The last few years have been exceptional (you choose the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ tags for yourself…). The world’s changed a bit. One of those changes has been an increase in the acceptance of virtual conference. And yet, there’s value in being there too.
Virtual conferences are cheaper. You may get a direct discount on conference fees. You also don’t have hotels, gas/travel expenses, or meals to worry about (beyond your normal levels at least).
Virtual conferences don’t suck up as much time. For LDSPMA, (LINK) I’m going to spend half a day before the conference driving down and half a day after driving back. If I’d chosen virtual, I wouldn’t have to do that.
If you’ve got family and or social obligations, attending the conference virtually can reduce impact on those areas of your life.
They’re all valid arguments. They are. And for some people, the virtual option is the right fit. But it’s not the only option.
In person opportunities
At the last LDSPMA conference, there was a snack session with fresh raspberries and fancy chocolate. We also had catered lunches. At a virtual conference, you do that work yourself. There are advantages to being there live.
Sometimes people get lost in attending sessions. That’s one thing that virtual attendee ship is (relatively) good at. But when you’re attending at your desk or kitchen table, there can be a lot of distractions. You may focus better in the actual room, with the actual people. And there’s more to conference life than sessions.
One oddity of live conferences (two, if you count what they give you) is that people want to give you stuff. Conference Bags (usually with logos), pens, pencils, books, coupons, flyers with special deals for attendees, and who knows what else. People at conferences are marketing their products and services and they’re giving stuff away to do it (and that’s ignoring the drinks and snacks…).
Conferences give you an opportunity to get involved and meet people. Yeah, you might notice a witty comment in a virtual session, but at a live conference, you actually get to meet people. Some of those people can make things happen (I watched a movie deal go down at lunch at last year’s LDSPMA… And it wasn’t the only one).
Yes, you could find a name or even send someone a chat in a virtual session. But live conferences improve your opportunities for networking. They give you access to that ‘in the moment’ experience that can lead to the person you need.
The value of ‘being there’
Ultimately, it comes down to where you need to be. There’s a lot you can get from a virtual conference. There are real advantages to live conferences. The question comes down to what’s right for you and your circumstances.
If you can’t get away; if the kids, the job, and the life stuff won’t let you go, take the virtual conference and work toward the live one in the future.
If you need to get away for a while. Or if you’re looking for that one precious contact. Well, the live conference may be for you. You’ll get to immerse yourself in the conference world, get away from the day do day, and find the people and opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Honestly, the final decision of what’s best is up to you. The choices are cheap and easy or a richer experience.
Consider your options, dear reader, then make the best choice for you. Either way, I’ll see you next post.