Virtual Conferences Are Becoming the New Normal: 5 Tips to Consider
The world is changing. The result of the ongoing pandemic has wreaked havoc on global economies, resulting in millions of Americans joining others around the world, especially those within the service, media, and ad industries, being particularly affected.
Today, working from home as a mainstream way of doing business initially caught many companies unprepared. At the same time, businesses, and millions of American households from coast-to-coast, as well as billions of households around the globe, are understandably keeping a watchful eye on their finances.
With stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines varying across the country, consumers and businesses have little choice but to pivot and modify how they conduct business, not to mention, their everyday lives. The challenge is acute for businesses is to find new and modified ways of doing business during these unprecedented times.
Thanks to technology, many professionals can work from home effectively and efficiently. They can take part in team meetings via conference call, Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts, attend virtual happy hours, and even meet with physicians and attorneys via online appointments, and so much more.
Business conferences and trade shows also have been drastically impacted and forced to evolve. Currently, worldwide, the event industry stands at $1.5 trillion annually! With many live, in-person events either postponed or canceled for the remainder of 2020, virtual conferences and trade shows are increasingly becoming an innovative and cost-effective way to meet, mingle and keep businesses moving forward.
Here are 5 helpful tips to consider before attending your next virtual conference:
1. Get a copy of a pre-con agenda, list of attendees (or the companies they represent) and exhibitors.
Use this to help map out your conference itinerary. Many conferences will give you an attendee list before the conference. If so, congratulations! Your research has been handed to you. Remember to check out the website to see who’s speaking. Then look them up on LinkedIn and consider sending them an introductory email or postcard letting them know you look forward to hearing them speak.
2. Utilize digital business cards
However, if your scheduled conference does not readily provide that info, then doing your research becomes crucial. Don’t forget to also check out the website to see who’s speaking. Also, you may want to post on LinkedIn to see which of your connections (or your connections’ connections) are also attending. Check out the conference website for past years’ attendees, companies, and exhibitors.
Business cards are essential for professionals, and in today’s increasingly digital society, having them available online is just a smart move.
Thankfully, there are many options available, from something as simple as capturing a photo of your business card to have at the ready on your mobile device to downloading a mobile app that allows you to create your virtual business card containing all your contact information, including your and your company’s social media handles, to share with prospects and colleagues. A Google search will show you multiple pages of companies ready and eager to help you get started.
3. Plan your sessions by category
Casually strolling into breakout sessions can be hit-or-miss when it comes to prospecting. Today, having a plan of action can make your efforts calculated and much more effective.
Looking at your conference agenda, narrow down which sessions you’ll choose to attend, check out exhibitors in the expo for products that may benefit your company as well as other companies that can benefit from your company’s products and services.
Plan on attending breakout sessions by industry or based on service-based tools and offerings your best prospects will also most likely attend. This is where your pre-con research can prove particularly useful. Should a prospect you’ve researched also be attending that session, consider using a combination of your research and the session topic to strike up a relevant and genuine conversation during a scheduled online happy hour or one-on-one.
4. Ask thoughtful questions during classroom and networking sessions
If you do a Google search, you’ll find a variety of virtual event platforms that specialize in hosting online events, such as conferences, virtual classrooms, chat rooms, and speed networking.
Make yourself (and your company) stand out by asking thoughtful, relevant questions during these sessions. Many people hesitate to raise their virtual hand or ask questions. More than likely, these sessions will have a “Q&A” or chat box and a facilitator to submit questions for speakers to address. Don’t hesitate to ask (or raise your virtual hand, if appropriate), as your question is likely on the minds of other attendees who may, for whatever reason, be hesitant (or too shy) to ask.
5. Follow Up
Post-conference, give it a few days, but remember, while the conference is still fresh on your mind, to circle back with those you met or networked with online during the conference. Do you have a particular speaker you want to reach? Send them a “thank you” email telling them how much you enjoyed their session and connect with them on LinkedIn. Drop your digital business card in the email.
Exhibitors and select people you met during virtual networking or breakout sessions also make great connections and can also be added to your prospect list.
When or if the world will return to some semblance of normalcy is hard to say. Still, for businesses to succeed, they must be adaptable and be able to grow and thrive, despite ever-changing global economic conditions.
Advances in technology have made it possible for businesses to pivot and focus on helping make their employees productive, whether they work from home or in the office, attend virtual or in-person meetings, trade shows, and conferences.