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10 top tips for attending a virtual conference
Over the last year Covid restrictions have resulted in many of us attending virtual events. For a vast amount of people, virtual events were and still are new and unexplored territory. As the future of physical events still looks uncertain, in this article we provide our 10 top tips to getting the most out of your virtual conference, to make sure it is a valuable and positive experience.
1. Set your goals
It is important to clearly know why you are attending the virtual conference. Ask yourself, what do I want to get out of this? Once you know this, you will be able to narrow down the talks, companies, and individuals you want to interact with. For example, if you are attending for a training purpose, you will need to make sure you are attending talks and visiting booths that match this need.
2. Block out your diary
It is all too easy to get pulled in 100 directions during our working day. To get the most out of your virtual event and stay focused, it is vital that you block out that time in your diary. Treat the virtual conference the same as if you were attending physically. For example, if you were in a seminar, you would be unable to answer your day-to-day calls, so don’t treat the virtual conference any different. Stay focused by giving yourself the time to do this.
3. Familiarise yourself with the platform
The virtual conference may be held on a platform you are not familiar with. Often, the event organiser will have training content, or you will be able to access the platform prior to the conference. To make the most of your “onsite” time, be sure to utilise any training content or log onto the platform early to find out how to access sessions, check your audio, and work out any glitches. If none of this is available, check out YouTube or browse the internet for helpful guidance. This is also the perfect time to create your profile, make sure you utilise this and complete it fully.
4. Schedule your day
The great thing about virtual conferences is that they come with a variety of content, some to be viewed in real time and some on-demand. Most talks should be available to view on-demand, but it is important to check. When scheduling your time, remember to think about your goal of attending and be led by this. Also, don’t forget to attend the sessions that you may want to interact with, as many talks will have live chat and Q&A opportunities.
5. Take breaks
Although you can attend a virtual conference from the comfort of your own sofa, they still mean long days and packed schedules. To avoid losing concentration, make sure you take regular breaks from your screen and have food prepared to snack on throughout the day. Unfortunately, virtual conferences do not come with those lovely buffets and biscuit breaks!
6. Interact with others
It is well known that virtual conferences are harder for networking - feedback which I am sure many of you have heard over the last year. However, this does not mean that there is no opportunity to network and meet new people within your industry. Often platforms have chat, meetings, and group discussion facilities. Use these. Ask questions. If you have input for a discussion group, be confident in sharing your knowledge!
7. Connect on social
Many virtual conferences will have an event hashtag. Use this to share your favourite moments, speakers, sessions, and activities. Don’t forget to connect with other attendees on LinkedIn and make sure others can connect with you, by having your professional accounts in your delegate profile. If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, why not create one?
8. Create a working space
Of course, the benefit of attending a virtual conference is that you can attend from the comfort of your sofa and slippers. Just make sure you have a setup where you can comfortably take notes and not get distracted by the passing world.
9. Attend with others
One major advantage of a virtual conference is (usually) a significantly reduced registration fee. That paired with no travel costs makes attending a relatively cheap expense. This means more members of your lab can attend, especially early career lab members, allowing them to increase their presence and networks within the industry.
10. Branch out
As virtual conferences are cheaper to attend or in some cases free, this is a perfect time to test the waters and attend those that you may which to attend physically in the future.