This year, the format of professional conferences changed considerably. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a notable shift from in-person meetings and conferences to virtual gatherings.
Many of us are accustomed to in-person conferences and prefer them. After all, a zoom meeting isn’t a superior alternative to a face-to-face meeting that allows you to shake hands with a client, colleague, or supervisor.
We get it—at LS3, we prefer in-person, too! Virtual conferences will not be going away anytime soon, so you may as well make the most of them! When we arrive at post-pandemic, the new norm will include a combination of in-person and virtual opportunities. We have a few pointers to help you maximize your virtual conference experiences.
Prepare Before the Conference
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail!
Before the conference, block off your calendar so you can attend without distractions and interruptions. You don’t want to miss valuable information because you’re simultaneously answering work emails.
We also recommend reviewing the conference schedule beforehand so that you can select sessions that will be most valuable to you. This way, you can jump right into the appropriate zoom sessions on time, and you won’t miss anything important! Note: most virtual conferences include breaks to grab something to eat or return those critical emails or calls.
Be Attentive & Network
If you attended a conference in person, you’d likely be attentive and take notes. You should do the same during a virtual conference! Have a notebook handy, and write down important information as you learn! Alternatively, you could tweet key points during the conference and review them later.
Network virtually? Yes, it’s possible—and it’s important! Be an interactive conference participant, and your chances of connecting with people are sure to be higher.
Post photos and/or share your experience on social media using the conference’s hashtag, and search for others doing the same. Utilize conference chat features if possible, or start your own conversation thread.
You can even have some fun with a virtual happy hour or coffee break! If the conference does not already offer one of these, start it yourself and invite attendees using the conference app or your preferred social media site!
Before the conference, make sure to have prepared a clear blurb about your company, including your name, phone number, website, and email address. You will notice that other attendees are posting similar information in the chat. Your blurb should contain (briefly) what solution your company brings to a potential customer/client (i.e., what pain does it solve?)
Just as you would follow-up after an in-person conference, you should do the same for a virtual one.
Review the notes you took so that you can follow up with your team by sharing your key takeaways. Follow-up with conference speakers you enjoyed and ask them further questions or simply thank them for their sessions!
Finally and most importantly, reach out to people you met at the conference!
Remember that networking is not about merely collecting contacts; instead, networking is about building and cultivating relationships. Send that email or make that phone call and include something you remember about that person, so he/she knows you were paying attention. Do this sooner than later!
Though undoubtedly different from in-person conferences, virtual conferences still have a lot to offer and can definitely be worth your time. Challenge yourself and consider attending one in the new year!
We’ve included a link below to upcoming conferences, shows, and IT expos (most of which are virtual). Good luck!