How to make the most of your next virtual conference

Go All-In!

Last month, Susan and I participated in the Kingdom Advisors 2021 Annual Conference.  It was our fourth time attending the KA Conference and our third time as exhibitors.

As you might have guessed, the conference was virtual this year. I’ve attended three virtual conferences since the pandemic started (not counting my local Financial Planning Association virtual chapter meetings).

Here are some of my observations on what works and what doesn’t work with virtual conferences along with some suggestions on how to make the most of your next virtual activity.

Virtual conferences are fantastic for maintaining your productivity as you don’t have to travel anywhere.  You can participate from the same chair that you use every day.  That means no time stuck in airports, airplanes, and hotel rooms.

Correspondingly, this means the cost of attending drops significantly. Depending on your location, the conference location and the conference length, you can easily spend $2,000 on travel.  Additionally, most organizations reduced the fee to attend a virtual event.  At the Kingdom Advisor conference, I spoke with multiple first-time attendees who decided to participate specifically because of the reduced costs.  And many practices invited support staff to attend for the first time.

Virtual conferences can also allow for viewing session after event ends.  At in-person events, choosing one session means missing something else that also sounds good scheduled at the same time.  During a virtual conference you can attend one session “live” and then come back and watch the ones you missed.

But virtual conferences are not perfect.  I’m sure you’ve had the experience of attending a really good conference and returning to the office with new ideas and enthusiasm.  That’s because those days away from the office serve as a “retreat” – an immersive experience that help you think differently about things “back home.”

In many ways, it’s like the difference between attending a live concert and watching a music video.  While the latter gives you an easy, up-close experience, it lacks the enveloping immediacy a concert provides.

Although most virtual conference platforms provide chat and/or video functionality for attendees to interact with each other, the virtual experience is not the same as sitting down next to someone you’ve never met and learning from them.

As we look ahead to 2021, we’ll likely see more virtual conference along with “hybrid” conferences that blend virtual and in-person events.  Here are two tips to make the most of your next conference and go all-in!

  • Change your environment. Instead of attending the conference from your usual workspace, change things up.  Look for another location.  Perhaps you can use a different office, different chair or even a different device.  If you are feeling particularly ambitious, you can even rent a hotel room or office suite for a few days.  By changing your environment, you’ll be more engaged and potentially retain a lot more.
  • Reach out and connect with people. Leverage the technology tools to chat with the presenters, speak with the exhibitors, and make connections with the other attendees. Don’t just passively “consume” the information but share and discuss with others.  There’s no better way to truly understand and internalize a concept than to work through it with someone else.

The emergence and acceptance of virtual work has created wonderful opportunities for connection and growth.  To make the most of them, go all-in!


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