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Things to Consider When Attending a Virtual Conference

 
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Conference season is upon us - with the BA (Business Analyst) “biggie” occurring this week - Building Business Capability conference (BBC)! BBC is not only livestreaming from October 19th to 23rd, but all sessions are also being recorded for you to enjoy later. As an added bonus, there are post BBC sessions next week (October 29th and November 5th). Plus, in the true spirit of the IIBA community, all BBC attendees should plan to join IIBA’s Trivial Bowl reception on Thursday, October 22 at 5:40 pm (PDT) – I hear that GREAT prizes will be awarded.

 

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With BBC livestreaming this week, and many virtual events from our local Chapters already behind us, I can’t escape the topic of what a good virtual event means. In this blog, I will use a recent event from IIBA Austin I attended as an example of how local IIBA Chapters are executing some extraordinary events and talk a little about some of the benefits of the ongoing BBC 2020.  

Since most of your professional development this year is virtual AND may be on a limited budget (personal or corporate expensed), you may find yourself (like me) having to re-evaluate how you select development events. For me, this year has meant mostly focusing on low cost or free events such as Chapter meetings, webinars, etc. For those of you that feel you are (sadly) unable to attend larger virtual conferences due to budget constraints, I recommend looking at the speaker line-up first before ruling out any paid event. Afterall, your professional development is extremely important, and sometimes it means prioritizing yourself and your professional future. Recently, a friend recommended ATX BADD (Business Analysis Development Day). Looking at the line-up, I registered (personally investing the registration fee), and I must say that I could not have been happier with the results. I learned so much more than I anticipated…. I learned what I NEEDED as an attendee at a virtual conference.


Diversity of Quality Speakers

Paramount to the event is the diversity of speakers. After all, this was the carrot that got me to register for ATX BADD in the first place. Like BBC, there were speakers from across the globe – ones that I wouldn’t probably have seen together at an onsite regional conference. If you are paying for an event, make sure that the speaker line-up is worth the price of admission!

My approach to any conference is….what can I apply to me/my practice; what can I share with my firm’s community of practice; and what can I give back to my local IIBA Chapter and organization? I had a TON of notes and shareable tools only half-way through the day. This is what happens when the event has excellent speakers with practical experience.


Timing

Historically, when I have attended conferences, they are typically mid-week. In my onsite world, no day of the week is “good” – so I make the best of my mid-week absence. In my virtual world, Fridays are supreme. Everyone seems to spend their hoarded vacation time on long weekends. So, my Fridays are fairly open. ATX BADD was on a Friday. It was EASY to be engrossed in my own professional development without a virtual interruption.

Time of day also matters. For anyone considering a half-day event, for me, mornings are HORRIBLE; all of my overnight production issues, regular meetings, etc. occur in the morning. So, for a half-day event – go for the afternoon. Also, pay attention to the time zone – if the conference is hosted in a different time zone, then it may fit better in your schedule. For example, BBC is in Pacific time – granting an additional two or three hours of preparation for those of us in the U.S. Eastern and Central time zones.

If timing in general is a concern for you, look for conferences with RECORDED sessions. As mentioned, BBC is recording its sessions; and ATX BADD did the same thing. Attendees were able to watch speakers they missed for weeks following the event.

Familiar Experience

Both ATX BADD and BBC leveraged a platform that created an environment for the attendee that emulates the conference formats we all know and love. For example, the ATX BADD platform offered a “lobby,” from which I could easily navigate to sessions, breakouts, exhibitors’ hall, etc. It was like being in the main hall at any conference.

For the sessions, again like BBC, ATX BADD offered simultaneous speaker tracks. If you don’t like your current speaker (which wasn’t ever the case), then I could jump into another session – keeping me in the event and without losing me to a completely different distraction. And, when the speakers weren’t in their own sessions, they attended other sessions – actively engaging in the chat. It was like getting to spend all day with your heroes.

Good virtual conferences also provide adequately timed breaks between sessions. ATX BADD allowed

time for networking with IIBA leaders as well as bio breaks, quick email checks, and the ever important

SNACKS. (Check out Jared Gorai’s blog post on networking - 4 Tips For Virtual Networking At Your Next Online Conference.)

The beginning and end of the day were bookended by casual group sessions. These were video and chat sessions, where attendees and speakers alike would pop in to begin/end their conference day. At first, I was confused by the value of these. However, upon reflection, I realized they gave me the adequate ramp up and ramp down that I needed for this event. In fact, I loved them so much that I need to figure out how to manufacture them in my future physical conference attendance – sorry forced networking at breakfast and happy hour doesn’t do it for me.

Keep in mind these are the thoughts of one conference attendee. There are many others out there. In fact, check out Judy Alter’s blog post Why I Attend the Building Business Capability Conference. As you attend your next virtual conference, keep in mind what makes YOU comfortable and keeps you engaged. I look forward to your reflections!

After reading this, if you are inspired to attend BBC for yourself, you can still register for conference sessions – this includes the recorded sessions and next week’s post BBC sessions. Get your BBC Passport, and start using the conference app to check out the agenda, plan your days, start networking with peers, exhibitors, sponsors, and speakers and much more! 

Thank you to the IIBA Austin Chapter for putting on a great event. If you want to learn more about the IIBA Austin Chapter, please visit its website: austin.iiba.org.

If you found this blog interesting, check out the IIBA Atlanta’s Non-Profit Volunteer Program blog to learn about what another local IIBA Chapter is doing and how you can get involved in your community.

 

 


 

About the Author:  
Koryn Anderson

Koryn Anderson enjoyed a couple of careers before finding her ultimate one. She has been a business analyst for more than 10 years and is currently a Lead Business Analyst at Baird. She is passionate about the BA discipline, has her CBAP® certification, is Past President of the Southeast Wisconsin Chapter, and is the current Communications Director for the Global Chapter Council.