Just because it’s digital, doesn’t mean it can’t bring you closer
The digital age has already been changing the way we work, but now that organizations are transitioning in-person events to online ones, it’s also changing the way we network.
Of course, there are plenty of advantages to virtual events: You’ll always have the best seat, you already know where the toilets are and you can invite your pet to attend with you. But virtual events can be just as useful as in-person ones. You can still get all the valuable insights from industry leaders, new ideas to change up your business and most of all plenty of new contacts to build the strong community we all need right now.
With the brand-new Elite Events just around the corner, here are 7 tips for getting the most out of your next virtual conference:
1. Review your plans
Without travel arrangements, you may think there’s nothing to prepare. But reviewing your business plans and general career goals before the event will help you identify what you want to get out of the event. Whether you want to meet 15 new colleagues or find six new techniques to handle a problem, set measurable goals to make sure that you use the event time wisely. Even more importantly, do some research on the speakers, taking time to visit their websites and check out their social media accounts to become familiar with their work. This will help you brainstorm some questions to get you ready for the Q&A sessions.
2. Block off the time
With a new focus on working from home, we’ve all learned how important it is to balance personal and professional time. So treat the virtual event the same way you would an in-person event, and block off your time in the calendar, letting your family and your colleagues know that you won’t be available. Then, turn your phone on silent, turn off notifications and put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign so that you aren’t interrupted. And don’t forget, the Elite Event sessions won’t be recorded, so set reminder alerts and be ready on time so you don’t miss anything. After all, you can’t ask the person sitting next to you to find out what you might have missed!
3. Test your equipment
Check out the event platform early to make sure you have up-to-date versions of the applications you’ll need. Test your video and audio so that you look, and sound, professional. Use a laptop rather than a smartphone for the best experience, and make sure your devices are charged. There’s nothing worse than missing out because of a lost power cord! Of course, technology can sometimes attract disaster, so create a Plan B. Having a backup plan, such as a second internet connection in case your Wi-Fi goes down – will give you peace of mind so you can just focus on the event.
4. Be an active participant
Don’t just passively listen. Ask questions during sessions, take part in any activities or speaker polls. And if you have a question for the speaker – don’t be shy! Active participation will bring you closer to the speakers as well as your colleagues, even if you’re far apart. Since you’ll be at your computer it will be tempting to multitask – “Maybe just one quick email?” – but really focus, just as you would at an in-person event. Remember, what you get out of the conference depends on what you put in, so you need to be fully present.
5. Focus on connecting
Take advantage of the the event’s Community tab and start interacting with other attendees right away. Introduce yourself and greet everyone before the sessions to ask questions or introduce a discussion, and arrange to “meet up” in between sessions to discuss the content. Not only will this help you better remember the new ideas you’ve learned, but it’s also a great way to make new contacts. Even if you know good friends or longtime colleagues who will be attending the event, make a point to reach out to new faces and make new connections. Remember how difficult it can be for anyone to make the first move, so make it easier for someone else and be the first to reach out to someone new.
6. Follow up and follow through
Don’t wait to keep in contact. Get in touch with your fellow participants after the event to follow up with further discussions or more ideas about how to put new techniques into action. And send a polite message letting the speakers know that you enjoyed their talks. You might even receive additional guidance or suggestions on where to continue learning about the topic. Review your notes from the conference while the ideas are still fresh in your mind and set a schedule for yourself with tasks to follow through on what you’ve learned – whether that’s trying out new techniques, or reading additional material from the speakers. Remember, if it’s not in your schedule, it’s not in your future!.
7. Get outside your comfort zone
When you’re used to in-person conferences, your first digital event is going to seem awkward. Embrace it. Everyone is getting used to new ways of meeting and networking online, and there’s no wrong way to do it. The novelty of new experiences can be powerful opportunities for bonding, so lean into what makes virtual events different and look for ways to share with other attendees. The good news is, while we may not have control over circumstances, the one thing we absolutely can control is our attitude. If you keep an open mind and are ready to jump in and participate, virtual events can turn into real-world success and pay off long after the event is over.