With the Covid-19 pandemic, the world is slowly learning to accept and settle into the new normal. Virtual conferences are common and offer exciting opportunities to engage with fellow professionals, learn new things, and connect.

A couple of years back, professional conferences comprised of rooms filled with renowned speakers delivering impactful presentations, vendors displaying products to potential customers, and attendees meeting to have engaging conversations.  But courtesy of technological advancements, we can now experience interactive learning online.

Unfortunately, not everyone has warmed up to virtual conferences. While virtual conferences don’t offer a similar experience to physical conferences and meetings, they do have some unique benefits that physical conferences don’t.  Below is a quick breakdown of the unique value they offer.

Flexibility

Virtual conferences offer flexibility. For most professionals, the most important real estate is their time (calendar). In physical conferences, you have to block out three, five, or seven full days to attend. An exercise that needs a lot of compromising and moving dates around.

But with a virtual conference, you have the flexibility to choose the topics, sessions, and speakers you prefer, which is in-line with your current goals.  This allows you to have a laser focus on your objectives and allows you to stick to your dates. Simply put, attending a virtual conference is not at the expense of everything else in your life.

You’ll also notice that virtual conferences offer better speaker diversity. Again, it breaks down to time and flexibility. When a potential speaker realizes that they only have to offer a couple of hours of their time to deliver their presentation and from the comfort of their home or office, they are more inclined to accept the invite.

Efficiency and Background Research

During a virtual event, you can dig into background research as the speaker is giving their presentation. You can access your notes from previous conferences on a similar topic. This benefit affords you access to depth in a topic. The ability to zone out for a moment and hone in on a specific idea boosts efficiency and understanding that you can’t get from a conventional conference.

For instance, if you are great with theories, connecting with people, and love reading research papers, then a virtual space will accommodate you just fine.

Granted, from time to time, this benefit might be a distraction. But for the larger part, it’s super useful. You are not left with what you get from the speaker or the small group you interact with; instead, you tap from a wider context.

Devices

When you are at the comfort of your home, you have access to every device you please. You can use your phone, screen, PC, headphones, comfortable chair, or drink a cup of tea as you follow along. You might think sinking into your sofa is a bad thing – too much comfort for good.

But with a little bit of discipline, you can enjoy the conference like you are in a five-star hotel. Heck, you can even record the conference for reference. With physical conferences, the alternative to accessing these notes later is taking live notes, which can be a little tedious.

Backchannel

The ability to access your devices during events opens you to a different benefit– backchannels. Every successful virtual conference has a strong and thriving backchannel.

A thriving conversation on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, and other platforms add to the richness of what is delivered on stage.  Many virtual conferences have a far-reaching impact because of the activities in these backchannels.

Planners of virtual conferences always plan or setup attendees to have enriching conversations during the conference and in the backchannels. A rich backchannel is, therefore, something you can expect in a well-planned virtual conference.

Valuable Connections

Virtual conferences will enable you to form lasting connections. For many professionals, lasting relationships are rarely formed by exchanging business cards. On the contrary, they are formed by exchanging ideas, asking each other questions, and sharing observations and different perspectives of the world. Friendships thrive and grow stronger through continued conversations, even though they started from a simple exchange of ideas online.

Exchanging ideas during the conference is easy. With access to multiple devices and platforms, you can reach out to different people with direct messages immediately. And while you still have to introduce yourself, there is less pressure and fear of things going south when it’s all online. For instance, many professionals have been friends for ages without ever having a physical meeting.

We are living in the COVID times. For many people, the idea of a virtual conference is unfathomable. But then again, we feel this is the best time to have virtual conferences. Virtual meetings are more important now than before. Below are a couple of reasons why we think so.

The world as a whole doesn’t have a playbook on how to deal with pandemics. As such, we’ve had our fair share of successes and failures in our journey to reinvent how we do things.

Today, more and more people are finding themselves in situations of ‘I’m not sure what I should do,’ or ‘I’ve no idea what I’m doing now and if it’ll be good for my future.’ As people navigate through these uncertainties, they need to come together and share ideas. You cannot solve the problem with cropped connections and pulled drawbridges.

Every sphere of our lives is affected, and how we work is being altered. Even if what you are currently doing might be working, there is a real possibility that the coming changes might pull the rug right under your feet. Remember, you never know what you don’t know unless someone points it out.

Cost

Virtual events are cheaper to attend. For starters, you don’t have to pay for a ticket. If you were to attend a global event that will gather professionals from different parts of the world, the costs aren’t confined to tickets. There are also added costs of accommodation, travel, food, and transport to and from the airport and around the city.

A virtual event eliminates these costs and provides you with an opportunity to invest in resources that’ll help you actualize something you learned during the conference. For companies and organizations, planning a virtual conference saves costs that they can otherwise use to have more representatives and speakers during the event.

Time

Physical conferences are not only expensive, but they also consume a lot of your time. Depending on where you live, travelling to the conference venue will take a lot of time – there are flight and train delays, not to mention traffic on the roads, which consume precious time. All these circumstances might mean you’ll get late for the event.

A virtual conference is time-efficient. You connect to the event through your laptop, desktop, or smartphone at any time. Moreover, you can multitask during the sessions and kill two or three birds with one stone.

Accessible from Anywhere

With high-tech gadgets and lightweight applications, you can access the conferences from any place, whether you are on the road, at home, or on safari. You can also attend it between professional meetings, work projects, family events, and other corporate events. You can as well attend select sessions and chat with specific attendees.

Listen to Real Experiences and Examples

This goes to individuals who work remotely. Many times you feel like you are experiencing challenges unique to you. But this could not be far from the case. It only takes attending a virtual event and listening to other people in your industry or similar situations tell stories of what they went through and how they conquered to get the strength to go through it. Companies connect speakers and attendees to make learning from real experiences possible.

Choosing a Virtual Conference

Now that you know the benefits of attending a virtual conference, how do you know which one to attend? While the answer varies depending on your interests, below are some questions you can ask yourself to make the decision.

  • What topics are covered at the conference?
  • How relevant are the topics to your future plans?
  • Who are the speakers?
  • Who will be part of the event?
  • Has the event been customized for digital platforms?

The last bit is especially important. The last thing you want is to attend a virtual conference designed and created and planned like a physical meeting. It’ll be chaotic, and you’ll derive little value from the conference.

After the world settles to the new post-COVID normal, we don’t see companies and organizations going back to physical conferences. Hopping onto a plane will be a thing of the past for many. The world has proven that virtual conferences and working remotely can be done efficiently. Sure, elaborate systems are required to improve the experience, but all in all, it’s possible and cheaper.

Do you think virtual conferences are something you can live with in the long run? Can you imagine never attending a physical conference and be okay with it (in fact, see an improvement in your productivity)?