Tips for making the most of a virtual conference

Five days of online events, an average of 10-15 events each day…there are going to be times when New Voices New Rooms will feel less like a gathering and more like a marathon. Here are some tips for making the most out of a virtual event for yourself and your bookstore without exhausting yourself in the process.

Before the event:

  1. Treat the event like you would any real world event: put it in your calendar, block out the time so you can really be present, focused, and able to get the most out of the experience.
  2. Check your computer/phone/tablet set up. Make sure your internet connection is good and your devices are fully charged. Check your earphones and microphone and your computer’s sound settings. Nothing is more distracting than being unable to hear or be heard.
  3. Be comfortable with the platform. NVNR events take place on Zoom. If you haven’t used Zoom, ask your Regional Association for help or watch one of Zoom’s handy videos for a quick tour of what to expect.
  4. Consider going with a group of friends. Even if you aren’t all in the same building (or state) you can agree to “meet” at an event and connect via a twitter stream or slack channel to chat with each other. Sharing your experience will make it more fun and memorable.
  5. Like a real-world conference come prepared. Have some concrete goals and pursue them: sign one new product line? Introduce yourself to that sales rep you’ve wanted to meet? Connect with an author who might come to the store.  Be sure to have digital copies of your store’s press kit ready to send to new suppliers.

At the meeting:

  1. Wear pants. No, really. Yes, if you are logging in from home, you can attend NVNR in your pajamas. But chances are, you’ll be running into other colleagues online, along with your account reps, media people, and authors you want to come to your store.  Dress for the occasion. Also, find yourself a comfortable place to sit with your computer for the event. You wear comfortable shoes to an in person conference when you know you will be on your feet for a long time. Give the same consideration to your back and your backside!
  2. Make sure when you log on to an event that your handle shows your name and your bookstore, at a minimum. Include a profile picture if you have the option. Your avatar is the first thing your fellow conference goers will see about you, and it is what they will see the most often. Don’t leave them thinking your name is “Mom’s iPad.” Make sure that your camera is pointing where you want it to be, and keep yourself muted unless you are speaking.
  3. Minimize distractions. Turn off all those automatic notifications your computer keeps sending you. Ask your family to stay out of the room while you are in your meeting. Avoid the temptation to multitask or try to work while you are attending. You won’t be as engaged, and you will miss opportunities to make connections with other attendees.
  4. Take advantage of every networking opportunity you can: live chats, post-event hang outs, break-out-room meetings. Don’t participate passively, reach out. If someone makes a comment you like, respond. You are creating connections that will evolve into real-world relationships.
  5. Have fun! New Voices New Rooms is a virtual event because right now we can’t meet in person. It’s not the same, but it is a whole new kind of experience that we hope will be rewarding. Give yourself the time and the patience to explore. Don’t fret the occasional slow connection or occasional mic issues that are bound to happen at some point over the week’s events. Enjoy the people you meet and the presenters you would never meet if you were in a hotel conference room.

After the meeting:

  1. Make a point of watching some of the events you missed. In fact, schedule the time to do so in your calendar. Everything is recorded so unlike a real world event you can be in two places at once.
  2. Check the Edelweiss listings for books that you are especially excited about, and adjust your orders and purchasing plans accordingly.
  3. Share your experiences with your fellow booksellers, even if they didn’t attend. Do a post-event briefing with staff to discuss implementing what you’ve learned as soon as possible, while the ideas are still fresh in your mind.
  4. Share info about your favorite authors and speakers on your social media. Authors and publishers will thank you for the early buzz. Use the #NVNR hashtag
  5. Follow up on some of the people you “met” at the show. Follow their social media accounts and drop them a quick post so they can easily follow you back. Nurture those budding relationships.
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