Rethinking training and conferences in a virtual world

Rethinking training and conferences in a virtual world

Forced virtualisation in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdowns may turn out to be more than a temporary inconvenience.

By Al de Brito, Senior Consultant: Advisory Services, ContinuitySA

After a long six months, as South Africa moves into Level 1 lockdown, organisations reflect on the changes that were made and ponder their relevancy going into the future. One such area of change has been the digital transformation of training and conference events.

One might have been forgiven for thinking that such events would simply cease during lockdown. However, given the important role they play in business life and could not be placed on the backburner for an unspecified length of time. Thus, various companies and organisers took to digital platforms to continue these activities, with great success. And it’s become clear that moving training and conferences onto digital platforms has been more than a stopgap, generating real benefits.

Some such benefits of the virtual classroom and digital conference are:

  • Flexibility – Virtual training is much more flexible, allowing long courses to be broken down into smaller modules and spanned across many days. This allows attendees to manage their day-to-day work commitments better. It further makes the comprehension and retention of new information easier, as “information overload” can be avoided. As for virtual conferencing, agendas are provided before the event which allows attendees to schedule their time more effectively and only attend the relevant sessions they require. Virtual events save delegates in terms of travel time, and also allow for other work meetings to continue during breaks without having to travel.
  • Increased attendance – A key benefit to hosting virtual classrooms or events is that attendees have the indulgence of accessing these platforms from any device, any browser, anywhere in the world.
  • Interaction and professional networking – Although as humans, we all still have the need for physical connections and face-to-face, there are benefits to going virtual and leveraging digital technologies. Virtual platforms open the event up to a broader audience, allowing for collaboration / networking to take place on a larger scale. We see chat rooms being offered where attendees can interact with each other and the speakers and more sophisticated networking opportunities will likely develop, perhaps using algorithms to suggest potential connections.  Furthermore, real-time polls of the participants can be used to effectively drive engagement and bolster key points.
  • Industry visions and trends – Knowledge and skill no longer need to be brought to our doorstep. Before the pandemic, hybrid conferencing exhibited that having industry personalities at our doorstep is as easy as having them on a virtual session. With a paradigm shift, it has extended to a full-scale option during these times allowing to have the required speakers join in from anywhere in the world.
  • Longevity – Digital events can be recorded; and are therefore perpetually available for reference.

Doubtless, the techniques and technology used to facilitate online training and conferences will improve, and it seems likely both are here to stay even once in-person attendance becomes possible. The more we grow into the virtual world, it will become business as usual.

In conclusion, we can expect a growth in virtual events into the future. The evolution of digitalisation will continue to bring more capabilities to provide such services seamlessly. The more we explore the virtual terrain, the more options will be developed and instituted to make the experience exceptional.