Virtual Event Fatigue – How do you get value from virtual events?

By: Craig Prickett, Vice President of Multichannel Marketing, Ellie Mae

This new virtual world is intense. We spend many waking hours in front of a computer screen to get our work done, and what used to be a respite from the daily grind – the offsite business event or conference – has evolved into yet more computer screen time. I find it’s difficult to stay focused during the virtual onslaught and have found some techniques to keep my productivity up. Perhaps some of these will be helpful for you as well.

1. Know what you want to get out of it. I no longer just attend virtual events in the hopes that I might garner some random crucial tidbit of information I can apply to my job. Instead, I consider the area of focus, and ask myself – “What is the problem I’m looking to solve or the challenge I’m looking to overcome?” I’ve found that if I pursue a virtual event with intent to get something specific out of it, I am much more focused and more likely to feel good about spending my time at the virtual event.

2. Be choosy. An advantage of the virtual format is the on-demand playbacks of content, keynotes, breakout sessions and so forth. However, that is also the disadvantage – hundreds of hours of content! I plan on consuming 3 to 5 sessions. If I find myself interested and binge watching more than originally planned, I consider that to be a bonus.

3. Make a commitment. I hear from customers that the number one reason they didn’t consume virtual event content is that they were too busy or had other priorities. Quite frankly, it’s pretty easy to disconnect from a video and go back to work or deal with an interruption. To avoid the distractions, I treat my virtual event consumption just like a meeting. I schedule the time, make the commitment to be present, and hold myself accountable.  

4. Be an active participant in your learning. Unlike a physical conference, when attending a virtual event, I have a desk, and can take notes. I do this actively and strive to understand the point the presenters are trying to make. If I find nothing to take notes on, that shows I’m not learning anything, and I cut my losses (see tip #7).

5. Try multitasking (lite). Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I’m a big advocate of donning the headphones and roaming around the house. I get to listen to the talking heads while accomplishing some chores and staying in motion. I realize this conflicts with tip #4, but if I am listening for general knowledge and not specific action, my wandering attendance seems to work out.

6. Take advantage of the speed controls. I like to speed up the playback of on-demand webinars and sessions. I’m comfortable with a speed of 1.75 and I’ve found that it keeps my mind engaged as I must listen more carefully. Plus, there’s the added benefit of knocking out a 1-hour session in just a little over 30 minutes. I also prefer to increase speed playback for books I listen to. Call me weird.

7. Be forgiving, but not too forgiving. I cut my losses. If I discover too many technical difficulties, or the content is not resonating, I get out. My time is valuable, so I don’t feel guilty about it. I can spend my saved time finding other content that will help me achieve my overall objective of why I’m there in the first place.

8. Participate and engage. For topics that really interest me, I’ll post questions. This has a two-fold impact. First, I become vested in seeing if the presenter acknowledges my question, and second, if I get a response, well then, I have the beginnings of an idea to start pulling on. And, with technology, the response doesn’t need to be in real time. I can go see the answer on-demand when I have a moment to consider the response.    

9. Challenge others and encourage others to challenge you. Just because I cannot chat with someone while standing in the buffet line doesn’t mean I can’t gain a new perspective. I will invite others to challenge my observations and I try do the same for them (while always maintaining respect). In the virtual event setting, I know I must be more intentional and try harder to get the most out of the experience, and part of my objective is to also help others get the most out of their experience too.  

10) Wrap up with an action plan. This is perhaps the hardest thing to do. I strive to compile my notes. I look to identify one or two new ideas, write them down and seek to immediately put into practice. I try not to make the mistake of letting my time and energy dissolve at the end of the event.  

Keeping these guidelines in mind allow me to stay focused on getting the most out an online event or conference. Ultimately, it’s up to me to get the most value from my virtual event experience and put what I’ve learned into practice, despite the impact of virtual burnout.  


Start putting these tips in action

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