Someone asked me my thoughts on virtual conferences vis a vis typical conferences we’ve always had before March of this year. They were doing an article for a publication. I thought I’d share my thoughts with you.

Those of you that know me know that I am a people person. I enjoy social interaction and have found legal technology and publishing conferences over the last twenty-five years to be fun, inspiring and rewarding.

But I’m very pro virtual conferences. There’s no question that virtual conferences can bring energy, excitement and learning opportunities on the topic and cause of conference and the hosting associations.

Virtual conferences also democratize conferences – and this is big, if your focus is giving.

Most top shelf live conferences are limited to an exclusive group of people who can afford the cost of registration, airfare, hotel rooms, and in some cases, childcare. Assuming a person can personally cover all those – and most cannot, they will attend few conferences – maybe one a year.

Virtual conferences democratize the process. Younger professionals can learn and gain passion about their work from some of the better people in their field. They can easily connect with these folks, follow them and be mentored by them via social media.

I was told by a good younger lawyer a month ago that they were totally jazzed after attending day one of RocketMatter and Larry Port’s two day virtual conference.

What did he like most? He could be there. He told me he’d never get the chance to learn from the quality of speakers and companies Larry had at his conference — attended by over five hundred legal professionals. He couldn’t have afforded to go.

This lawyer shared that virtual conferences were going to enable him to attend more top shelf conferences. How cool is that.

He got me so fired up, I attended the second day. I enjoyed it, left jazzed and impressed by how well the conference was run — and saw the opportunities for virtual conferences in the days ahead.

Might be a better return for companies exhibiting too as the set up for companies talking to attendees at this virtual conference was pretty slick.

Personally, I would go to more conferences if more were virtual.

I’d also expand the topics and industries. I go to legal industry related conferences because that’s where my customers are. But I’d probably better serve my customers by attending publishing, digital media, and tech conferences outside legal. I’d learn more and bring back more ideas for products and solutions of value to my customers.

I would also meet people I would not have met otherwise met through virtual conferences – it’s the sheer number of attendees and conferences I would be attending.

For associations and conference hosts, it’s also time to become realistic.

There will be no large conferences this year and it’s very possible it will be the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022 before we have ever large conferences.

Dr. Anthony Fauci testified this morning it will be a year or two before we have a vaccine for the virus. I don’t see large conferences without it.

Finally, good products for conducting virtual conferences will be created. Necessity and opportunity is the mother of invention in technology.

And these solutions will not be built by people who have run conferences of the past, they’ll be developed by innovative people without blinders on. I am real optimistic we’ll see some great stuff on virtual conference solutions.