If you plan to attend a conference soon, it will likely be a virtual event. While some may dismiss virtual conferences as just sitting in front of a computer, the fact is they can be more comfortable (sweatpants, anyone?), more rewarding and every bit as enjoyable as an in-person event.

Due to the pandemic of this year, it’s very common for everyone to be switching to virtual conferences or virtual events. Although it may seem tiresome or boring, this will probably be our normal life for quite awhile. As mentioned before, there are ways to enjoy these events, from the comfort of your home, if you know how to navigate it. If you’re a virtual conference newbie, here are some tips to get the most from your experience.

Tips to make the most out of virtual conferences:

  1. Make sure your tech is ready for a virtual venue. Your hosts will send out information, instructions and links to download the applications you need. Don’t wait until the last minute—make sure video, audio and other tech is up and running before opening day. Take about an hour or half an hour before to set up your laptop and make sure it’s all running smoothly. If you are unsure how to do so, have a family member help you out. There are also plenty of articles that explain how to use each platform.
  2. Plan ahead to minimize distractions. Block out the time on your work calendar. Ask your spouse or older children to handle kid and home duties during conference hours. Silence your phone. Turn off email, messaging and anything else that isn’t part of the conference experience. You can do your check-ins during the scheduled breaks.
  3. Be present. Don’t assume a virtual conference is second-best. Because you’re not distracted by other conference-goers or balancing your notes on your lap in uncomfortable hotel chairs, you can devote more attention to the presentations and be comfortable enough to take it all in. You also have the ability to be home and get as comfortable as you need in order to focus on the material.
  4. Work out a schedule of sessions. Typically, virtual conferences make recorded sessions available free to attendees for a period of time after the event. If you can’t attend a session live, view it later. Try to sign up anyways, because many webinars or virtual conferences will let you watch it at another date.
  5. Attend as a group. Many conferences offer discounts for multiple attendees from the same company. Split up just as you would at an in-person event and attend different sessions and events.
  6. Participate and network. This is the time to expand your virtual community. Use live chat to engage with other attendees. Ask questions. Answer online polls. Attend social events. Attend breakout or round table sessions. These are all good ways to reach out to other attendees for more in-depth conversations. Take the opportunity to be more comfortable and bold when it comes to networking and asking questions.
  7. Take breaks. Don’t sit all day. Stand up, take stretch breaks, get coffee and follow the 20-20-20 rule for your eyesight—every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  8. Attend the virtual expo. Even without a physical exhibit hall, you can interact with vendors in their virtual booths and ask questions or watch product demos and videos just as you would in person. Virtual conferences are still new, and a lot of people are just getting used to meeting online.

    There may be minor hiccups here and there, but don’t stress—we’re all feeling our way through this and learning as we go. You’re there to learn, connect with others in your field and most of all, have fun! Karla Dennis and Associates, Inc. has our own webinars and virtual events that you don’t want to miss! Click here to learn more!