Conferences During the Pandemic – Better or Worse?

Have you attended a virtual conference recently? How was your experience?

The ‘new normal’ of life and business is in full effect. Maybe you have experienced attending a virtual conference for the first time this year? While I’ve had the pleasure of attending a few virtual events in recent months, my latest experience as a virtual conference speaker gave me cause to reflect on the pros and cons of this new approach.

So what’s the impact of eliminating a physical space? Because in-person interactions are so much a part of the traditional conference, there are some adjustments to be made in our mind-set.  Here are the thoughts that came up for me:

Pros

  • Hassle-Free. My travel itinerary looked something like: Depart Bedroom 11:55AM –  Arrive Home Office 11:55AM. So often I had wished I could skip the nuances of traveling and fast forward to where I needed to be. Finally! The only preparation required was ensuring my space was professional and presentable for the video call.
  • Dress Less. Having not put one foot outside my front door meant I had been relieved of the usual burden of finding the right outfit to match the weather. Living in Ontario, this benefit will be especially appreciated during the winter months… no stress over finding the right winter boots to wear, or worry over “hat hair”.
  • Save Money. Since the conference was being facilitated in the comfort of my home, I could eliminate all the usual expenses I would incur on travel, accommodation, and food. The opportunity to keep money in my pocket can only be considered a plus.
  • Save Time. All the hustle and bustle that usually is incorporated in attending a conference was a non-factor. Having been able to get a front-row seat at home meant not having to arrive early to reserve seating. Which ultimately meant I could spare on both time and energy.
  • Traffic Free. No long lines at the buffet, no traffic, no parking hassles meant convenience all around.
  • Comfort. Truth be told, sometimes my feet can be sore at the end of the day when attending a live conference. The longstanding and consistency of being on the move does take a toll. The ability to kick off my shoes and go barefoot without anyone knowing is total bliss. 
  • Feeling Safe. Certainly, this cannot go without mention during the pandemic. The heightened anxiety of traveling and the sometimes overwhelming routine of sanitizing, wearing masks, and constantly being cognizant is not a non-issue during a virtual conference.

Cons

Truth be told – while a virtual conference is hands down the most convenient way of attending a conference, there are some perks to attending a physical conference. Here are a few things I missed out on:

  • The Experience. Half the joy of attending a conference is the journey. The ability to enjoy different cities, meet new people, try new foods, and embrace the perks of hotel amenities. These are perks that simply go beyond our living and office space that create memorable experiences.
  • Networking. As a business professional, networking at events is always a priority. Building connections that create new opportunities and reconnecting with acquaintances are truly invaluable aspects of attending a physical conference. Yes, virtual networking is possible, but it is just not the same.
  • Technical Back-Up. Some things are just out of your control, but hosting a conference in your own space means you are your technical team. The challenges of technical glitches can be just as daunting as traffic.
  • Freebies. Who doesn’t appreciate the small gifts guests receive when attending a live conference. The thoughtful gestures that are incorporated in the planning of a conference simply cannot go unnoticed. So far, I haven’t come across a virtual “swag bag” that fills the gap.

I’m pretty sure as we continue our transition into the virtual domain, businesses and conference organizers will continue to compensate for the shortcomings of not having a physical space, and will continue to find innovative ways to bring us a more interactive online experience.

Are you interested in joining me at a virtual conference? I’ll be presenting at Virtual Cannexus21 early in the New Year. Email me for details! cathy@pftrg.ca