By Vanessa Salvia

Across the board, in-person events such as workshops and conferences are being shifted to virtual platforms due to the global pandemic. This comes with some obvious cons, such as the loss of face-to-face interactions and after-hours networking. But there are some pros for attendees also . . . namely a reduced cost of attending and the fact that you can attend from anywhere in the world.

Is The Future Online?

In many cases, upcoming events transitioned to virtual platforms after months of planning for an in-person event. ICF Builder magazine is in the process of shifting its annual ICF Builder Awards to an online event that will be livestreamed. In 2021 the ICF Builder Awards won’t be in person, but they will still be taking place during the same week in January as usual. The plan for ICF Builder magazine’s ICF Builder Awards is a live YouTube event. Stay tuned to our Twitter channel at @ICFBuilderMag for up-to-date info on the 2021 awards ceremony.

If you’ve already attended webinars, the technology for virtual conferences and other virtual events should seem familiar. Now more than ever, as there have been unprecedented changes in our daily home lives, global supply chains, and business practices, it is imperative to remain engaged and informed on industry issues. 

If you can’t go in person, or if the event isn’t happening in person, it makes sense to set yourself up to get the most out of it. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are attending a virtual event for the first time.

Schedule As If You Were In Person

Add workshops and other presentations and attend them just as rigorously as if you were in person. Give yourself time to get to your desk, prepare, and be present in the experience as if you were really there. Block out time to participate in the Q&As and chats afterward.

Minimize Distractions

Don’t let yourself multitask. Consider investing in a good pair of over-the-ear headphones to block out other sounds while you’re listening to presentations. 

Ask If Slides Are Available

Sometimes, you may want to feverishly take notes during a presentation, but that can distract you from paying attention to what is actually going in and being said. Ask the conference or the presenter ahead of time if you can get a copy of their notes. If the conference hadn’t planned ahead to have presentation info available, they may decide to add it in a form that you can either print or download. And, even if the presenter hasn’t made their material public, they may still share it with you if you ask nicely.

Upgrade Your Internet

Yes, all you need is an internet connection and a device with video and a microphone to attend a virtual event, but slow internet or a spotty connection will take all the fun out of it. Reach out to your internet service provider and request that you be upgraded to a higher baseline connection speed. 

Are The Presentations Recorded?

Yes, you should plan to attend if you are registered for an event, but we all know that things happen. If you are a registered attendee, many events will allow you to rewatch presentations. If there’s a scheduling conflict, you’ll know what you can go back and watch later. This is especially helpful if you are attending from a different area and there are time zone differences. 

Talk To Other Attendees

Anyone from around the world can sign up and attend, which means you have a lot of opportunities to speak with people you might not interact with. Most virtual events give attendees the ability to chat in real-time with other attendees, both in the “hallways” or conference rooms, but also in private chat rooms. At in-person events, attendees can’t easily talk to one another while a presentation is going on, but with a virtual event you can.

Fill Out The Surveys

Yes, it can be annoying to be asked to provide your feedback about the conference as a whole or each event you attend, but I encourage you to take the time to do so. Since 2020 and into 2021 represents a new era of online events, many people who are producing online events have opportunities to improve. When attendees are honest about what their experiences are, it improves the likelihood that the next virtual event will be even better. 

Use The Tools

Check to see if the presenters or exhibitors let you schedule time with them. Some events are incorporating a calendar where attendees can pre-schedule one-to-one Zoom meetings with presenters or exhibitors. Others are incorporating things like a Slack channel, where everyone can chat, ask questions, or share information. 

Check Out Bonuses

Virtual presenters know it can be a challenge to get people interested in attending virtually. To that end, some of them are sweetening the deal with giveaways, raffles, or promotions. Get yourself entered in them because you could end up getting some fun swag, just like you might if you were in person.