Remember in-person conferences? Like so many things that suddenly came to a stop during the pandemic, most in-person conferences are on temporary hiatus. According to Eventbrite, creators on the platform hosted over 20 times the number of virtual gatherings than they did the year before. Virtual conferences offer us a safe way to gather, learn from one another, and make professional connections from the comfort of our homes.
Although a virtual conference is more convenient than an in-person event—there’s no travel required and the coffee may even be better—getting the most out of an online conference still requires preparation. Here are five tips to make sure your next virtual conference leaves you feeling energized and connected to your customer experience (CX) colleagues.
Tip #1: Define your goals
What’s your big picture goal? Is it networking (see tip #3 and #4)? Do you want to build your brand? Is there a topic you want to learn more about? All of these are valid goals that will inform how you prepare for your next virtual conference.
If you plan to build your brand, schedule relevant social media posts to run during the conference. If you want to learn something specific, research the topic in advance to have questions ready to ask during a session. If you’d like to strengthen your professional network, think about what kinds of connections you’d like to make and why.
Tip #2: Prep your tech
Check what software you’ll be using and make sure it works as expected. If a video conferencing application needs an update, for example, it’s easier to take care of that beforehand — particularly if you’re using a company-owned laptop or mobile device that your IT department manages.
If you appear on video, do a dry run before the conference. Make sure your lighting, camera angle, and microphone are all properly set. If there’s a chance a beloved child or pet might interrupt your video session (this famously happened to BBC Dad), make arrangements for them to be occupied somewhere else at that time.
Here are a few ways to prep your tech before your next virtual conference:
- Update your video conferencing software on the devices you’ll be using to connect.
- Make sure your internet connection works correctly and that you can successfully conduct a video call.
- In the video conferencing application, set your name the way you’d like it to appear when you join the conference.
- Take a look at the background that will appear behind your camera when you join the conference and remove or adjust any items that you don’t want others to see during the event.
- If your video conferencing application supports it, you can also configure a virtual background to appear instead of your actual background.
- Some video conferencing applications display a profile photo when the user turns the camera off to step away for a moment. Check to make sure your profile photo is up to date. If you prefer not to have a profile photo show up, you can also remove it.
- If the conference organizers invite you to join an online community where you can chat with others during the conference, make sure you can log in and join the conversations.
Tip #3: Connect before the conference
Review the list of conference participants and speakers. If there’s someone you’d like to connect with, send them a connection request on LinkedIn with a note letting them know you’re attending the conference. Chances are, with that helpful context on why you’re asking to connect, they’ll happily grant your request.
You can also find great connections using the conference’s hashtag on social media, adding to what you’ve learned by joining the conversation with your colleagues online. If you run across someone interesting, you may also choose to follow them on Twitter, Clubhouse, or other social media channels. Just note which profiles appear to be personal and which ones appear to be professional, defaulting to the professional profiles since some people prefer to keep their personal and professional social networks separate.
Tip #4: Connect during the conference
Although some may consider it rude to chat with the person next to you during a keynote at an in-person conference, that’s not necessarily the case at a virtual conference. If the organizers allow attendees to chat during the sessions, you can freely join those conversations. You’ll likely be able to ask questions of the speakers after their presentations.
Some virtual conferences host an online community or discussion group where you can compare notes with other participants before and after each day. If your conference has a community like that, you may find fruitful opportunities to connect with others there.
Tip #5: Take advantage of virtual social gatherings
Since it’s challenging to physically meet up with anyone during a virtual conference, some organizers try to find creative ways to still make social connections possible via video. Check to see if your virtual conference offers special coffee or lunchtime breakout events or virtual happy hours in the evenings. If you’d like to join in, make sure to register in advance in case they fill up.
Enjoy a rewarding virtual conference
With advance preparation, your next virtual conference can be as rewarding as any in-person gathering. By taking these steps before your next virtual event, you can come away feeling inspired and connected with your colleagues.
Connect with CX professionals at these upcoming CX virtual events.