Almost like being there: Making the most of virtual conferences

In this news, we discuss the Almost like being there: Making the most of virtual conferences.

When Diane Leonard showed up to a conference the other day, the routine was familiar: watching the keynote speakers, interacting with other attendees, meeting friends.

One key difference: The fellow was at her home in Clayton, New York, with her favorite black cafe, treadmill desk, and mini goldendoodle, Ollie. Like many gatherings this year, the tech conference for nonprofit professionals from Blackbaud, a cloud computing provider, was completely virtual.

“I would say I’ve been over 40 of them in the last six months,” Leonard said. “It has become a way of life.” In the Meeting Professionals International summer survey, 86% of respondents predicted a drop in attendance for live events in the coming year, while 87% expected an increase for virtual events.

“In six months of hosting virtual events, I found that they differed by about 20% from actual conferences – but that’s a critical 20%,” said Sree Sreenivasan, co-founder of the digital consulting firm Digimentors, which produces television. quality virtual events. This new standard is more difficult, but in some ways it is easier. It requires an entirely new manual – to learn how you interact with people, access meaningful content, and maximize what you get out of the experience.

“Virtual events require more preparation and action on the part of attendees,” said Leslie Marshall, head of experiential marketing at Chicago-based investment research firm Morningstar. Marshall hosted an online conference in September for nearly 3,000 US attendees and holds other global events. Virtual will be absolutely the norm for the moment. According to education consulting firm Tagoras, 92% of those who have hosted virtual conferences plan to do so again.

So how can conference attendees thrive in a virtual world? A few tips: USE TECHNICAL TOOLS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

Virtual conference organizers have gone to great lengths to create technological tools for networking and interactivity, so you might as well use them. During opening speeches, chat boxes allow participants to share information or provide requests for question-and-answer sessions. “Chat” areas provide chat rooms for specific interests, or places for one-on-one dialogues.

Morningstar has even experimented with virtual reality. At its September conference, a few dozen attendees were given Oculus gaming headsets, with glasses that create 3D images, so they feel like they’re there in person. PREPARE BEFORE HAND

Face-to-face interactions tend to be a lot looser: meeting someone you know, having a drink at a hotel bar, having a last-minute dinner party. Online, you have to be much more deliberate and strategic about who you want to meet. This means browsing attendee lists, finding exhibitors or sponsors to contact, and connecting with speakers and presenters.

By doing your homework and posting the takeaways on social media like Twitter or LinkedIn, you are building relationships that could last beyond the event itself. MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS

Conferences in the comfort of your own kitchen have many advantages: no travel, no health risks, reduced costs. “When you attend a conference in person, it allows you to get away from it all and really focus,” Marshall said. “At home, it’s more difficult to put away all the distractions. So switch off your mobile from time to time and do not try to perform several tasks simultaneously. “

Interruptions are inevitable – dogs, kids, work emails – but if you’re far away, an online event lets you go back and access that content later. FOCUS ON BENEFITS

The price is another plus. Almost 70% of these meetings cost less than before, often “significantly” therefore, according to Tagoras. “Think of it as an opportunity to do things you couldn’t do before,” Sreenivasan said. “Before, these events took place behind closed doors, with high ticket prices, in faraway places.

Today, every day, dozens of fascinating people around the world are available to talk about matters of great importance. You can go around the world and listen to interesting people all day. (Edited by Lauren Young; Edited by Richard Chang Follow us @ReutersMoney or at http://www.reuters.com/finance/personal-finance.)

News Highlights:

  • It requires an entirely new playbook – to learn how you interact with people, access meaningful content, and maximize what you get out of the experience. “Virtual events require more preparation and action on the part of attendees,” said Leslie Marshall, head of experiential marketing at Chicago-based investment research firm Morningstar.
  • Almost Like Being There: Making the Most of Virtual Conferencing
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