Make the Most of a Virtual Conference Experience

Make the Most of a Virtual Conference Experience

6 Tips to Maximize Your Time

By Lee Ann Lambdin

Virtual conferences are one of the many realities of COVID life. Businesses like ours are finding out how to navigate this new normal one virtual event at a time, collecting new ideas like souvenirs and learning from our mistakes as we go. 

As we approach the fall and a season of back-to-back events, we’ve compiled a list of strategies for how to get the most out of each one we attend. Some of our tactics aren’t much different from how we’d approach an in-person event, while others are altogether new and intended to address the unique opportunities presented by online interactions. In the post below, you’ll find our top six tips for maximizing a virtual conference experience.

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  1. Just like with an in-person event, the key success with any conference is to: plan ahead. Study the conference agenda ahead of time, reviewing speakers, session titles, and session descriptions and plan ahead for which sessions you want to attend. This will prevent you from missing sessions based on indecision. Additionally, you will be more likely to pick the sessions you feel will give you the most benefit for your time and applicability for your projects. 
  2. Coordinate with your supervisor and co-workers so they know you will be attending an online conference, allowing you to really be (virtually) present in the sessions, keynotes, and networking opportunities. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can keep up with your regular workload and attend sessions on the side (speaking from experience on this one). To really get the most out of the conference, you need to dedicate the time to it, as if you were taking time to be there in person. If you have to miss half a day of the conference due to project work and other job responsibilities, that's half a day of learning wasted. If it helps keep you accountable, promise to present what you learn to the team when the conference is over.  
  3. Without the benefit of physically attending the sessions, it can be helpful to take some small but effective steps to help you cut down on distractions and focus. Consider turning off all notifications on email and Slack, for instance. Institute the discipline of not touching your mouse or keyboard during a session—focus on being present in the moment and learning. Consider casting the sessions to your TV and running the sound through your speakers for extra impact and to simulate the feeling of being present in the session hall.
  4. Don’t forget about the virtual Exhibit Hall! Study it ahead of time, keeping in mind the needs of your team, and look for opportunities to make valuable connections. You can learn a lot from exhibitors, so plan for which exhibitors you want to interact with and make sure you connect with them during Exhibit Hall hours. Come prepared with specific questions, look for intriguing content and downloads that you can review later, and expect to discover some helpful new tools for your team.
  5. Take advantage of the great networking opportunities at your fingertips. Having a huge number of peers to network within one place is a rare occasion. Attendees are usually very gracious and will share experiences and advice when engaged in conversation. Take advantage of the networking sessions. They may look a little different from the past, but there are still real people on the other end of your virtual interactions with lots of great insights to share. 
  6. Just like an in-person conference, come ready to collect a lot of new information about subjects that are important and relevant to the work you do every day. View the sessions as a way to learn and connect. During each session, you’ll be able to see the other attendees present. Consider messaging with them in real-time and discuss what they are learning from the presenters. View each interaction as a way to uncover something valuable with like-minded peers who have relatable thoughts and questions.

The Takeaway

Virtual conferences are likely here to stay. We’re finding that even with the new format, online events are still a great way to gain new insights about your field, network with peers, and grow as a healthcare professional. 

As we all work to adapt and change to this new way of meeting, it helps to share what we learn along the way. Our biggest learning so far is to prep and plan just like we would for an in-person event. Your planning will be time well-spent and will make your experience at the conference more valuable. With some advance planning, you can login feeling relaxed and ready to make the most of your time. 

Article by Lee Ann Lambdin, SVP of Healthcare Strategy for Stratasan

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