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How Can We Make Virtual Conferences Better?

How can we make virtual conferences better?

Some time ago, I wrote about my inability to understand why organizers are rushing back towards in-person conferences – with a pandemic that is going on, and the carbon footprint of conferences impardonable in the current climate crisis.

Musing about this, I think we can try out many things to improve virtual conferences:

  • Work on improving the platforms in terms of technology. I recently attended a conference using the Atanto onAir platform, and I think it was much more streamlined than other platforms or combinations of static websites with various Zoom sessions.
  • Work on improving formats in terms of synchronous, asynchronous, or hybrid.
  • Announce activities of the virtual conferences more in advances so we can block off time before other stuff creeps in. For an in-person conference, I would be traveling and nobody would be able to book anything on to my calendar anyway. For the virtual events, that’s not the case.
  • Focus on local networking events. I’ve heard of an alumni event some time ago where they had gathering in various cities around the world, and sent these small groups all a box full of surprises and things to work on together during the evening of the event.
  • Since we are not limited to traveling a few days any more, perhaps scheduling conference sessions over more days, but during a narrower band of the day to accommodate more time zones could be an option.
  • Add in virtual “icebreakers”. I’ve heard of fun online quizzes, and even online zumba classes during conferences to replace the online networking event where we would just put people together in a large Zoom room and call it a day.
  • Bring long-form communication and letters with deep discussions back?

Do you have ideas on how we can improve virtual conferences?

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