8 (+1) Tips to Enrich Your Virtual Conference Experience
Virtual conferences allow you to connect and share ideas across the globe, regardless of your time zone. Plus, there are fewer restrictions (such as accommodation costs and time spent travelling) to enrich your learning and development. If you want to learn more about virtual and hybrid conferences, read our article, What are Virtual and Hybrid Conferences?
To support your participation in the virtual sessions on the day, here are some tips to ensure you get the most out of your experience:
- Block out time in your calendar. Work never stops, and neither do emails. If you are participating in a virtual conference as you saw sessions of value in the program or topics from speakers you wanted to listen to, ensure you turn emails off and your out-of-office reply is on. Give yourself time to fully participate and engage in the learning.
- Plan your participation. With full access to the program content, including both live and on-demand sessions, take time to go through the program to prioritise which sessions you want to participate in live, engaging with presenters and other delegates. You can then come back to the other sessions at a later date/time to view on-demand. Some virtual platforms also enable you to highlight and favourite sessions for easy reference later.
- Get familiar with the platform. The virtual conference will be hosted online through a platform and you will likely gain access to this before the actual day. Make use of this time by navigating through the menu to become familiar with where things are and what tools are available. If there’s an online tutorial about how to use the platform be sure to watch it!
- Reach out to your colleagues. One major benefit of a virtual conference is the discounted price, and no additional expenses such as travel and accommodation. This means more of your peers, colleagues, and mentors can attend and gain knowledge, furthering the industry along with you. You can make plans to catch up and de-brief about key messages, discuss keynote sessions, and review what you found insightful.
- Network and get social. Use the event hashtag to share your favourite moments, speakers, sessions, and activities. Keep your eye out for how to connect with your peers online via the chat functions, 1:1 messaging, social functions, and networking with suppliers/exhibitors/sponsors. If you want to connect with your peers, set your online profile to public so others can reach out to you too.
- Take care of yourself. Make sure you take time to stretch and have a break away from the screen. You can even watch some of the sessions while standing—you don’t need to be confined to your chair!
- Build in breaks. Plan out your meals and snacks for the day and ensure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Pause to enjoy a tea/coffee break as you won’t be able to grab your favourite pastry from the morning tea like you might in-person.
- Prepare your learning space. Set yourself up away from distractions. Have a comfy chair and arrange your computer and screen at an appropriate height. You may even go old school with pen and paper to take notes!
(Bonus tip) Get comfortable! At home, you can control the room temperature and what you are wearing—no one will know if you are in your PJs and ugg boots. You may even treat yourself to lunch via your favourite delivery service!
About the Author
Alison Armstead is OTA’s Conference Events Manager, and has helped deliver the 2015, 2017 and 2019 National Conferences, in addition to 10+ Divisional Conferences. Learn more about the upcoming 2020 Virtual OT Mental Health Forum on 16 November here: https://www.otausevents.com.au/mentalhealthforum/