The Sigma Tau Delta 2021 Virtual Convention is one week away! As you begin to shift into convention mode and start to plan for next week take a look at the tips, tricks, and general best practices our Student Leaders have compiled to help you both attend and present at a virtual convention. And remember, even though the convention does not begin until Thursday, March 25, registration to attend the event will close on Monday, March 22, so make sure to register today!
Plan ahead on your physical locations—even if the weekend is a digital one! A virtual convention doesn’t demand travel from everyone, but certain events might require you to change your call location. Are you planning on attending a Q&A, but sitting amongst your not-so-quiet roommates? Are you dying to see a keynote speaker or attend an interesting roundtable, but calling in from a weak spot for your WiFi? Be mindful of where you need to be for certain events—the answer isn’t always your office! Make sure you find a spot where you can’t be easily interrupted or at least let roommates or family know you will be unavailable, as if you were attending an in-person convention. While you’re planning out your space, make sure the lighting is good and your background is neutral and professional.
Do a technology check the night before—make sure your software is up-to-date, your WiFi router isn’t acting funny, and your laptop or desktop is running optimally. There’s nothing worse than an automatic update and restart right when you’re supposed to be jumping on a call. If you have a device or headphones that need to be charged, charge them! Practice using the software beforehand—so when it comes time for your presentation, everything runs flawlessly. This goes for attendees and presenters alike. You may have to recruit a friend to help you check that your video or powerpoint goes smoothly on their end when sharing. Technology is not always reliable, and any extra checking beforehand can save yourself a headache on the big day! Also, plan to wear headphones to prevent audio feedback through your own laptop that creates an echo. Finally, make sure to familiarize yourself with the Cvent Convention Platform before next Thursday. Once you have registered, login to create your schedule and to check out exclusive interviews with our Featured Speakers, Karen Auvinen and Michael Branch.
Try your best to plan the day in a way that prioritizes the convention. The pandemic era has moved everything to an online format, it seems, and presented us with a lot of opportunities to multitask (who hasn’t made dinner while in class or a meeting?). But often these moments of multitasking can get in the way of us being as “in-the-moment” as we can be when it comes to virtual events and activities—try your best to keep yourself engaged and be an active participant with the rest of the virtual Sigma Tau Delta cohort! Of course, your mental and physical health come first always, so don’t get too caught up in this to the point where you’re sacrificing meals and water breaks just for the day’s itinerary. The event schedule has plenty of breaks to give you ample time for a bathroom and snack break and to get away from your screen for a few minutes to mitigate Zoom fatigue.
Along those lines, make sure to take care of yourself throughout the event! While virtual events may be more lenient on physical presence, schedules rarely are, and fitting in food breaks is important. Fuel your body—just as if you were attending an in-person convention, do NOT forget to eat a filling breakfast! Eat good, fueling meals and hydrate enough to keep your energy up, and to take care of your vocal cords on those long virtual calls. Warm water or tea mixed with honey works famously well.
Finally, it’s a small one that may seem silly, but a crucial one nonetheless—practice good video conference etiquette. Unless you’ve been asked otherwise, you should always keep yourself muted if you’re not speaking, and leave your video on to show that you’re engaged with what’s being presented—no one likes to talk to a sea of empty black boxes. I know these may be obvious, but you’d be surprised how often these unspoken roles of politeness in our new era of virtual events can be broken! Treat the Virtual Convention like an in-person event as much as possible. Wear professional or semi-professional clothes. Dressing as though you are at an in-person convention can help put you in the right mindset for a good day and makes you intrinsically more confident. So make sure your dress is appropriate, at least from the shoulders up. Throughout keep your camera on and stay engaged, and limit distractions. The more focus you put on the convention, the more you will get out of it! Finally, this should go without saying, but avoid looking down at your phone or away at other distractions when other people are presenting. It is just as noticeable when you do it on camera as it is in-person, and it is both distracting and disrespectful to the presenter.
Tips for Presenters (And Some for Attendees, Too)
Make yourself a day-of check-list. What devices, notes, and other materials will you need to have readily accessible? When do you need to check in with your roundtable group? Are you meeting to touch base before joining your Q&A convention session? (Some groups have indicated they plan to meet privately outside of the convention an hour or so before they need to report to their Q&A session to rewatch their pre-recorded presentation so that everything is fresh.) Make sure you know where to look for all presenter-related links in advance. And for everyone attending the convention, the Cvent convention platform itself allows you to create your own schedule of events you’d like to attend and groups them under an easy-to-use tab titled “My Schedule.” Be familiar with the schedule of events in advance. If you function better with analogue materials over digital, either print your schedule or handwrite it in advance. Add notes to your schedule prior to the day, especially if you have responsibilities outside of simply attending.
Once you have your day-of to-dos prepared, practice answering potential questions you may receive from attendees in the Q&A portion of your session. This will make you feel much more confident, but don’t worry about memorizing responses. Prepare some talking points, but it is most important simply to be familiar with your material. Having a natural flow makes attendees more comfortable. And if you do make a mistake while you’re talking, just laugh it off or continue speaking like nothing happened.
And, of course, while attending Roundtables, Featured Speakers, and networking is important, nothing will help to make you feel more connected with your fellow convention-goers and as though we are at a traditional face-to-face convention than attending the Student Leadership-hosted social events: Thursday evening’s SL Welcome and Social and Friday evening’s Literary Trivia night! Still questioning whether or not it is worth attending the Virtual Convention? Check out this blog post on Why You Should Attend Convention.
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