BizLibrary is holding our annual ALIGN conference on September 20 & 21 – two half-days of professional development, storytelling, and learning opportunities for L&D and HR individuals all across the country. We held ALIGN live and in-person for almost fifteen years before we switched to a virtual event. When it was safe to hold live events again, we decided to transform ALIGN into a permanent virtual event – why? While we loved connecting with our clients personally, live events have significant barriers such as travel costs and time, facility rentals and keeping a careful count of registrations & attendees for safety.
On the other hand, virtual conferences are typically free to attend. Individuals can participate in professional development from their home offices or their workplace, reducing travel time and costs. It provides a ton of flexibility and comfort for the attendees – not to mention it creates an opportunity for a greater number of attendees to benefit! This is especially important for HR leaders and training professionals, who are so often investing in the personal development of others. It’s important to make time for your own development too!
Go register for ALIGN and come back to learn how you can maximize the value of any virtual conference you attend!
Before the Conference
1. Review the agenda ahead of time and choose your sessions.
Check out the agenda as soon as you have access to it so that you can select your preferred sessions! That way you can plan accordingly and not miss a single second of possible connection time because you were reading the session descriptions in the conference platform.
2. Block out your schedule and let your team know in advance.
After you’ve selected your sessions, build those into your schedule and let your team or family know that you’ll be unavailable during those hours. It’s tempting to multitask when attending a virtual conference, but this can lead to dividing your attention and missing out on key takeaways from the session. To avoid this, mark yourself as busy! This is especially important for ALIGN attendees. You spend so much time investing in the professional development of others – take this time to focus solely on yours!
3. Familiarize yourself with the conference platform ahead of time, if possible.
If you have access to the conference platform before it begins, have a quick poke around! Learning the navigation even just the day before can save a lot of time and confusion when it’s time for the event to begin.
4. Create a dedicated workspace for yourself – make it special!
Unfortunately, virtual conferences do not come with free snacks. That doesn’t mean you can’t have any! Create a fresh workspace for yourself when attending a virtual conference to get a new perspective. Maybe you attend from a coffee shop, or in your dining room instead of your office. Order lunch from that place you save for special occasions! You’re investing in yourself today.
During the Conference
5. Take notes!
Note-taking can help keep you alert and active as you listen to the session. Many studies have shown that taking notes improves information recall – meaning that when you take notes, you can remember information quicker and easier than if you were not taking notes.
6. Take breaks!
Make sure to get up and stretch and take a few moments for yourself! Have those snacks you lovingly prepared (or ordered) and return to the conference refreshed and ready for your next session.
Networking is still totally possible in a virtual conference. Many conference organizers have a dedicated session for networking via Zoom or spaces available on social media like LinkedIn. Using event hashtags is another way to connect with conference attendees. Exchanging ideas with your peers is one of the major benefits of networking – and conferences are a great place to find peers!
After the conference
8. Review your notes with fresh eyes.
Looking at your notes with a new perspective can help in a few ways. Firstly, you can take what you’ve learned in the session and identify how to apply those insights into your daily life. Secondly, you can repackage your notes into social media content to share with others, positioning yourself as a thought leader in the space and creating an opportunity for growth and discussion.
9. Follow up with your fellow attendees and favorite speakers!
It might be intimidating to send a request to a presenter, but don’t let that stop you! Reach out to your favorite speaker and let them know what resonated with you from their session. This can also be an opportunity to ask any follow-up questions or begin a conversation about a shared area of expertise.
10. Share something you learned with someone else.
Teaching is surprisingly another great way to improve information recall. When you’re walking another person through an insight you’ve gained, you are encoding the information in your brain. Not only that, but you’re spreading helpful information that could be of great use to them in their professional development! Share what you’ve learned with a coworker or friend.