What Can You Expect from a Virtual Conference?

In early June, AIChE hosted the 2020 Process Development Symposium as its first major online event. To help you understand what you can expect from upcoming virtual events, ChEnected chatted with the organizers of the event to hear about how the event went and put together some observations and tips for virtual event attendees.

Also, if you attended the 2020 Process Development Symposium and want to add your own feedback, or have ideas based on other virtual events you attended or organized, share your ideas at the bottom of this post — we'd love to hear from you.

Flexibility to interact with presenters and attendees

You know those questions you can't remember when the Q&A session finally arrives? That's a thing of the past with virtual events. Many presentations are pre-recorded,  so presenters can attend the virtual presentation and take questions from attendees via chat both during and after the presentation. The presenter may choose to answer immediately, or collect questions for the end, but whatever the case, attendees can ask any and all questions as soon as they occur to them instead of waiting until the Q&A session. 

In addition, many presenters choose to come on screen live at the end of the recorded presentation to respond to unanswered questions and to interact with attendees via chat in real time. 

TIP: Don't be shy about asking questions by chat, because you won't be interrupting the speaker (although you may need to wait until the end to get a response, based on the level of complexity and the speaker's preference.)

More-detailed eco-friendly handouts

Budgets and environmental concerns often keep presenters from offering detailed handouts, but many presenters chose to provide PDFs and other files for attendees to download at their leisure.

TIP: Take the time to familiarize yourself with what's available as a download so you can get the details you need for later review. 

Opportunities for networking

Just like in person, virtual events offer great networking possibilities. But unlike the real world, live video chats allow you to talk to the whole room at one time. Regular networking breaks during a virtual event will allow you to speak with other attendees and with presenters. Clearly and concisely say who you are — basically have a good "elevator intro" that's short and will make others want to chat.

And while you should take advantage of the live video chat, also invite others to connect via text chat for extended conversations or to make connections unrelated to the exact topic at hand. For example, "I'm located in Houston and work at X as a process engineer. Happy to speak via chat to connect if you're in the same field or region."

TIP: Take the initiative to introduce yourself, just like in the real world. And do your best not to dominate the session — try to draw others into the conversation. You never know who you'll meet!

Shape live presentations and panel discussions with polling

When presentations are done live, such as panel discussions, a live polling feature lets audience members voice their opinion in real time. In other words, polls can be used to take a discussion turn towards more relevant topics on the fly, for example, or they can help give presenters (and attendees) a better understanding of the opinion or situation of all attendees in a flash. 

TIP: If polling is offered on an event you're attending, recognize it as the powerful tool it is. Use it to share your opinion, describe your situation, and shape the course of a presentation or discussion.   

Archived sessions for convenient viewing

Unlike live events, you can refer back to a virtual presentation when you need to. Took lousy notes, or got interrupted by an important call? You can always rewatch archived sessions at your leisure for up to one month after the event. 

TIP: Don't let a busy schedule cause you to miss out — just tune in when it works for you. Sure, you won't be able to chat live with presenters, but you can still see the entire presentation and Q&A in their archived format.   

We hope to see you at an upcoming virtual event. Not sure of the status of an event you hope to attend? Check out the calendar here.

Have feedback or suggestions? 

We'd love to hear from you about what you'd like to see at upcoming virtual events. Share you thoughts and ideas in the comments below. 

Check out the calendar of upcoming events.