4 Tips to Help Your Team Get the Most Out of Virtual Conferences

Many veterinary conferences and events went virtual in 2020, with overwhelmingly successful results. Now, with more preparation time, 2021 virtual conferences promise to be even better.

Although a conference on the couch may not offer live entertainment, reunion lunches, or hands-on labs, your team can still glean the latest information to help your practice press onward in these trying times. And, you can guarantee the COVID-related veterinary surge will be woven into most of the sessions, so your team can bring back recommendations to help your practice during the pandemic and beyond.

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Read on for tips to help your team get the most out of their virtual meeting experiences.

1. Join Live Sessions

One major advantage of a virtual meeting is that sessions are recorded, so registrants can watch them at their convenience. This helps your team cover more educational ground. Still, they will get much more out of the live sessions, for several reasons:

  • They can participate in live chat conversations.
  • They can ask clarifying questions during each session, typically through a chat function.
  • They can watch live demos and talk with exhibitors.
  • They can exchange ideas with colleagues in real-time.

With access to prerecorded sessions, your team can experience more of the conference — no need to agonize over which session to attend, given that they can watch them all — but advise them to attend their top choices live. They can kick around ideas with colleagues, pick the presenter's brain, and enjoy more of a "real" conference experience.

2. Carve Out Uninterrupted Time for Sessions

It can be challenging to cover missing staff during a conference, and you may be tempted to ask team members to watch sessions during their time off. That said, don't take advantage of your team's personal time by expecting them to cram meeting sessions in between cooking dinner, folding laundry, and homeschooling the kids, when they would normally receive dedicated time off to attend the meeting.

Afford your team members the same time off as you would for a live event. You can set up a cozy space in an office for them to watch sessions at your practice, as long as they don't get pulled away when things get busy. Seeing as you would normally pay for meals, cater lunch in to make meeting days feel special. If your team will attend from the comfort of their homes, advise them to set up a space where they won't be interrupted by work-from-home family members or sidetracked by the TV, phone, or other distractions.

3. Connect With Other Attendees

Conferences exist for their educational benefits, but we all know the networking and personal connections are just as important as the information you take home. It's easy to feel isolated and miss the human bond when your team is hundreds of miles from other conference-goers.

Instead of just checking the CE box, encourage your team members to take advantage of ways to connect with other attendees. Most virtual meetings have social events, such as happy hours, games, or mixers, where attendees are placed into small groups to get to know one another. Many lectures include break-out sessions or small group discussions that encourage participants to interact and meet new people. Remind your team members they could end up in a group with a veterinary idol they would never get a chance to meet at a live event.

4. Check Out the Virtual Exhibit Hall

With all the money you'll save on travel expenses and meals, you may find yourself in a position to invest in new equipment for your practice — and conference deals can be unbeatable. Although your team members can't roam aisles of booths and collect conference swag, they can check out new products and services, and talk with vendors in the virtual exhibit hall. Most conferences schedule time for attendees to "visit" booths virtually, watch live demos, and ask vendors questions about their products and services. If a team member misses the exhibit hall's live hours, they can watch product videos or download handouts after hours.

Until your team members can attend events in person, help them get the most out of this year's virtual lineup. Keep in mind that many large conferences will likely offer virtual options in the future, so encourage your team to check out as many virtual conferences as they can, so they can decide their path for next year.

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Sarah Rumple
Owner, Chief Creative Officer of Rumpus Writing and Editing

Sarah Rumple is an award-winning veterinary writer and editor. Since 2011, her work has focused on pet health/behavior and veterinary practice management topics. Her clients include individual veterinary practice owners, national corporations, nonprofit associations, media companies, consultants, and others. Learn more at sarahrumple.com.

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