August 10, 2020
By Madison Howard

With virtual conferences on the rise, there are more opportunities to attend conferences you may never have been able to before, and network and learn from a wider range of people. But, virtual conferences, unlike in-person conferences, require a different kind of focus. Sitting and watching a screen at a virtual event is not as stimulating as being surrounded by fellow attendees in hotel ballrooms or large meeting facilities. Planners and marketers have accounted for this focus by shortening content and changing the classic structure of conferences so that they no longer require a full-day viewing, but shorter days over a longer period of time. Before your next virtual conference, make sure you’re ready to attend with a few tips and tricks to increase your focus and make the most of your time.

10 Tips for attending a virtual conference

Learn how to use the tool

Your virtual conference will be hosted online, via a virtual conference platform you may or may not have used before. To make the most of your time ‘onsite,’ take an hour or two before the conference begins to play around in the event hub. Find out how to access sessions, check your audio, and work out any glitches. If there’s a tutorial about how to get the most out of the conference, watch it! Your experience is in your control.

Blocking off your calendar

Work never stops, but when you’re attending a virtual conference it should take a backseat – even if only for an hour or two at a time. After all, you chose to attend a virtual conference because you saw value in the speakers, educational sessions, and networking opportunities, so don’t throw away the time you have to learn and grow! Make sure your co-workers know when you’ll be busy and make an effort not to check email while you’re in sessions. 

Schedule your time based on live and on-demand

Virtual conferences come with a variety of content – some that have to be viewed in real-time and some that can be watched at your convenience. When you build your schedule, pay attention to which session has to be watched live  and which are adjustable based on your needs. Consider adding ‘live’ or ‘on-demand’ to appointments when blocking out your calendar.

Keep your family in the loop

This work from home life means that most of us are never truly alone. Our spouses, our kids, and our pets are only a room away at all times, and all demand a certain amount of your attention. By this point, you’ve worked out some kind of schedule to separate work time and family time, so keep to that schedule during your virtual conference.

Build in snack and meal breaks

One thing you don’t want during a day or week of high-intensity learning is to have “hanger” get in the way. Even if you’ve never meal prepped before, this is a great time to start! Plan out your breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Even figure out your coffee breaks! While an in-person event would have built-in breaks with coffee set up in the hallways and snacks appearing as if by magic, your virtual conference F&B is your responsibility. For a fun treat, consider getting a coffee delivered during a break to keep you caffeinated.

Go old school

Take notes on paper! To focus more, keep your attention on the screen, but your fingers off of the mouse and keyboard. Rather than flipping between a notes doc and the conference, where it might be easy to get lost and end up on Instagram or Reddit, keep the screen dedicated to sessions. This means full screen! To network and communicate with attendees, answer live polls, and more, use the mobile event app, keeping your computer free for viewing.

Attend with others

Conferences are better when you attend them with friends. Any coworkers attending the same virtual conference? Make plans to catch up and discuss keynote sessions after the fact or message them throughout about points you found interesting. This interaction can keep you engaged with the content.

Stand and stretch

Don’t feel confined to your chair. Build in breaks in between sessions to take a short walk or stand and stretch. And, if you aren’t on video during a session that hits in the middle of the afternoon, don’t be afraid to stand. Activity, even something as small as standing or walking in place, can wake you up and get you refocused on the content at hand.

Set up appointments and network

Virtual conferences aren’t just for learning – they’re for connecting! Networking is alive and well, even at a distance. Set up 1:1 appointments before the event with colleagues and make new connections. Attend happy hours or breakout sessions with other attendees.

Set up time to review and re-watch

A benefit of virtual conferences is that sessions are often available on-demand, whether during the conference or right after. If there was a session you want to re-watch or quickly review again, you can! Set aside time each day of the conference or on the final day to review your notes and make the most of the content you absorbed.

Engage and learn at your next virtual conference

Now that you have best practices for attending, you can make the most out of your next virtual conference. Looking for a great virtual conference? Check out Cvent CONNECT Virtual. Or, if you want to know what other planners wish they'd known before going virtual, check out the Cvent Community. 

Read more about virtual eventvirtual meetings, and how to engage attendees.

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Madison Howard

A graduate of the College of William and Mary, my passion for writing began before I could read, with a nightly verbal diary dictation transcribed by my obliging parents. When I'm not writing, you can find me binge-watching TV shows, baking elaborate desserts, and memorizing pop culture facts.
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