Organizations across the world are beginning to adapt to “The new normal” with COVID-19. Numerous industries rely on conferences and events that bring together experts, professionals, prospective partners, and clients to network, as well as glean new information, foster collaboration and drive innovation. In the health care industry, many of these crucial events have evolved from in-person to virtual.
Teams at Mom’s Meals® have recently attended several industry conferences that transition to a virtual environment, including the National Association of Social Workers – New Jersey Chapter, Age + Action, The Rise National Summit On Social Determinants of Health and American Health Insurance Plans Institute & Expo. Although each of the conferences uses a different online platform, we have found common challenges and benefits across them all.
Similar to in-person events, you must plan ahead. As we reflect on our own experiences at virtual conferences, the Mom’s Meals team compiled their top three tips for success, and the top three benefits of virtual conferences.
Top 3 tips for success:
- Fight the urge to multitask – It is difficult to ignore the notifications of emails, text messages, and missed calls. However, to gain the most value from a virtual conference you must commit to being mentally present. Alert your team before the conference that you will be unavailable during the scheduled time. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb and set your email to Out of Office. If you take these easy steps, you are enabling yourself to be more engaged in the conference.
- Prepare conversation starters - Communicating with potential business partners or customers via chat can feel unnatural. We recommend preparing some conversation starters to ease your way into the conversation. Examples include, “What did you think of the keynote speaker?” or “What are you hoping to learn or gain from this conference?”
- Communicate clear roles and responsibilities of team members - Virtual conferences are new territory for many companies and teams. It is crucial to communicate clear instructions and expectations of your team members to ensure your success. Virtual conferences take place over a variety of different platforms, so it is important to familiarize yourself and your team with the technology before the conference. Many conferences have a demo feature, so feel free to share that with your team members.
Top 3 benefits:
- Out reach potential – Virtual conferences enable a wider variety of attendees because they are no longer limited by travel. You may have the opportunity to connect with a new audience, which can be beneficial to establish new relationships.
- Innovative information – Conferences provide thought leaders with the opportunity to share information and insights. This information is crucial to following trends and emerging needs. For example, the hot topics at AHIP Institute this year were focused on social determinants of health, particularly in the wake of the global pandemic.
- Contact information – Many platforms allow attendees and presenters to track the information of all individuals who engaged with your company through attending a virtual booth, presentation, or private chat. Access to this information allows your company to track leads and contact potential customers and partnerships following the conference.
As the world becomes more virtual, we must accept that we are all learning, growing, networking, and marketing in new ways. Mastering the most effective ways to reach our partners, caseworkers, and clients via technology-based conferences will be critical to our ongoing growth and access.