With more events moving to virtual platforms, and the loss of a traditional conference season this fall, higher ed professionals everywhere are learning on their feet how to make the most of virtual conferences, both hosting and attending them. While it was a daunting idea at first, we’ve found that virtual events can offer the same value (or more, since many offer recorded sessions after the fact), while being more inclusive and accessible to an even wider audience. And, you don’t even have to leave your living room!
With the TargetX Virtual Summit just a week away, we wanted to round up some of our best tips for attending a virtual conference before, during, and after the event, so that you and your colleagues can come away with a fresh perspective and actionable goals to put in place come fall.
- Set a Goal: Before the event starts, review why you’re attending. Are there people you want to interact with, a question you’re hoping to get answered, or a product you’re interested in learning more about? It helps to have a goal in mind at the outset of the event, so there is always something to be thinking about as the day progresses.
- Plan Your Day: Just because you aren’t physically moving from location to location doesn’t mean you don’t need a plan just like you would at a traditional conference! Once you have your goal set, take a look at the conference schedule ahead of time, and have a loose outline of the sessions you’d like to attend and how they line up. This allows you to prioritize the events you really want to participate in so that you can get the most out of them, and make the most of your time. Leaving some time in between sessions is probably best: this gives you time to connect with peers and colleagues, and catch up on things you might have missed.
- Set Up Your Space: Make sure you have a quiet area where you can attend the conference. By now, you’ve likely got your at-home workspace set, but it’s also important to make sure you’ve got a notebook or a tablet for taking notes, water and coffee, and snacks to keep yourself energized through the day.
- Build in Time To Network: By planning ahead and leaving enough time between sessions, you’ll have time to network with other attendees, as well as conference panelists and hosts. This gives you time to ask questions and network. Networking in a virtual setting can be anything from joining guided discussions, signing up for one-on-one or break out sessions, or chatting virtually with other attendees. Like at traditional conferences, you’ll get out of this time what you put into it!
- Take Breaks: It’s important not to stretch yourself too thin. You might not be on your feet all day, but cramming in too many things at once probably means that something is getting missed, or not getting your full attention. Remember to build in time for breaks: stand up, stretch, and clear your head, so that you can hit your next session with a clear and focused mind.
- Take Notes (Or Ask About Recordings): There are a few things to ask yourself when your attend sessions at a virtual conference: what are you hoping to achieve, what are you hoping to learn, and how are you going to apply it to your day to day? These questions will help frame the notes you take. Additionally, ask at the outset if recordings will be available after the event, so that you’re not scrambling to take things down unnecessarily. These questions can also help guide any post-conference material review you do with your team.
- Review What You Learned and Share: Did you achieve your goal? Are you leaving with a clearer picture of how to move your team forward effectively? Share notes and slides with colleagues who attended the event, and organize them in a way that is helpful for the whole team. This isn’t unique to virtual events, but this step may get lost in the shuffle now that everyone is working remotely. Loop in other teammates and get started!