The Year of the Virtual Conference

If you're someone who attends conferences as part of your individual or company growth, you know this year is like none other. Personally, I've had several conference and yearly events already cancel and anticipate most in the fall will, as well. However, I've still taken part in a couple virtually -- and it wasn't quite as bad as I thought it would be.

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If you're like me, you likely appreciate a good panel discussion at an event. I've participated in them and I've gleaned a lot of knowledge from listening to them. It's helpful to see those that I respect, experts in their space or my peers share experiences, insight and tips to allow us to increase our market share, enhance our solutions or just raise our game in general. Virtually, it's pretty straightforward to emulate this. In fact, it's something that started happening pretty quickly after the COVID-19 pandemic and it worked pretty well. I'd say it's a near perfect 10 replacement of the in person experience.

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The networking side is much harder to emulate. In fact, it's what I've appreciated the most from a conference. Whether it's meeting new like minded people from around the globe or connecting with senior leadership in companies that I do business with, it's something that I cherish and some of my closest friends have been made over the years at those events. How can you possibly emulate this virtually? Well, the best you can do is to setup rooms and hope that you can try to make those same connections in that format. The verdict is still out for me on that one -- I struggle to see how it'll provide the same outcome. But in our current state, we have to do our best to try.

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Meals are obviously out -- you just have to cook them yourselves or use your favorite local spot. I've often heard it's just "rubber chicken" but honestly, the best salmon I've ever had was in Phoenix at a conference so you never know. Either way, while I've had some good conversations and made some decent contacts at the meals, it's fine for me to skip.

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OK, so in all honesty, the actual traveling to different cities may be the biggest loss. Sure - I have lots of conferences that are always in Vegas or Orlando but I've also had conferences in Seattle, San Diego, Scottsdale, London, Atlanta, Chicago and several other cities that I've grown to appreciate and enjoy. It was typically a part of my planning to either allow some time on the front end or back end to learn more about the area and that I certainly miss.

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What about the expo? Actually, that is far easier than you might think. While I have yet to participate, I'm excited about an event who's already declared they will be doing a virtual expo for this year's event. I've seen a preview of it, and it's actually going to work pretty well. I don't like the pressure I feel at an expo to have to talk about the product. With this approach, I'll be able to see all of the products and then I can engage as I choose without any pressure. I think it may be far more successful than the in person event and it could be the new way of doing things as it'll drive down costs for vendors, as well. This one I'm very excited about!

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So, the verdict is still out but it's very promising. I'll certainly miss views like this one, but I'll just have to imagine until we can all come back together again. Stay safe!

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