The world in 2020 changed the way we all communicate at work. From chatting with colleagues on Slack and Skype to conducting conference calls on Zoom and Google Meet, virtual communication and collaboration have become the norm. But what about professional development?
Virtual events were part of the mix leading into a remote-first professional environment, but now they are how we all get our professional development fix. Although you might be someone who excels in a face-to-face conference environment, that doesn’t mean a virtual environment won’t provide you the same benefits. However, you will need to adjust your conference-attending practices to do just that.
Learn the Technology
Whether that’s the conference’s online host tool or an app created and run by the conference, know what technology is involved going in. More importantly, try it out beforehand. Think of how you prep leading into a conference call. Check your audio, video, and bandwidth. Engaging within the app is also a great way to be a part of the conference’s social aspect and build your networking circle.
Block Your Calendar
You might still be “in the office” physically, but treat virtual conferences as you being unavailable. On a shared company calendar, mark yourself as out of the office for the conference duration.
Since you are technically out of the office, turn off notifications on your computer. Now, if only it were that easy when it comes to your physical distractions. If you’re working from home, make your family aware of your unavailability throughout the day. The same can be said for if you are in the office. Protect your development time, and make sure colleagues treat their communications with you as if you aren’t at your desk.
Most in-person conferences include coffee or snack breaks. Include those in your virtual professional development events too. Get the most out of your virtual conference by keeping your production and attention levels high. The best way to do this is by getting up and stretching throughout the day to recharge and reset.
Set up Appointments
Many professionals lean on in-person events throughout the year to build their book of business. Don’t miss out on this networking opportunity virtually. Virtual conferences are about learning, but we can all still be socially distant through the computer screen in a social-distancing environment.
Coordinate Your Schedule
Look at the conference schedule and note which sessions you want to attend and when. This planning avoids confusion and time-wasting when you know which Zoom “room” you want to be in at what time. You don’t want to miss parts of sessions because you are busy reading the session descriptions. Do your homework beforehand, so you get the most out of the day.
Schedule Time to Review
Schedule time after the virtual event to go through your notes and session material. Check in to see if you will have access to the recording following the event. If so, you could find new nuggets to take away that you missed the first time around.
Find a Virtual Buddy
Attend virtual conferences with colleagues. You might not be in the same room as your colleagues, but that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with each other during or after sessions. Having a conference buddy also holds you accountable to attend certain sessions or pay attention during particular sessions.
If you are someone particularly favorable to in-person learning, adjust your attitude. Don’t look at virtual conferences as the second-best option. Online learning can be just as powerful as in-person education.
How do you make the most out of the virtual conferences you attend? Join the conversation on LinkedIn and check out Employee Perks Your Organization Needs in A Remote World.