Virtual conferences have been rising in popularity for years now, but the emergence of COVID-19 has meant that it is the new norm. At the same time, virtual conferences are an adjustment. They create new challenges for attendees, like the potential for technical hiccups and the inability to network face-to-face. And it requires another set of abilities in order to get the most out of your event. As we look forward to the start of congress 2020, we’re outlining some treasured tips we’ve picked up from both attending and hosting virtual conferences to help you maximize your first virtual Sigma event!
- Make attendance a priority in your agenda. Treat this event the same way you would if you were going to an in-person conference.
- Preparedness adds to the positive experience. Familiarize yourself with the various interactive features available and explore the conference website and app ahead of time.
- Turn off distractions, like your phone, just as you would at an in-person conference. Also, turn off notifications on your laptop/device to minimize interruptions. Multi-tasking from behind your desk doesn’t work.
- Check your emails before the conference day so that you are familiar with what is required as an attendee.
- Join the social media chatter for a sense of the conference atmosphere and other attendees’ insight. Skim the conference hashtag, too. (Sigma’s virtual congress hashtag is #INRC20.)
- Be respectful of the conference rules/guidelines. Be sure you know how to turn off your camera and/or microphone, and when logging into the conference, confirm that your camera is off and your microphone is muted.
- Engage in the live events! Or use the chatroom facilities or "raise hand" button. Being an active participant really helps the virtual event come to life and mean something more than watching a screen.
- With a virtual conference, there is the possibility to attend all sessions, since most sessions are recorded and can be played back via the conference website at a later time. So making your conference program and agenda work, even for later, is an added extra.
- Treat a virtual conference as you would an in-person conference with respect to your calendar and task load. Prioritize the time to be truly present in the experience, engage with the sessions and presenters, and use the chat and other networking tools regularly to connect with other attendees.
- Always have a backup plan! As we all know, live-streaming and virtual tools can fail without reason, so it’s crucial you aren’t scrambling for a new solution during crunch-time. Make sure you have plans in place for all those “worst-case scenario” moments.
Marie-Louise Luiking, MA, RN, is a researcher and PhD candidate at Leiden University in Leiden, Netherlands. She is a member of Sigma’s Rho Chi at-Large Chapter in the Netherlands and serves as the European Regional Coordinator.
Carole Liske, PhD, MSN, RN, is the Graduate Nursing Program Manager at Western Governors University in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. She is a member of the Sigma International Board of Directors as Chair of the Regional Chapter Coordinating Committee, president of Sigma’s Psi Upsilon Chapter at Western Governors University, and past-president of the Phi Gamma Virtual chapter.