Attending Your First Virtual Conference?
In the best circumstances, attending a conference virtually can be off-putting. Without seeing the other people attending with you, it’s easy to feel disoriented and disconnected from the event. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, conferences worldwide are moving into a more hybrid model, combining on-site with virtual, moving entirely online, or being canceled or postponed. AIHce EXP 2021 is currently planned as a hybrid event. (What does that mean?)
For those of us who have never attended a conference virtually before, remember: studies show that online learning can be as effective as in-person learning. With the right preparation and mindset, you can accomplish just as much at a virtual AIHce EXP as you could if you were in Dallas.
Start by treating the virtual conference as seriously as you would one you were physically attending by blocking out your calendar with sections of time set aside for each event. During these times, make attending virtual sessions and other events your priority, reducing competing obligations as much as you can. Prioritize the sessions you most want to attend, then block out some time for less critical sessions but which you still wish to see. Close the door to your room and put up a “Do not disturb” sign. Close email and social media windows in your browser—you wouldn’t be checking them if you were a physical audience member. Tell anyone you’re expecting not to call or text between the times you’ve blocked out; use the conference’s scheduled breaks to address these other obligations instead. In the meantime, take notes on a notepad, just as if the presenter were in the room with you.
One problem that attendees of a virtual conference can face is experiencing technical difficulties. You can’t be fully certain that none will occur. Still, you can decrease the chances of it happening to you by ensuring all the necessary software is downloaded on your computer at least 30 minutes before your session begins. If you’re using audio or visual technology, make sure that it’s set up properly as well. Please familiarize yourself with all the functions of the platform hosting the presentations, including its chat feature. Find out how to contact IT support if you need to. Learn how to communicate with the presenter and other attendees and use that channel for networking opportunities.
Even though you’re attending sessions from your home, it’s still less intimidating to attend a conference with a group of people you know. Find out if any colleagues are also attending AIHce EXP, and plan to take some sessions together. Agree to talk briefly on Skype, Zoom, or another social media platform afterward to share your experiences. Isolation can be exhausting, so reach out to others in whatever ways you can.
Finally, virtual conference sessions do have an advantage over their in-person counterparts. In addition to taking place in the comfort of your own home, recordings and replays are typically available after the session is over. Full virtual conference registrants automatically receive access to this year’s AIHce EXP OnDemand, which will be available mid-July through December 31, 2021.
Because working from home comes with many distractions, you might be interested in refreshing yourself to make sure your newly gained knowledge has fully sunk in. It’s only human to get distracted, especially in these unusual times, but you can still achieve a successful conference experience with planning and a little discipline.