When it comes to damage caused by COVID-19, the business conferences industry could have been a particularly unfortunate case. After all, the industry’s existence has always depended on a thriving travel industry.
Fortunately for all of us who value new information, inspiration, networking and the excitement that comes with attending a business conference, the business conference industry is making an unprecedented and highly successful accommodation. Conferences are rapidly moving on-line.
As humorist Barclay Henderson (full disclosure: he’s my brother) recently pointed out, “Real is so ‘yesterday.’ Virtual is the best of the real world but without the costs.”
As Henderson sees it, “Who needs stinking, bumper to bumper traffic jams to get to the airport, taking off your belt/shoes, and security lines? Not to mention the cost! It’s all so yesterday! Please don’t call it getting back to normal. It’s more like getting back to the dinosaurs, Middle Ages, or something ancient. Who wants that?”
Henderson is a humorist, but Abe Wellington, CEO of the Opal Financial Group, has a more serious take on what’s going on in the business conference world. His company puts on more than 60 conferences a year, and he sees definite advantages for all of us in virtual conferences.
Virtual Conference Advantages
In Wellington’s view, “The primary advantage of a virtual conference is the convenience of logging in and attending from anywhere.” Other advantages include:
- The virtual platform creates an environment in which attendees can effortlessly initiate conversations with one another and make meaningful business connections.
- Attendees can also easily reach out to speakers during and after the sessions with follow up questions or comments.
- Using the virtual platform, attendees can re-watch sessions to play back a particularly interesting segment.
- Networking is simpler with live online attendee lists that feature direct messaging.
- Speakers and sponsors are able to obtain useful attendee metrics efficiently.
- Attending a virtual conference is possible for those who weren’t previously able to travel to an in-person event.
The Technology Is Easy
Wellington has been getting almost unanimous feedback from those who’ve been hesitant to try the new technology that it’s easy, intuitive and productive. They’ve particularly enjoyed using the breakout room technology, which in his view, “Encourages greater participation and fosters relationship building. Participants can make a more substantial connection in a smaller group setting and one-on-one meetings.”
Getting the Most from the Experience
Wellington advises us all to do the following to take full advantage of the virtual conference platform that’s available for most on-line business conferences:
- Maximize your exposure by completing your online profiles, including your headshot, vcard, LinkedIn and social media connections.
- Ask questions during sessions. The technology for doing this is straightforward, using a live chat feature; the moderator will make sure presenters see it.
- Initiate peer conversations. A virtual platform makes this easy and offers multiple channels to connect, such as direct chat, email and videoconferencing.
- Reach out to speakers and panelists through the messaging system.
- Attend the conference virtual cocktail receptions.
- Keep the platform open post-event to continue to network, visiting with the exhibitors and engaging in all of the resources provided.
You probably won’t agree with Barclay Henderson that a virtual world is better, but the truth is, a virtual conference has a lot going for it.
Mitzi Perdue is a speaker and co-Author of How to Be Up in Down Times. Contact her at [email protected]