Attending a conference virtually is not a new format for many industries. It will, however, continue to grow in popularity, especially over the course of the next year and beyond. With this in mind, I wanted to share my experience at last week’s Microsoft Developers Virtual Conference – and explore some pros and cons of Virtual Conferencing.   

1. No booth setup, printing or SWAG required. 

Pro: For those of us who have spent late evenings putting together pop-up displays, light racks and laying out our creative and useful SWAG in the most visually appealing arrangement possible – none of this is required.   

Con:  However, without physical swag, it is very difficult to differentiate yourself from other exhibitors, at first glance.  Also, as a conference attendee, sometimes it’s nice to get an extra stress ball, tide pen or USB  device to have at your desk for safe keeping.    

2. With everything virtual, content is just a click away. 

Pro:  No need for 500 brochures on hand to slip into SWAG bags.  If a conference attendee likes what they see, they can click straight through to your website, one pager, upcoming event registration or reach out directly to a company rep for a technical question.   

Con:  All booths look pretty much the same, so it is on the visitor to take an interest in your company.  You can’t use those bags of popcorn or the Gelato station at the corner of your 30X30 to bring in passersby, limiting your options for separating yourself from the pack.    

3. Networking 

Pro:  For those who are less extroverted, you may be more inclined to visit a booth, ask a question or simply browse a company’s resources during a virtual conference.  And with information so readily available through a few quick links, the conversation can quickly elevate and be more productive than in-person booth browsing.   

Con:  Clearly, there is a barrier to networking through your computer screen.  Many social cues and nuances are taken away and connections can be more difficult to make or improve upon.    

Final Takeaways 

Like everything in life, virtual conferences have their share of Upside and Down, but have a lot of potential to improve the overall user experience on both sides of the booth.   

One thing that can’t be debated is how cost effective these events are as compared to traditional exhibitions.  With no expenses or booth materials, giveaways, lead retrieval systems and all associated time and travel for attendees and exhibitor staff, virtual conferences definitely level the playing field from that point of view.    

Overall, I enjoyed my time at the Microsoft Developers Virtual Conference, and I look forward to the innovations that are sure to continue to enhance this type of digital event in the future.