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