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How to Nail Digital Conferences
5 Tips on Getting the Most Out of a Digital Conference
Although it feels like we may have been through the worst of the pandemic, it’s clear that large gatherings won’t be happening anytime soon. Which in the internal communications world, means that events and conferences have been postponed until the government deems it safe enough to resume. But, as with a lot of things this year many events have gone virtual, leading to an abundance of digital conferences and other online alternatives.
As the marketing assistant at Oak, I am a regular attendee of industry events and conferences centered around employee engagement and business communication. I attended my first digital conference, Newcastle Start Up Week Online, last week. And I must admit, at first, I was very sceptical about the concept of a virtual conference. A big part of a conference experience is being able to interact and chat with speakers and attendees, so the thought of just listening to the speakers do their talks without the physical interaction made me doubt the whole concept. Whilst online collaboration is very much a staple of today’s circumstance, I still needed some convincing.
However, I was pleasantly surprised with how the event panned out and I felt like I gained a lot from attending. It was a great substitute for the physical event, and it was amazing to see the enthusiasm and morale of the speakers during these challenging times.
With a lot of events organisers deciding to go digital, there may be a lot of people in the internal communications industry who are planning on attending a digital conference or utilising other online collaboration tools. Considering this could start to become the ‘new normal’ for events in the future, I wanted to share some tips that I think may be useful to help get you the most value out of a virtual event.
Plan a Schedule
If like many other workers across the country, you’re now working from home, several distractions can deter you away from the computer screen. Whether it’s home schooling duties or the demands of pets, it’s easy to get caught up in other things you need to do.
Make a schedule before the event and highlight what talks and presentations will benefit you the most. I would suggest reading through any material you’ve been given leading up to the event such as brochures or leaflets and plan a timetable that fits into your daily routine.
Although you may want to join in as many talks and presentations as you can, don’t forget to take plenty of breaks. Taking frequent breaks throughout your digital conference will help you focus for longer periods and ultimately help you retain more information.
Paul Lancaster, director of Plan Digital and co-organiser of Newcastle Start Up Week highlights the importance of taking plenty of breaks during a digital event; “45mins-1hour is usually the maximum amount of time you can expect an attendee to sit and watch a talk. Make sure you give space between talks and presentations where people can either take a break or interact with other delegates.”
Do your research
Like you would before a physical conference, do a bit of background research when attending a digital conference. This could be information about the speakers, the agenda for the event or finding out if there are any other attendees you may want to strike up a conversation with.
These events are all about networking and making new contacts, so getting some interesting background information could be a real conversation starter and could lead to you making a worthwhile contact.
As well as being good for networking purposes, it’s also useful to get an idea on the agenda of the event. This way, you’ll be able to plan any questions you want to ask particular speakers and presentations.
Don’t try and cram everything in
If you’re a regular event attendee, you’ll know that the day consists of a lot of speaking and there’s a large amount of information to retain. Although physical events are great opportunities in many ways, you might come out of the event thinking ‘How am I going to retain all of this information and relay it back to my team?’
One major positive aspect of a digital conference (or any virtual event for that matter) is that you can go at your own pace. At a physical conference, it’s easy to feel under pressure to attend every talk and presentation, which is why many people find it difficult because they’ve been given an information overload.
A bonus of any digital conference is that most organisers will record their talks and share their presentations with the attendees. Therefore, you won’t have to worry about missing some information or forgetting an important point a speaker made. Online collaboration tools are unique in their ability to improve efficiency and practicality after all.
Although the value of face to face interaction of a physical event is incomparable, it’s important to get involved as much as you can virtually. Although online, the art of collaboration and communication remains very much the same. Remember, these events are designed to inspire attendees with insightful ideas, so be sure to get as much as you can from it.
Ask the speakers questions, post on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn about any interesting talks you’ve listened to or useful information you’ve gained.
Don’t forget to attach and share relevant hashtags relating to the event on social media. This will add your post to the relevant conversations around the event and will also enable you to find key information relating to the event. It’s all about connectivity.
This one probably goes without saying but remember to always be respectful of speakers and views other delegates may have that might not be the same as your own. Remember, everyone is different, and we can’t all agree on the same things, so try and be mindful of what other people are saying.
With the event being virtual, expect a few technical problems to arise. Online collaboration tools aren't always without fault. Yes, of course, they can be annoying and might waste a small amount of your time, but don’t be the person to launch into a huge rant just because a presentation is taking a little longer to load.
There you have it, 5 tips that will enable you to get the most out of a digital conference. Although a digital conference is nothing in comparison to the physical event, we’re lucky that these events can happen due to the power of technology and online collaboration. It’s really something to that should be embraced. Don’t forget all the other pros too; zero travel time, environmental benefits, saving money and the fact you can enjoy the day from the comfort of your own home. Try your best to stay positive and embrace the new normal.
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