Professional Growth During a Pandemic: Online Conferences

Posted by Chad Birt on Jul 21, 2020 8:17:00 AM
Chad Birt

7 Tips For Getting the Most Out of Your Online Business Conference

The Covid-19 pandemic changed the world overnight. Offices sent workers home, schools closed and transitioned to distance learning, and hundreds of organizations postponed, canceled, or brought their conferences online.


These measures protect public health, but they also present challenges. Is it possible to convert a major in-person event into a rewarding online experience? And if so, what steps can you take to get the most out of your investment? Digital conference going is unique, but with a little forethought and planning, you can build on your professional knowledge and grow your network.


1. Do your research

If you decided to attend an online business conference, the first step to success is research. There’s only so much time in the day, so you won’t be able to attend every panel, speech, or online happy hour.

Before developing an attendance strategy that aligns with your professional goals, set aside an hour to review all of the information provided on the conference’s website. Find the answers to important questions like:

  • What type of software will I need?
  • What time zone is the conference host located in?
  • What speakers do I really want to see?
  • How long is each presentation?
  • Is the event being recorded?
  • Can I watch recorded sessions later on?
  • Does the conference have a social media presence?

After you’ve assessed the logistics of the event, you can make a plan that aligns with your goals and professional needs. Remember to set aside time for lunch and other short breaks. You’ll pay better attention and get more out of the conference if you’re able to get up and move around throughout the day.

2. Perform a test run with all of your equipment

To view presentations and interact with conference attendees, you’ll need the right software. Make sure your laptop, desktop, tablet, or smartphone has the necessary apps and equipment.

Most online conferences use a video platform like Zoom or Cisco Webex Meetings to host presentations. Most also use a chat program like Slack, Flock, or Google Hangouts where conference-goers can connect with one another, ask questions, or make comments.

Don’t stop at downloading the right apps. Take the time to test your web camera, microphone, and internet connection. You don’t want to worry about lagging video or audio interference on the day of.

You should also take time to make sure all of your apps and software are up-to-date. Older versions may have security glitches or require you to upgrade before you can log in and start interacting.

3. Connect with others who are attending the conference

People attend business conferences to build their networks, but how do you do that online? Most conference websites feature community hubs where attendees can log in with their credentials and message or chat with one another.

Some conferences even provide a comprehensive list of attendees. If you have this option, try and find fellow conference-goers on social media platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter before the event. When you do, explain how you found them and let them know you’re attending the same conference. A brief introduction is all you need to make a connection.

As you attend various online sessions, check-in with your newfound colleagues. Ask them questions about a particular speaker, share a helpful link, or start a discussion about how you plan on using the information you’ve gained during the online sessions.

4. Limit distractions

Attending a conference from the comfort of your home office is convenient, but it also presents distractions. It’s easy to check your email, respond to texts, or make plans for the weekend while a speaker goes over slides in the background.

Treat your online conference like you would an in-person event. Silence your cell phone, closeout other tabs, and make sure to have note-taking supplies on-hand. If your kids or partner are at home, close the door so you’re able to focus.

5. Dress like a professional

Tempted to attend your online conference in pajamas? You might be more comfortable, but you’re also more likely to feel tired or take the event less seriously. You’d dress up for an online job interview, so do the same for your conference. You don’t need to wear a three-piece suit, but you should wear something that makes you look and feel professional.

Some conferences ask attendees to utilize their web cameras. If you’re wearing business-appropriate attire, you’ll feel more confident when asking questions, making comments, or contributing ideas.

6. Don’t be afraid to speak up or participate

If you have the opportunity to participate in a group chat or forum discussion, do it. It’s the internet’s equivalent of shaking hands, making small talk, and trading business cards.

Online conferences make it easy for people from all backgrounds ––including those with social anxiety–– to interact confidently and share their expertise. Don’t sit on the sidelines. You’ve got a lot to offer and years of industry experience. Get involved and you’re sure to benefit.

7. Stay connected

Once your business conference wraps up, make sure to send a digital or handwritten ‘thank you’ note to the event hosts. You should also review the website and forums to see how long you can access presentations and conference materials.

If you were too busy to attend a particular session on the day of, go back and rewatch it. Lastly, make sure to nurture the connections you made with fellow conference-goers. Send a brief note via email or social media saying you hope to stay in touch. Small gestures like this can go a long way toward building (and strengthening) your network.

Online conferences can be just as rewarding as in-person events, but you have to put in the time and effort to reap the rewards.


What’s your favorite tip for attending an online business conference? If it didn’t make our list, let us know by submitting a comment below. 

Topics: Biotech, pharma, conferences, networking, career development

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