As we are adjusting to the new normal, the playing field for conferences has changed. Hybrid and virtual events were already on the rise, but due to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 Pandemic, these formats had to be evolved and finetuned in rapid tempo.
Fast transitioning into working from home has had its challenges for all of us. It might’ve taken a while to find your routine in your new ‘office’ and to get a hold of your focus. How do you get started on attending a conference virtually and how to gain valuable insights are questions you might be asking yourself?
We have listed some benefits of virtual conferences below and how to get the most out of them:
- You have the luxury of attending the conference out of the comfort of your own home. You can pull up your own swivel chair and enjoy that good cup of coffee – and not the vending machine kind of type. You won’t have to suffer on that dreadful conference venue chair that has never heard of the term ergonomics.
- Your work-life balance can be optimized. When you close your computer, you’re home immediately. No traffic jams will stand in your way to get back to your family. Also, goodbye jetlag.
- To continue on the latter, as you will have less travel time, you might have some extra time to attend more conferences and webinars than would have been possible if you had been there in person.
- Scientists on a low budget won’t have to spend costs for travel and accommodation. Virtual events will create the opportunity to increase the reach by more than 20%. International PhD students won’t have to rely on the thin spread travel grants alone anymore.
- Some students and other early-career researchers might even find digital communication with eminent scientists to be less intimidating than a face-to-face encounter. Digital networking options could be a private chat, online break-out rooms with smaller groups or the Q&A function in the livestream.
How to prepare yourself when attending a virtual conference?
- Take a look at the program of the meeting one day in advance. Write down some questions you would like to see answered and mark some sessions or talks of speakers you would really like to attend. This way you know when it’s a good time to take a break if needed and when to actually stay focused. Some platforms allow to make your own agenda.
- If the list of poster presenters and attendees is available, you might already schedule one-to-one meetings for interesting discussions.
- Log-in to the meeting at least 10-5 minutes in advance. There might be a problem with connecting to the program. You want to be ready and focused when the meeting takes off.
We are aware that the feeling of togetherness will be reduced. To establish opportunities for new collaborations some people say that connecting in real life during a conference dinner, reception or other activity is the key to a good start of a partnership. And we couldn’t agree more. However, times are uncertain, and we will have to take the bitter with the sweet along the way. We are certain that face-to-face meetings will come back in its full glory, but that besides those, the hybrid and virtual meeting in the future might be equal companions.
If you have some time left, we want to invite you to take a look at our query on the future of meetings. We would love your feedback on how our community sees this post-COVID19.