The COVID-19 pandemic has brought an unprecedented change in how the world operates today. With self-isolation and remote working becoming commonplace, perhaps the most pronounced shift has been in how people meet and how events happen. Now that physical gatherings are on hold, organisations are moving fast to cancel, postpone or reschedule their in-person events. Moving events to the virtual space has fast become a practical alternative for many to keep their business going.
Chances are, you will have encountered various ads or received a flurry of emails from different organisations over the past few weeks, inviting you to join their latest online events. From online webinars and digital workshops to virtual seminars and conferences, companies are ramping up their content offerings to engage their customers and prospects in a variety of ways. In these times of forced isolation where people crave the opportunity to connect with people, this provides a great moment to upgrade your skills, boost your knowledge and expand your network. But to get the most from these virtual events, you need to be as actively engaged as you normally would be during in-person ones. The question is – how does one do that?
Challenges with attending virtual events
While virtual events offer the ease of participating in multiple sessions from the comfort of your home, they present a new set of challenges for attendees. Attending a virtual event from home means there are distractions galore in the form of family members, household work, mobile phone notifications etc. And let’s not forget the technical hiccups you can face – your WiFi, laptop or headset might stop working at the last moment, or there could be a power outage or other such unforeseen problems that could prevent you from going online or hamper your overall experience.
Making the most of virtual events
Despite their limitations, virtual events are excellent avenues to level up professionally. You can share knowledge, gain access to quality content and broaden your network, without having to worry about travel, accommodation or external factors like extreme weather or getting stuck in traffic. And best of all, you can attend the entire event wearing your comfy pyjamas…well, at least your pyjama bottoms!
Keep in mind that choosing virtual events doesn’t automatically mean you won’t be able to enjoy many of the benefits that in-person events provide. With these five simple steps, you can get the maximum value from attending any virtual conference or seminar:
#5 Go through the event agenda properly
Virtual events provide the flexibility of selecting sessions and topics that really matter. You don’t need to necessarily sit through long presentations just because you happen to have a VIP pass. Before you register for the event, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the event suited to your professional needs?
- Do the speakers have the considerable industry expertise to provide incisive insights on the topic?
- What will the takeaways from the event be? Do you stand to gain new skills and knowledge that could give you an edge in your field?
Make sure you take a proper look at the event agenda, select the relevant sessions and try researching the credentials of the speakers. This will help you connect better with the sessions, and you may even be able to contact speakers with any follow-up questions you have after the event, or any business opportunity you might want to discuss.
#4 Look out for pre-event content
Before the event, you will likely receive a series of emails or mobile notifications (if there is an event app) with content pieces to increase your interest in the event. These can include related articles, teaser videos or intriguing facts about the speakers. There could also be important instructions to log in to the sessions or dos and don’ts you need to follow during the event. Some organisations also provide relevant slides and notes for download so that you can actively participate during the sessions. Make sure you go through all the pre-event content so you are fully prepped once the event is underway. This will help you stay more engaged during various sessions of the event.
#3 Prioritise your time for the event
Treat virtual events the same way as in-person events. Block your time on the calendar, freshen up and select a noise-free environment before you tune in. Let your family know about your break hours to try and minimise disturbances or distractions during an ongoing session. Logging in early is recommended, as you may find opportunities to connect with participating attendees and share ideas and information for mutual benefit.
#2 Have back-up plans for last-minute glitches
With technology playing a dominant role during virtual meetings, the risk of errors and malfunction also goes up. As someone attending a virtual event, you might face one or more of the following issues:
- Your laptop crashes at the last minute.
- The WiFi breaks down or the connection speed is very slow.
- Your headphones start to malfunction between the event.
- There is a sudden power outage that prevents you from going online.
You can’t exactly create a list of all potential issues but, where you can, try and have a back-up plan for at least a few of these. For example, you could have an extra laptop on standby or even an iPad to switch to. Also consider backup power, an extra set of headphones, or an internet data card to help you get back on track in a matter of minutes. As stated, it’s not possible to anticipate every technical snag, so it’s better to check with the organiser whether they can share a recording of the event or the registered sessions once it is over.
#1 Be an active participant
Unless you actively participate in the sessions, you stand to miss out on opportunities to make your event experience more productive. Simply listening to the presenters and taking notes isn’t enough, you need to engage during the sessions and connect with other attendees. Ask questions during Q&A, make use of live chat options and conference hashtags to share your insights, and participate in polls and surveys to provide real-time feedback to the organisers.
Virtual events allow rich, synchronous interactions among attendees across geographically dispersed locations. This isn’t always possible for in-person events, where the challenge of distance restricts event attendance. With just these few simple steps, you can create a more focused and enriching event experience for yourself!
Trying to wrap your head around all the content created for your in-person event and wondering how it would work in the virtual arena? Download this eBook ‘Leveraging Content for Virtual Events’ and learn how!