Virtual Conferences – Get the Most out of Them
As our professional conferences shift from in-person to online events, learning how to get the most out of virtual conferences will take some time, but will be vital to continuing to improve within the tree care industry. Therefore, I created a few tips to consider for you and your time to get the most out of these virtual conferences.
Before the Conference
• Make Your Plan and Be Intentional. Don’t let a conference happen to you. Make the most out of it by making a plan beforehand. This is even more important with a virtual conference. Use these questions to develop your conference strategy.
• What is the primary goal of this conference for you and your team? It could be simply to get as many CEU’s as possible, or it can be to talk to a certain equipment vendor or to learn what ArboRisk’s Thrive is all about ;). Whatever your goal is, be intentional about it. This takes planning with your team to identify what you truly want everyone to get out of the time that you are spending there.
• What sessions will be most valuable for you? Look at the agenda carefully before you go. If there are multiple sessions that you want to attend at the same time, send one of your team members to one of them so your business can get as much information as possible.
• Who do you really want to talk to at the conference? Reach out to them before to set a specific time to meet. Virtual conferences will get really busy for everyone. Having a predetermined meeting time with a key connection is a great way to have the conversation that you want. Make a list of the questions that you want to ask each person to capitalize on the meeting time you have with them.
During the Conference
• Block Your Calendar. With a virtual conference, it will be very easy to try and schedule other tasks during the conference that would not be able to do if you were physically attending a conference. Make sure to block out time specifically for the conference to accomplish all of your goals that you and your team set when planning for it. Discipline is key here and don’t fall into the trap of showing up for a session and leaving the conference because of an “emergency” that just happened within your business. Act like you are physically at the conference and you will be rewarded with a much more fulfilling experience.
• Be Early. Sign in as soon as you can when the conference starts so you can acclimate yourself with the software. Each conference will be utilizing similar software, but there will no doubt be differences amongst the platforms.
• Be Active During Sessions. It may seem more difficult to participate in an online presentation, but each virtual software should give you the ability to ask questions or provide comments through a chat field. Without having visual feedback, the presenters will most likely ask for participation from the audience to make sure they are on topic. Help everyone have a better session by participating when asked by the presenter. Being engaged with the content will help you retain the information better and help you think of ways to incorporate the message into your business. Also, if you take solid notes, you’ll be able to share the information with your team at a later date.
• Socialize. Being social at a conference might be easier in person, however, you can still accomplish this in a virtual setting. Look for discussion or chat rooms to visit and interact with other attendees. I always feel that the best conference experiences for me were the ones that I got to meet new people and reconnect with old friends. Remember, even in a virtual setting, the next person you talk to could be your next employee or a referral partner or a future mentor.
After the Conference
• Follow-up. If there were people that you enjoyed talking to, send them a post-conference email or LinkedIn request. Ask them an additional question that you had from your conversation.
• Plan for Next Year. If you enjoyed the conference, make even a better plan for next year. Think about what went well and what you would like to do differently next time.
Conferences have provided me with the ability to gain great friendships, advance my career and make wonderful memories, however, it did not happen without my efforts. Even though conferences will be a little different, be intentional with your time to get the most out of them.
Written by: Eric Petersen