With so many events, conferences and activities, we all find ourselves in the position of wishing we could attend something but being unable to do so. This year I found myself in that exact position. One of the top conferences for Public Relations professors was taking place (AEJMC), giving a prime opportunity to find out about the latest trends and research while also catching up with old friends and meeting new colleagues. Instead of just being disappointed about missing out on the beauty of attending in person, I explored ways to connect with my conference colleagues from several hundred miles away. Here’s some strategies that have really paid off.
1) Plan a schedule: I usually sit down and plan a conference schedule before arriving, knowing which sessions to attend or speakers to make sure not to miss. I did the same thing this year. I wanted to make sure I knew who I should send a note to, which colleagues I might follow up with for slideshares on their presentations, and the general timing of when activities might be happening. This allowed me to be in the flow of the conference, knowing what kinds of activities were coming up next – this is really helpful for point two!
2) Use social media: Most conferences these days have a dedicated hashtag, providing the perfect opportunity to connect in to current conversations. You can track what’s happening in presentations, what speakers are saying and how your colleagues are reacting. Make sure you know the conference hashtag and any individual group hashtags that may cue you in to specific niche conversations. Then, jump on and interact.
3) Contribute: While we can often feel like being unable to attend makes it so we can’t contribute to the conference, today’s technology really gives many more options. You may be able to share resources with people asking questions on social media. Sometimes awesome colleagues (Thanks Karen Freberg and Geah Pressgrove) will partner with you and take the lead on presentations, giving you the chance to still be an active contributor. Ultimately, remember that communities are better when everyone joins in!
While it can be tempting to write off participating in an event you’re unable to attend live, if it is truly a significant opportunity to you, there are plenty of ways to stay involved!