Organizations seem to be managing the virtual conference. I think I have attended quite a variety of styles in the last year:
- Pre-recorded ten minute sessions that can be watched at any time and then chatting with presenters in Microsoft Teams channels,
- Pre-recorded sessions that have to be watched at a specific time and then chatting with the presenters in that live time,
- Pre-recorded sessions with live networking floors with tables (visually looked like a live conference),
- Live sessions/lectures on Zoom with back channel chatting, and
- Mix of pre-recorded and live sessions.
These conference formats all had one thing in common: screens. In fact, as I look back on the photos I’ve taken over the last year, they are almost all of something on a screen.
I always took pictures of screens during conferences when I was sitting in a session, next to a colleague, and trying to capture a good quote, interesting statistics, or an email address. In the last year, conference organizers have tried desperately to recreate that face to face experience of conferences. But what I’m missing the most is something that can’t be recreated, no matter how hard they try, and that is physically being in the presence of people and all that comes with that rich experience that is hard to measure.
When I go back further in my phone’s images, I can locate photos from conferences I attended just over a year ago, and those images are, yes, some screens, but they’re also mostly people (okay, and food). In fact, I can categorize those photos into three categories:
- Friends: This should be self explanatory–these are colleagues and friends.
- Food: A huge benefit (if you like food) of attending a conference in a city other than one’s home is getting to sample that city’s food.
- Fun: Fun means learning something new, presenting ideas to an audience, meeting new people, running into friends we only see at conferences, seeing family who might live in that city, and spending time with colleagues from GCC and throughout the district.
I look forward to attending my next conference in person. I hope to feel jubilation and wonder and gratitude. I hope and expect to look at people both strangely and warmly. I hope to be in the moment and snap 100 pictures to share with you later.
What are you missing from attending conferences? Which one are you most looking forward to attending next? Post your comments below. Not sure? Check the “Conferences” tab along the top navigation bar.