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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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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters, and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm and think tank tracking health and performance applications of brain science.