Tips for Getting the Most Out of Virtual Conferences
This content was adapted with permission from a blog post for the upcoming National Postdoctoral Association’s virtual Annual Conference happening April 15-16, 2021. The NPA’s mission is to aid in the development of postdoctoral researchers nationally. Learn more and register for the conference (use promo code HERC2021AC to save $50).
To maximize your experience, consider what you want to get out of the virtual conference in advance. Following the tips below will help you focus, engage, and absorb information from the event.
BEFORE THE CONFERENCE
Confirm your contact information
Check and make sure your full name and contact information, including the email address and phone number associated with your registration are correct and that the registration information does not end up in your spam email folder. This ensures that you not only receive information about the event promptly but also opens possibilities for other participants to connect with you.
Mark your calendar and prepare a space in your home or office
Review the conference schedule and plan to attend sessions that align with your career goals. Download or print the materials for the sessions most attractive to you. Make sure to check for reminder emails before/during the week of the conference. Add dates and times for each interesting session to your calendar and set reminder alerts.
The selected speakers and panelists presenting at the conference are key experts in their fields. Reading about the speakers and formulating thoughtful questions in advance will help you to take advantage of any live sessions.
If you find that your originally selected sessions do not meet your expectations, it is easy to switch gears in a virtual conference and join a different session, so consider having a backup plan for other sessions.
To truly be present in the experience, add an “out of office” message to your work email so you can fully invest your time at the conference. Do not forget to inform your family and colleagues that you will be attending this conference and have a dedicated space to avoid possible distractions. Most importantly, finish any other obligations ahead of time so you can relax when it is time for the conference.
Share the conference on social media and connect with others on event-specific forums/apps
Thanks to digital connection platforms, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, you can take another step forward to enhance your virtual conference experience. Sharing your plans to attend the virtual conference helps you connect with individuals interested in attending the meeting. Also, check if the conference organizers created any event-specific forums for attendees and join them to help build your professional network during and after the conference.
Prepare your computer for the conference
It’s important to check in advance that you are equipped with the necessary computer settings and are ready for a video conference. Make sure to download any required software and double-check that your computer is up-to-date to avoid software updates or connectivity issues during the conference. Should there be any disruptions, have a backup plan such as connecting with another device.
DURING THE CONFERENCE
Be an active participant and avoid distractions
Prioritize the time to be truly present and engage in interactions and feedback. Avoid potential distractions from your furry friends or phone. Limit notifications that may pop up on your phone or computer and turn on your email autoresponder. Use interactive features, such as “raising your hand,” chats or polls during live sessions to stay engaged.
Although the session will most likely be recorded, make notes/highlights for future reference during the sessions to stay focused and remember key points. At the end of each day, take a few minutes to write down key takeaways and any follow-up questions that you may want to ask others or the speakers.
Virtual networking is possible
Be sure to check the social media channels and monitor any conference hashtags to find conversations and engage with other attendees. Also, check out any virtual exhibit halls/expo to learn about resources and new tools and services that may be relevant for your career development.
AFTER THE CONFERENCE
Take advantage of recorded sessions
Most conference organizers record the live sessions presented at the conference. If you missed a session, found that there were multiple sessions you were interested in occurring simultaneously, or would like to review one you have attended check the conference website to see if these sessions will be available to watch even after the conference ends.
Follow-up after the conference
You may send a thank you email to the organizers or speakers. If you have any questions regarding a session you have attended, you should take advantage of the opportunity to connect with speakers post-conference. In addition, make sure to fill out any evaluation surveys sent out after the end of the conference to provide feedback about what you liked or disliked.
We are sure that our tips will help you make the most out of any virtual conference!
The original National Postdoctoral Association blog post was written by Lalitha Kurada, PhD, co-chair of the communications subcommittee and postdoctoral researcher at the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (USUHS/DoD), Bethesda, MD.