Virtual conferences, in some form, are here to stay. And they come with unique challenges and benefits. With that in mind, ALULA developed a checklist of how best to prepare for—and engage in—virtual conference activities. These will ensure you get the most out of the experience—and hopefully you avoid some common pitfalls that may occur with this new way of engaging in virtual events.
Do your homework.
- Know your presenters, their backgrounds, connections, and the presentations beforehand.
- Be clear about your objective—what are you trying to get out of this conference?
- Print out the schedule and any notes/highlights for reference. Trying to figure things out on a computer screen with several windows open can be problematic.
- Take time beforehand to explore the conference platform, so you can navigate it easily when the event starts.
- If you plan on networking, have a strategy for reaching out to new connections, keeping in mind that they will likely have tight agendas.
Get the tech right.
- Test your technology beforehand. Conference organizers will often email participants a reminder to test audio and video devices prior to the start of the conference.
- Ensure that your browser is compatible with the conference platform, including audio and video capabilities.
- Be patient! Technical difficulties will happen on the organizer’s side, your side, or the person with who you are trying to network.
- Recognize that presentations and discussions will not flow as smoothly as they do face-to-face.
- If using video, be aware of your background, lighting, and noise. Limit all distractions.
Engage fully with the conference.
- Don’t multitask. You may be sitting at your computer seeing email come in, but attending this kind of conference is only helpful if you are present and attentive.
- Ask questions (typically via chat) during presentations. Being sure to ask at least one question will help maintain focus.
- Keep this in mind if networking: People’s schedules are tight, and the nature of virtual events creates extra work for some.
- Revisit what you wanted to get out of the conference.
- Try to schedule intros/conversations with other attendees post-conference. Be transparent about why you want to talk and be prepared to share collateral material before the conversation.
Just as you would prepare for a traditional, in-person conference, so too should you take necessary steps to get ready for a virtual conference. While they may have wildly different challenges and necessary preparations than a standard conference, virtual conferences are now commonplace, and you need to prepare and maximize your time invested. Staying professional is just as important virtually as in person.