So a few weeks into this pandemic, and many people are video-chatted out. Video conferences were the domain of weekly stand-ups and Saturday talks with grandma. Now, video conferencing software is ubiquitous. And nowhere more so than for virtual conferences.
I enjoy in-person conferences. I enjoy meeting new people and learning the latest and greatest about the industry. But for me, and for others, they are just so hard.
I’ve got a lot of at-home responsibility. Going away, even for two days, takes weeks of planning. And even if I could go, I’m an independent freelancer. No one is paying my way to be there.
I’m also an introvert. Talking to new people all day is beyond exhausting.
Even when I’m loving the conversation. And chances are I either arrived on or am leaving on a 5am flight. I’m too tired to be part of the fun crowd closing down the bar. I always feel like conferences are where the cool kids are at, and I don’t belong.
In 5 years, I’ve traveled for two conferences. I paired with a side trip so it wouldn’t feel like a waste. That’s all I can afford, not just from a cost perspective, but also a time and energy perspective.
At the start of this crisis, on March 11-12, I attended my first real virtual conference. It was SheetsCon 2020. In trying times, there’s nothing better in this world than a two-day Google Sheets geekfest. Even if its virtual conference form.
The conference used the tool Hopin. I was impressed, both with how the organizers handled the conference, and the tool itself. The tools features did a good job replicating the conference experience. The moderators were particularly skilled at moderating. It wasn’t perfect. But it was pretty great.
At the Hopin website, I found a passionate and resonating mission statement. Their passion for the virtual conference comes from a passion for ecology (less travel = less carbon footprint) and accessibility (travel isn’t easy with a disability). It’s a refreshing approach to online event planning.
Whether it is with Hopin, Zoom, or some other tool we haven’t imagined, this crisis has given us a chance to open up the world of conferences to so many more people. For those of us infrequent conference-goers, let’s get it right. Who knows? If we can find our comfort zone at a virtual conference, we may even be able to stay up until 9 at the after-party of that in-person conference.