Virtual and hybrid business events are here to stay. The same applies to the IT Manager of Tomorrow conference. In 2021 you will have the option to attend it both onsite in Gdynia and from the comfort of your home or office. Regardless of the option you choose, you will get all the same information, knowledge, education, and training. What is different is how you prepare to get the most out of the conference experience. Today we share the top tips for participating in a business conference virtually.
Attending a virtual event is much less of a hustle than traveling to an in-person one. You save money and time on travel and you don’t need to worry so much about what clothes to take or how to resist all the pastries at the buffet. Some elements remain unchanged, like setting a goal for attending the event. Both there’s no denying that the overall experience is different. If you prepare well, you can get as much from the event, as if you were attending it in person.
Based on our experience as conference organisers and participants, and conversations with IT professionals, who attended the Let’s Manage IT Live events, we prepared tips for before, during, and after the event.
Make room in your calendar
Block your calendar and set up away from office reminders, just as you would for a typical event. This is important for both the people you work with and yourself. Once the event starts it will be easier for you to get into the right mindset and be present. Also, tell your co-workers that you’ll be focusing on the event to set the right expectations and stick to it. It’s advisable to block a bit more time than what the agenda would suggest. This will give you space for any delays that might happen or allow you to review and organize your notes.
Review the agenda and select the sessions you will attend
Just like an in-person conference, the virtual event will also have several concurrent sessions. Don’t try to jump from one to another. Prioritize the ones that won’t be recorded and that you will not be able to access later. Navigating the online conference system without having a plan could cause unnecessary flustering, so it’s best to know what sessions you’ll be attending ahead of time.
Get familiar with the conference online platform early
One of the handouts we provide to all IT Manager of Tomorrow participants is the layout of the venue, to make it easy for them to find the right room. The same will apply to those joining online. To make your experience as seamless as possible and to make sure you don’t miss any valuable content, you’ll want to know how to navigate the online platform to get to the sessions you’ve chosen.
Install the conference app on your phone
The event app is a must-have at all our conferences. It lets you create your tailor-made agenda, get reminders about sessions, introduce yourself to other people, and set up meetings. When you join the conference virtually, the app is a key element of connecting with everyone attending. To take full advantage of using an app, make sure you create your profile and link your social media accounts like LinkedIn to it. This will open you up for networking opportunities. Networking during a virtual event is a whole different topic. For tips on how to do it go here.
Set reminders for the sessions you signed up for
When you’re sitting in front of your computer, it’s easy to get distracted and pulled away from the event. Most event organisers will send you reminders e.g. by email or within the conference app, so use them to your advantage. Also, when in a session, silence your phone and notifications from email, social media, etc. This will improve your focus and allow you to fully engage in the sessions.
We suggest you use an old school paper notepad or a separate device for taking notes during the event. Don’t rely just on the digital materials provided by the organizers. Once you get access to them, you will have forgotten the ideas you had while listening to the speaker. Similar to a traditional event, notes are a great means for sharing knowledge with your team.
Interact with others
Most if not all conference broadcasting tools have Q&A and chat features. Use them to engage with the speakers and other participants. For the speakers, a key benefit of taking the stage at events is the feedback loop created by the interaction with the listeners. Take the opportunity to ask questions and post comments that enrich the conversation.
Stand up and move
A typical conference involves a lot of walking. After every session, you get the opportunity to stretch your legs by walking to another room or visiting the expo. At home or in the office it’s good practice to also stand up, do a little stretch and focus your eyes on something in the distance. During the lunch break go for a short walk.
Share what you’ve learned
Just like you would after coming back from an in-person event, share what you learned with your co-workers. Don’t just share links to presentation recordings and slide decks. Discuss the case studies you learned about and ask your team for input. Look for other content from keynote speakers and brainstorm with co-workers how to put a concept or its elements to use in your organisation. Write executive summaries of the presentations you found most insightful and share them with your manager. Take this opportunity to become a thought leader.
Follow up with speakers
Keynote speakers are usually easy to find on LinkedIn or Twitter. Many of them encourage reaching out to them and are open to new connections. Follow them on social media and give them a shout-out in a post or a tweet. When doing that remember to do your best to not only give praise to the speakers but also provide value to your audience. Don’t just write that “the presentation was great”. Share 2-3 key insights that you found most useful.
Put the knowledge to work
Apart from meeting new people and opportunities to exchange opinions, the knowledge you gain from listening to speakers and during workshops is the highest value you get from attending a conference. Once the event ends, don’t let the knowledge sit in your notebook and on your hard drive. Take action! When taking notes during the presentations mark how you can use the tools and techniques discussed in your job. After the event, do a debrief, select a few action items and plan 3-4 next steps to make them work for you.
It’s all about attitude
When choosing to attend an event virtually, you should commit to it. Switch your mindset to “learning mode” and focus on deriving value from the conference. Knowing your “why” and having a smart goal for participating in the event will help you do that.