Professionals in all fields consistently express the benefits of attending educational events; noting the value of exploring new solutions and strategies, benchmarking progress against peers, and connecting with old and new colleagues. Digital events taking place live online provide an opportunity to engage with others in the field while minimizing the disruption to work and life schedules through reduced time spent traveling to and from national events. For many, the time spent traveling to an event often provided the opportunity to reflect on, and prepare for, the program itself, allowing for moments of reflection and alignment of their mindset from office mode to event mode.
What can or should be done to prepare for an educational event in advance?
The first and perhaps most obvious step in preparing for an event is to review the scheduled content, in order to identify topics and presentations of most interest. This is of particular importance when attending a multi-track program where advanced preparation will ensure you don’t miss the sessions that would be of most interest and value. Diving deeper into the content and reviewing the learning objectives or areas being addressed during each session is also helpful in evaluating the agenda and ensuring sessions attended are of greatest impact. Briefly reviewing the professional background of presenters is also valuable in understanding their perspectives and the experiences they might share.
Recognizing your own learning objectives and what you hope to gain from attending an event is a first step in maximizing your experience.
Alongside reviewing content, considering questions that you might want to ask, or to have answered, is also a useful preparation strategy, and creates an intention and reminder, which can be lost in the excitement of the live event. With many digital event platforms, attendees can even pre-submit questions to presenters, to ensure the topics of discussion of most interest are addressed.
Social media networks including Twitter and LinkedIn have substantially increased the ease and level of networking that can be done prior to, during, and after attending a conference. Many attendees will share information about the events they are attending using the event hash tag, and are encouraged to do so by the organizers to help spread the word. Sharing with your network that you are attending an event is an easy way to let friends and colleagues know that they can meet or connect with you during the event. Reviewing in advance the other attendees will help you identify who you can and will meet at the program, and reaching out in advance to introduce yourself and initiate a connection will break the ice in advance of the meeting.
Most event attendees want to connect with peers, but often feel shy about initiating conversations – be the person that reaches out in advance!
As busy professionals, having an opportunity to meet with numerous solution providers through one platform is a time saving exercise in gathering information and evaluating partners. Reviewing the sponsor partner products and services in advance will help identify those that provide solutions that would be most impactful, increasing the productivity of attending an event and ensuring the most applicable connections are made and most pertinent questions are asked.
How is this different in the digital or online environment?
From our research, there are two primary differences when preparing to attend an in-person event compared with a live event online.
The first difference is the time and place where pre-event preparation is taking place, with most attendees indicating that pre-event travel is the time and place that pre-event reviews are being conducted. With an online event, there can be an impetus to just log-on when the event starts, but taking the time, at your convenience, to intentionally prepare for the program will truly elevate the experience.
The second difference in preparing for in-person compared with online events is that digital event platforms worth their salt will make reviewing content, connections and sponsor partners very easy – and will allow you to connect using social platforms and the event platform to send messages and connection requests with ease. Good platforms will also help you create your own schedule, keep track of who you have met with, and provide you a summary of your participation following the event