Getting the most out of virtual conferences

students on a gymnasium floor walking around looking at research posters

The past year has brought many challenges as we have adapted to life during a pandemic. One significant change we have experienced is the shift from in-person conferences to virtual ones. Although virtual events lack the face-to-face interactions, they can be as informative, engaging, and rewarding as in-person events. Here are my tips for getting the most out of your virtual conference experience.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the platform before the conference begins. Many platforms exists, and they each have distinct features that allow you to participate in discussions, connect with conference participants, and to communicate with presenters. Knowing what you can do with the virtual platform will help you get the most out of the experience.
  2. Choose presentations, roundtable discussions, and poster sessions that interest you. Take a look at the schedule and plan your activities in advance so you don’t miss out. I recommend reading through the program before the conference begins and planning your schedule will allow you to find the sessions that excite you and make for a more engaging conference.
  3. If presenting at a virtual conference, be sure to practice with the platform before you present. Some conferences have begun adding in practice times for presenters, which can help you get accustomed to the platform and reduce the stress of virtual presentations.
  4. Minimize the disruptions in your environment. One challenge I have found with virtual conferences is that I can be distracted easily of the demands of work and home. Clear your schedule to allow you to focus on the conference. Turning off things like email notifications and using headphones have also helped me to reduce the distractions and allow me to concentrate on the presentations.
  5. Connect and engage with people. One key to immersing yourself in the conference is to connect with other participants through structured discussions, virtual meet-and-greets, or private messaging. Be sure to explore all of the methods conference organizers have set up for you to interact with other participants.

Virtual conferences are still a good place to share research, exchange ideas, and to learn. The platforms just require us to adapt to new ways of connecting and engaging, and with a little planning you can get the most out of your conference experience.

I would love to hear about your virtual conference experiences. Please share any tips you have learned in the comments below.

Dr. Springer is a professor of History and faculty director of the Office of High-Impact Practices at UCO.