The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a global shift to video conferencing and virtual meets for nearly all business and professional needs. This presents researchers with a unique opportunity for significant international exposure, without having to worry about travel, accommodation, and other logistics and costs of in-person academic conferences.
You now have the chance to expand on your professional identity and network from the comfort of your own home. Often, virtual events can accommodate many more participants than physical events, and young and upcoming researchers and PhD students in the field may utilize the opportunity to get involved in a way that is affordable and convenient for them. This makes the virtual platform considerably more inclusive of the discipline than physical conferences, with the added benefit of having a much smaller carbon footprint!
This article outlines some tips to help you adapt to and make the most of virtually held academic conferences to continue to thrive professionally despite inevitable transitions in the ways we connect and work.
Before the conference
1. Choose a conference that is relevant to your field and decide how you would like to participate. It may seem insignificant but having a clear objective in mind can ensure you know why you are there. Do you want to present your research to increase visibility and reputation, or would you like to network with other professionals for potential collaborations? Deciding on an objective will help you divide your time most effectively on focused tasks.
2. Virtual conferences try to accommodate more time zones, and the format may include parallel poster presentation sessions, keynotes and plenaries, and synchronous and asynchronous activities. Take time beforehand to understand the program and format of the conference as it is adapted into the virtual mode. Then prioritize the sessions you want to attend live, and check if there is a recorded version available for your reference later on.
3. Identify and make a list of the speakers and attendees who you would like to connect with. If you familiarize yourself with their work beforehand, you improve your chances of making an impact when you get a chance to connect with them at the conference.
4. If any presentation, meeting, or conversation is of high priority for you, you can reach out to the presenters/participants beforehand via email, LinkedIn, or Twitter to introduce yourself and inform them that you will be attending the event. Don’t underestimate the merit in scheduling a short chat with them, especially if they are presenting and are likely to be caught up on the day of the event.
During the conference
5. Don’t assume that virtual conferences require passive participation from the attendees. To be able to actively participate, you must know the appropriate ways to interact at this conference. Are you free to raise your hand virtually for permission to speak during the sessions or should you use the chat box or Q&A option to send in your questions? Interacting actively not only gives you the advantage of engaging at a deeper level, but also ensures you are being noticed.
6. Take notes during sessions and review them periodically. Ask any questions that come up over social media, email, or using the conference platform to have meaningful conversations about the topics brought up during sessions.
7. You should also politely share your own work with attendees and speakers whenever you find a chance. You can obtain valuable insights, feedback, and opinions about your published or ongoing work in this way.
8. Attend the networking events too. It may feel odd at first to network and socialize virtually, but virtual conferences have come a long way and boast many exciting opportunities like break-out rooms for specialized discussions and other innovative ways to meet new people in your field.
9. Stay in touch with the people you interact with at the conference. If you find somebody’s work interesting, don’t hesitate to follow up with an email. You can ask them to share their presentation, a recent article they’ve published, or even send a follow up question. Use the full potential of the opportunities for collaborations, especially the vast networks available at virtual international conferences.
If you are presenting
10. It is always a good idea to connect with the organizers for a preparation session. This is a helpful practice run to get accustomed to the functions on the platform that you will be using. Even if you are familiar with the platform, it can be a good opportunity to discuss with the organizers and other presenters.
11. Make sure the gadgets and connections you will be using during the presentation are fully functional and suitably updated to meet the requirements of the organizer’s platform. Turn off notification alerts to avoid interruptions when you are presenting. Set a suitable virtual background when presenting and have a professional profile picture on display when connecting through virtual conferencing applications. Make sure your name is spelled the correct way you want it to appear on screen.
12. If you have an international audience, you may need to step outside of your comfort zone in how you express your ideas. Make sure you incorporate a twofold intercultural awareness – knowing your own viewpoint and acknowledging your cultural beliefs as well as considering those of other cultures. Then make an informed choice about how to convey your ideas across.
13. Have your content and layout organized for your poster/oral presentation. Ensure you are following all abstract submission and formatting guidelines including but not limited to word count, structure, size, and orientation.
14. Rehearsing your presentation and timing yourself before the final presentation can help you make sure to use your time effectively.
15. It can be helpful to brush up on broader concepts relating to your work so that you can have an effective Q&A session after your presentation. You want to leave a good impression on everyone who is interested in your work and wants to know more about it.
To fully reap the benefits of virtual conferencing, researchers must now adapt to an entirely new style of presenting their research and networking. Academic conferences are a tried and tested opportunity for invaluable professional development as a researcher. However, physical conferences are no longer the only option available. So, while it might be difficult to orient to virtual conferences without its professional setting, it has now become imperative that you brush up on your virtual conferencing etiquette and know your way around this platform so that you don’t miss out on opportunities for collaboration and career development during these altered times.
“15 Tips to prep you for academic conferences” by Fatima Qureshi, Author, Editage Insights, viewed on Nov 18, 2022,
“Make the Most of Virtual Conferences with These 5 Tips” by Rose de Fremery, Author, Oracle Customer Experience Blog, viewed on Nov 18, 2022