Virtual Conferences: It's now a thing

Let’s face it… no one is going to conferences any time soon. And I miss it!! I miss traveling. I miss seeing friends. I miss interacting with audiences.

Virtual conferences can be scary… maybe even scarier than speaking in person. While there’s plenty of stuff that can go wrong in person, there’s other stuff that is challenging virtually. Mainly, it’s difficult to figure out how the audience is reacting when you can’t see them. And there usually isn’t a great way to interact with the audience afterwards in the same ways you would in person. But, having now done it a few times, there are some things to look for and ways to counteract that.

Look for conferences or speaking opportunities that include some sort of interactive component. Is the conference creating a way to interact with the other speakers? Or with the attendees?

Make the time. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made so far is making time to present during my time slot but not being present for more of the conference. Being present is a way to engage with others through other content, through twitter, or through whatever other platforms the conference is providing.

Think about places to grab attention in your talk. We know it. We’ve experienced it. We’re all sitting at screens watching talks. It’s easy to get distracted with notifications or email or other things. This happens in person as well but when you’re in a room with other people, it feels easier to snap back in to what’s going on. As a speaker, make it simple for folks to tune back in to your talk and provide places in your talk where the slides or words grab the audience again.

Ultimately, we speak at conferences to teach or help others. Hopefully, we’re talking about something that provides people with a new perspective or information they didn’t have before. That doesn’t change regardless of whether the conference is virtual or not. I can’t wait until I’m able to see everyone again in person and speak at conferences. But in the meantime, this virtual conference thing isn’t so bad.

Shameless plug - As one of the conference chairs for RubyConf this year, we’ll be providing a unique conference experience that provides value to speakers and participants, with options to pre-record your talk or deliver it live. Submit your talk proposal today: https://cfp.rubycentral.org/events/rubyconf2020 or, if you’re not submitting to speak, buy your ticket today! http://rubyconf.org/

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