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20 Reasons Why Virtual Conferences Are the Future

Con­fer­ences have long been a sta­ple of the pro­fes­sion­al cal­en­dar. Now, after a reces­sion that has slashed trav­el expen­di­ture, the land­scape for events is chang­ing. Sophis­ti­cat­ed dig­i­tal plat­forms are enabling vir­tu­al envi­ron­ments that sim­u­late the ben­e­fits of real events, and atten­dees are begin­ning to shift to access­ing sub­ject mat­ter experts and indus­try net­work­ing online.

But can the dig­i­tal envi­ron­ment real­ly dis­place brick and mor­tar events, where eye to eye meet­ings and chance con­nec­tions can jus­ti­fy the often cost­ly reg­is­tra­tion fees and trav­el costs? In orga­ni­za­tions where hun­dreds of exec­u­tives and pro­fes­sion­als attend sev­er­al con­fer­ences a year at $1,000 or more each in total cost, a vir­tu­al con­fer­ence at $500 can be attrac­tive.

Mak­ing vir­tu­al con­nec­tions at an online con­fer­ence may not be an ade­quate sub­sti­tute for meet­ing a key client face to face, but it seems like­ly that vir­tu­al events will com­ple­ment tra­di­tion­al con­fer­ences as orga­ni­za­tions need to bal­ance time and resources. Increas­ing­ly, vir­tu­al plat­forms are offer­ing val­ue that has nev­er exist­ed in this mar­ket. It is less obvi­ous think­ing that a vir­tu­al envi­ron­ment could be con­ducive to trade in lux­u­ry goods, cars or food, but indus­tries where vir­tu­al con­fer­ences make sense include:

  • Knowl­edge indus­tries such as med­i­cine, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, and high tech­nol­o­gy
  • Nascent indus­tries where inno­va­tion clus­ters are glob­al­ly dis­persed
  • Dig­i­tal indus­tries where the prod­uct can be deliv­ered via a mul­ti­me­dia for­mat
  • High­er edu­ca­tion

We know this poten­tial first hand, being now ful­ly immersed in the orga­ni­za­tion of Sharp­Brains’ sec­ond annu­al glob­al and vir­tu­al con­fer­ence focused on health & well­ness appli­ca­tions from emerg­ing brain sci­ence such as life­long neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty.

Here’s what a par­tic­i­pant in last year’s con­fer­ence had to say:

…Even bet­ter, you don’t have to go any­where!! This is a vir­tual con­fer­ence, so all that you need is a com­puter (you need to be able to run Flash, but if you can watch YouTube videos, you are all set) to attend from the com­fort of your own home or office. I attend­ed the 2010 Sum­mit, and it was remark­ably effec­tive — not only did it save trav­el expens­es and time for me (not to men­tion that it was envi­ron­men­tally respon­si­ble), but it turned out that the vir­tual con­fer­ence had an advan­tage over in-per­son con­fer­ences in one way. Most peo­ple have had the expe­ri­ence that some of the most valu­able dis­cus­sions at con­fer­ences occur not from the podi­um but in the hall­way. The vir­tual con­fer­ence soft­ware allows for hall­way con­ver­sa­tions, but the bulk of that con­ver­sa­tion occurs as a pub­lic com­ment stream. Get­ting to hear what many peo­ple are say­ing in the ‘hall­way’ is much bet­ter than hear­ing only one per­son, and if you like what they say, you can send them a note and con­tinue your con­ver­sa­tion as a pri­vate one.”
Here are 20 rea­sons why you might con­sid­er attend­ing a vir­tu­al con­fer­ence:

  1. Less trav­el time means more time for you at work or with your fam­i­ly
  2. Dip in and out of events with­out being noticed
  3. No flight delays, pass­port con­trol or secu­ri­ty checks
  4. Jug­gle work demands with con­fer­ence atten­dance
  5. No pack­ing and unpack­ing and won­der­ing whether your lug­gage will make it through to the oth­er side
  6. Access all con­fer­ence mate­ri­als and audio online for 3 months after the event
  7. Show your boss demon­stra­ble cost sav­ings in straight­ened times
  8. Con­nect with a larg­er and more glob­al audi­ence, many of whom may have not attend­ed due to cost and trav­el con­straints
  9. Pre­view and review speak­er pre­sen­ta­tions on your PC while lis­ten­ing to oth­er mate­r­i­al
  10. Eas­i­ly locate con­fer­ence atten­dees and arrange a con­fer­ence call, rather than search­ing hotel lob­bies for your clients
  11. No waste of paper on con­fer­ence brochures/fliers that only go in the bin once home
  12. Save hun­dreds of thou­sands of gal­lons of air fuel because of the aggre­gate efforts of atten­dees
  13. Catch up on missed events in the evening or your free time
  14. Learn new skills in man­ag­ing vir­tu­al tech­nolo­gies and online tools
  15. Access the whole event from the com­fort of your own home or office
  16. No big hole in your bank bal­ance while you wait for the expens­es claim to clear
  17. Use the time you would be trav­el­ling to report back to col­leagues on the key lessons
  18. Con­sid­er the effi­cient the trans­fer of infor­ma­tion and how that will trans­late direct­ly to your bot­tom line
  19. Reg­is­tra­tion Fees are as much as four times less than a “bricks and mor­tar” event
  20. No expen­di­ture on hotels and sun­dries

We hope that your next vir­tu­al con­fer­ence expe­ri­ence is a great one. And, if you/ your orga­ni­za­tion want to be at the fore­front of inno­va­tion and brain health and cog­ni­tive fit­ness, please con­sid­er join­ing us on March 30th -April 1st at the Sharp­Brains Vir­tu­al Sum­mit: Retool­ing Brain Health for the 21st Cen­tu­ry.

Dr. Jamie Wil­son is the Plat­form Direc­tor of Sharp­Brains Coun­cil for Brain Fit­ness Inno­va­tion.

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