending at least a couple of virtual conferences in the next year, but which ones will be for you to decide.
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