7 Tips on How to Attend a Virtual Conference Successfully
The rules are changing with Covid-19 that's for sure, as coming out of a 3-day virtual conference is something I never thought I would have been part of, not to mention I have another 2-day virtual conference next week. I've done my fair share of virtual trainings however a conference has a different feel to it. So, interestingly enough as I'm in the midst of wrapping up this 3-day conference and processing my lessons learned and wins my friend texts me this question "I have a virtual conference coming up as well. Any take aways and/or things you wish you'd have done/prepared for differently?"
Little did she know I was already applying a lesson learned in that very moment as I sat in my physical office a move I made hours earlier out of a need to isolate and be present. I thought going into this conference I was fully prepared however the reality didn't quite match up with my expectations and I walked away with these key take aways that perhaps you can find helpful in your preparation for your upcoming virtual conference(s).
BLOCK OUT THE TIME ON YOUR CALENDAR. Think of the conference as one in which you would actually be attending physically. With a physical conference you would wipe your calendar free in order to attend. Correct? Well, you should protect your time the same way for the virtual conference. Schedule out the time and make sure you have no other commitments on those days, not even at night.
HAVE A PLAN FOR YOUR CAREGIVING RESPONSIBILITIES. Depending on the type of caregiver you are, that of an aging/ill parent, or parent/stepparent or even a pet parent.........make arrangements. I thought I'd be fine in the mix of all my caregiving responsibilities but that was one of my biggest lessons. Even the dogs were a distraction. Make arrangements for all your responsibilities! If you need to hire a sitter, do that. If you need to ask a friend or family member to help with your aging/ill parent then do that. Brain science tells us that we cannot multitask. Research shows that we don't do things simultaneously but instead we just switch our attention from task to task extremely quickly. Which in turn means we are not fully present for the conference we are virtually in attendance for.
PLAN AHEAD. Again I want to draw you back to the mindset that you are attending the conference in person meaning that though virtual pretend that you are in there in person. Process for yourself what would you do if you were physically traveling for this conference? I know for some that looks like meal prepping for the family, cleaning the house, or perhaps running errands. Get those things done in order that you can be fully present in the conference.
ISOLATE YOURSELF. Separate yourself from everyone. This one was hard for me as well. The first couple of days it was easy but then when the conference fell on a Saturday and everyone was home it changed everything. I thought I could just put on my noise cancelling head phones and do my thing. Major fail. I was easily distracted with the movement and sometimes noise of everyone and my focus was divided. I was hearing everything within the conference but I wasn't present which meant I wasn't really listening to the amazing content the presenters were sharing.
LIMIT DISTRACTIONS. A lot of this is handled when you separate yourself but don't forget the ultimate distraction of life. Our electronic devices! You must place your electronics on silent and again give the virtual conference the same respect you would if it were in person.
CHANGE YOUR MIDSET. I've addressed this throughout the other tips however I did't want you to miss this one. When I'm at a physical conference the mental load is different. I'm mentally freed up from outside distractions to take in all the information at the conference. It's easy right. But, a virtual conference is different. You're learning in the midst of your environment and if you don't intentionally do things different it will be a major fail. To the best of your ability think in person, in that at an in person conference you have all our your food prepared with regards to either having bought some things ahead of time or planned on eating out. Do the same thing at home. Plan your meals so that you can free yourself of that mental clutter that comes with breakfast, lunch and dinner choices. In addition don't plan any evening activities on those days. When out of town after a day's long conference the typical evening activities is getting a bite to eat locally or eating in the hotel and then just decompressing from a days worth of information. If you don't intentionally do this at home you will be setting yourself up to fail, as you did not set up time to unplug and reset in order to take in more information the next conference day.
SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCESS. Just because it's virtual doesn't mean you shouldn't have all the little things that help you successed during a long in person conference. I have a conference goody bag that I stock and always have by my side. My conference goodies include: pen and notepad, favorite tea's, charged I-Pad, healthy snacks (dark chocolate covered almonds), jacket and sticky notes. Figure out what you need to have by you to be the best student and make it happen.
I've said it once and I'll say it again. It's time to adapt and overcome within the messy middle of life. The rules are changing and with intentionality and planning we can make the necessary changes and be successful at our virtual endeavors, allowing ourselves these opportunities of continued growth despite the changes and set backs we are enduring.
Yvette E. McDonald is the owner and counselor at Traveling Light Counseling, a practice for individuals, couples and families helping them achieve a new normal within all the chaos that threatens their sanity. If you're in the Saint Lucie or Martin County Area and life isn't quite what you expected it to be at this point in your journey and you are ready to make some changes or perhaps level up some areas in your life, please give me a call at 772-361-8448 for a free, 15-minute phone consultation.