This is a guest post from one of ProZ.com's advertising partners, XTRF. XTRF is a Polish company providing a leading cloud-based translation management system to translation departments and LSPs around the globe.
By: Karolina Galek
Virtual conferences – the pros, cons, and future
These days, when you see the word ‘conference,’ you probably think about sitting at home in front of a screen and watching hours of live or prerecorded sessions. And you’re not alone. Countless conferences have gone online over the past two and a bit years, so it’s no wonder.
But it wasn’t always like this. Conferences used to mean a bit of a business getaway. They meant coffee breaks or receptions chatting with colleagues. Forging new connections and cementing old ones. Attending inspiring talks and interactive sessions.
As we prepare for our own conference this May, we thought we’d take the opportunity to look back on our experience of online conferences, thinking about the lessons we’ve learned.
Virtual conferences – the pros
Cheaper, and more climate-friendly
Virtual conferences are far cheaper, for both organizers and attendees. There’s no catering or venue hire, no flights or hotels to book and budget for. Attendees only have to pay for their ticket, which is generally far cheaper than for a physical event. They also allow participants and speakers to log in from around the globe, increasing the number of attendees and giving far-flung events access to a larger talent pool.
What’s more, because travel is out of the equation, online events are also far better for the environment. (Though of course they do still have an impact).
More inclusive and accessible
Because they don’t require travel, in many ways virtual conferences are more accessible and inclusive, enabling people from all around the world to take part, irrespective of their physical capabilities or location.
Since online events are generally recorded and available to watch after the fact, they’re also easier for those with childcare or other commitments to work around. Similarly, if you need to take a call or deal with an urgent project, you can.
An efficient way to receive information
Because people aren’t committed to attending full days, they’re able to pick and choose the sessions that will be most useful, and fit them in alongside other commitments or work if necessary. This means they can be an efficient way of learning about a particular topic, compared to clearing a whole day or two of your schedule.
Virtual conferences – the cons
Online = less engaging
Virtual events aren’t as engaging as being in the same room as the speaker. For speakers, it’s incredibly hard to gauge audience interest, feed off their reactions, and to encourage participation. Emojis or text-based chat just doesn’t have the same impact, and can be too hard to follow.
And for attendees, it’s far harder to concentrate on the talk at hand, and far too easy to get distracted doing something else, especially since you’re sitting at your computer, with its myriad forms of diversion at your fingertips.
With virtual events, you generally have the option of watching sessions on catchup. In theory this is great, giving you more flexibility and time to digest the information. But in practice… we’re sure we’re not the only ones to have countless webinar recordings languishing in our inboxes!
Virtual meeting fatigue
By now, we’ve all become familiar with the fact that attending virtual events or meetings is draining. One reason is that because online platforms lack non-verbal communication, which we normally rely on far more than the actual words we speak, we have to work harder to send and receive signals. Plus, over two years into the pandemic, with remote working still the norm in many countries, we’re online – and in virtual meetings – more now than ever before.
Networking just ain’t the same
Though online networking options have come a long way, they just don’t cut the mustard.
They don’t compare with the impromptu encounters in the coffee line, the frank chats over a glass of something delicious, or the engaging group discussions. It’s much more difficult to approach speakers after a talk and ask a few extra questions. Interactions are much less natural, meaning networking can feel even harder for those that already struggle with this. And in most cases, online networking is less fruitful from a business perspective.
Many have decided to go for a best of both worlds approach, choosing to run hybrid conferences. This certainly has its advantages. Some can attend from home, and from all around the globe. Others can attend in person.
But running a hybrid event is quite a logistical feat. As well as all the in-person facilities, services, and staff, you also need to have a team managing all the online and technical aspects, filming the sessions, and so on. And this doesn’t always go off without a hitch.
Here at XTRF, connections are key. We’ve truly missed meeting people in person. So we’ve decided to opt for a fully in-person format for this year’s Summit 2022. We believe there’s no better way to nurture relationships with current and prospective clients, and with new and long-standing industry connections. It goes without saying we’ll be taking all necessary precautions to host a safe and successful conference packed with benefits for all attendees.