How attendees get the most out of virtual events

With the emergence of COVID-19, virtual events have exploded as an industry necessity, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing for you as an attendees.

Attendees get amazing information and insights from speakers, while reducing time and financial commitments required to attend these events and can attend the entire event whilst in pyjama’s and drinking their own quality coffee!

At the same time, virtual events ask for adjustments and create new challenges for attendees, like the potential for technical hiccups and the inability to network face-to-face.

Here are some advantages of virtual events and tips to engage as an attendee and get the most out of your experience:

  1. Block your calendar and prioritize the time to be truly present in the experience of the entire event and include some pre-and post-event buffers to chat with new connections.
  2. Minimize distractions. Don’t ‘multi-task’, try to reduce notifications, grab a notepad and get ready to start learning. Put your out-of-office on so you can let your colleagues know your unavailable. Enjoy the fact you don’t have the hassle of travelling and make sure you have comfortable surroundings with coffee, water and snacks as appropriate. Remote events offer chances for distraction or complete focus and comfort, so you can delve more deeply into your networking efforts and realize a greater ROI on your event participation.
  3. Understand how to use the event technology. Make sure you download any tools or apps you need beforehand and how to log-in, so you don’t spend your first morning of the event figuring out how to get started.
  4. Explore the programme, speakers and other attendees. Familiarize yourself with your event guide to effectively use its features to make connections. Create a profile with contact information, a photo and bio, so others can find you.
  5. Publicize your participation pre- and post-event, so your network is aware and can connect with you about the topics.
  6. Establish your goals. Make sure you have a plan, because you won’t run into anybody while waiting in line for coffee. Make sure you know which sessions you’d like to attend and who you’d like to meet. Make a list of your networking goals and already plan in virtual meetings if possible.
  7. Don’t be worried about having to choose between conference tracks and take the opportunity to watch and re-watch presentations for as long as they are available. Highlight the live streams and recorded content in your event agenda and us ‘add to calendar’. Ask in advance if the slides and sessions will become / stay available, so you don’t need to take notes so frantically.
  8. Enjoy the flexibility to choose topics and sessions that relate to what you want to learn right now and don’t sit through presentations that are not relevant, just because you bought an expensive conference pass. Learn from the best of the best in the industry without having to schedule a lot of time away from the office.
  9. Network There is a ton of opportunity for networking, right from the comfort of your own couch. Take advantage of conference hashtags, live chats, slack channels or any other way to connect with attendees.
  10. Sign-up for a matchmaking service. If your event provides an automated tool to connect you with like-minded business professionals, take the time to create a profile and complete the necessary forms to collect detailed information. If none is provided, include a few bullets in your registration bio about what you are looking for in terms of professional connections.
  11. Attend the live sessions rather than watch back the pre-recorded, so you can showcase your expertise by engaging with targeted sessions and presenters via your event apps community board. Comment on topics and actively participate in Q&A via engagement tools. Share interesting and informative articles (not sales or marketing, but blog posts, articles or infographics that relate to the session topic). Remember not to overdo it; 1 comment or question per session so as not to hijack the conversation.
  12. Create shareable visuals, video’s and marketing collateral. When researching attendees, find out what products, services or expertise you might be able to provide interested parties and have ‘info buckets’ ready to copy-paste into private messages/chats/e-mails. What you do not want to do is simply tell someone asking about your company to ‘go and check out our website!’ which will take them farther away from the information they seek and risk losing their interest.
  13. Participate in a virtual hangout event. Some events will have a kick-off hangout prior to the event, or during ‘virtual coffee breaks’. Or organize your own to socialize and discuss various topics so you can get to know other attendees.
  14. Enjoy the ability to ‘talk’ during presentations. Gain instant ability to learn from and connect with people around the world in real-time. Chat with other attendees, share insights and interact with speakers to get more value. In addition to posting public-facing comments and questions, utilize private messaging tools within your event app to ask new connections what they think of a particular topic or idea at the moment it is presented. In addition to demonstrating your full engagement in the virtual event, you will be building trust with your new contact, showing that you value their opinion as opposed to just contacting them in a sales capacity.   
  15. Get social. Participate actively, post your key learnings, screengrabs of live events and other feedback on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. Search for the hashtags to identify other attendees and connect with them before, during and after the event. The connections you create and nurture during a virtual experience become exponentially stronger when you do get the chance to meet in-person at another event.
  16. Follow up with your new connections, preferably in the first three days after the event, so it’s still fresh in their minds. Thank them or request for further conversations, look for the hashtags on social media to connect with others talking about the event and check your notes to make sure you didn’t forget anything.
  17. Give feedback and post reviews online after the event. Be honest while being complimentary; the organizer may select your feedback to be featured on their website and social media, providing free exposure.