Survival tips for virtual events – by Deborah Barnard
Deborah Barnard | September 10, 2020
2020 is the year of the virtual event: virtual conferences, training, parties . . .
The move to virtual has had some great advantages: lowered costs and no travel requirement can improve access to events, and virtual events can be less demanding overall - easy to switch off your camera and take a quick break when you need to.
However, they can also be draining. Here are a few tips to survive the experience!
1: Be ready to be on camera
Dress how you would if attending an in-person event, and make sure you’re happy for everyone to see your room. A lot of events will require you to actively participate, not just passively lurk, if you want to get the most out of them.
2: Take breaks and MOVE
At an in-person event you would probably move around fairly often - to different parts of the venue, to browse exhibition stands, and so on. Make sure you take regular movement breaks: even just a few stretches can help. If you’re someone who tends to settle into their chair and get absorbed by the screen, it’s worth setting a timer to remind yourself.
3: Take eye breaks
The American Optometric Association recommends resting your eyes for 15 minutes after two hours of continuous computer use, and taking a 20 second break every 20 minutes. During this 20 second break, turn away from your computer and look into the distance. You can use apps such as BreakTimer to set reminders.
4: Be kind to your hands
At a recent virtual training day, I found myself taking far more notes than I would at an in-person event (partly because note-taking is way easier with a desk than crammed into a conference hall chair). Consider hand writing your notes: yes, you’ll need to type them up afterwards, but this can be a good revision exercise. If you’re creative, handwriting also gives you the opportunity to create sketchnotes. Typing can be more distracting, and more demanding on your hands. But however you take notes, don’t forget to . . . you guessed it, take breaks.
5: Stay hydrated - and watch the caffeine
Keep water available: staying hydrated helps your brain as well as your body. Go ahead and brew a pot of coffee too, but watch out: you’re probably not going to feel great if you consume a full pot of your favorite strong premium coffee (yes, this is based on personal experience).
6: Food prep
Prepare meals and snacks in advance. Events generally have some catering, and meal prep isn’t factored in to conference session breaks! You’ll be able to focus better on the talks or workshops if you’re well-fueled.
7: Join in
As with in-person events, you get more out if you put more in. Some virtual platforms, such as Hopin, have networking features that allow you to chat with strangers - and this can be easier to do online than in-person. Well-run training days will usually include small-group sessions and other chances to speak or ask questions.
And above all, have fun!
Check out these events . . .
Looking for virtual events to attend? Here are some that KnowledgeOwl will be attending in the coming months:
ZingTrain virtual training. They offer paid training workshops, and if you sign up for their newsletter you also get access to free webinars.
The PagerDuty Virtual Global Summit 2020: a free virtual event, all about realtime digital ops.
Write the Docs “Prague” 2020: the CEST timezone edition of Write the Docs, a conference for anyone interested in documentation. This virtual conference replaces their annual Prague conference.
Write the Docs Australia and India 2020: The AEDT timezone version of Write the Docs. Another chance for more documentation goodness.
Axe-con 2021: a free two day conference run by Deque, all about digital accessibility.