July 27, 2020

The Case for Virtual Conferences

CRSJ Summer Intern Angela Li

The 2020 ABA Virtual Annual Meeting will be taking place from July 29 to August 4, and for the first time, you can participate right from the comfort of your own home! While the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in countless virtual alternatives that often pale in comparison to in-person events, there are many unique benefits of virtual programming that cannot be found anywhere else. Here are some advantages of virtual conferences and meetings that may change the way you think about our new normal. 

The 2020 ABA Virtual Annual Meeting will take place from July 29 to August 4, 2020.

The 2020 ABA Virtual Annual Meeting will take place from July 29 to August 4, 2020.

The 2020 ABA Virtual Annual Meeting will be taking place from July 29 to August 4, and for the first time, you can participate right from the comfort of your own home! While the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in countless virtual alternatives that often pale in comparison to in-person events, there are many unique benefits of virtual programming that cannot be found anywhere else. Here are some advantages of virtual conferences and meetings that may change the way you think about our new normal. 

Cost Effectiveness

Some of the biggest expenditures when it comes to conferences and meetings are the costs associated with booking venues, hotels, meals, travel, event staff. On average, virtual events are 75% less expensive to execute than in-person events. Additionally, speakers also tend to charge less for virtual events, giving event organizers greater latitude in inviting coveted high-profile individuals. The 2020 ABA Virtual Annual Meeting will feature esteemed panelists such as the Democratic House Whip Congressman James Clyburn, former Solicitor General Kenneth Starr, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Powers, and many more. 

Greater Flexibility and Accessibility

A major advantage of all virtual events is the increased flexibility and accessibility that come with the online format. Travel time and hassle are all but eliminated, with flights or drives to the meeting destination replaced by a simple click of a mouse. Having your computer and other tools constantly at your fingertips during events can also be helpful for quickly and accurately noting down information — such as names, titles, statistics, and other tidbits — that may typically get lost or be hastily scrawled on a notepad during in-person meetings or seminars. Most virtual event platforms also offer a recording option, making it easy to post recorded events online for attendees to reference after the fact. These recordings could also be turned into a source of revenue for the organization for years to come. 

Virtual events also expand accessibility by attracting a broader audience. By taking away barriers like cost, travel, and space constraints that may have once prevented certain segments of the population from attending in-person events, virtual events allow for more participation than ever for people all over the world, from all walks of life. 

Reduced Carbon Footprint

Traditional in-person conferences are not the most environmentally friendly, from plane and car emissions to the vast amounts of paper and plastic used for pamphlets, program lists, and other conference paraphernalia. A roundtrip flight from New York to San Francisco produces 1.15 tons of carbon dioxide emissions and one conference attendee can generate up to three pounds of waste with just one meal! By staying home and engaging in online events, we can all play a part in saving energy, curtailing pollution, and reducing waste. 

A Wealth of Data 

Event organizers rely on attendee feedback and data to analyze the success of the event and implement future improvements. With virtual events, attendees can easily answer polls and surveys in real time, allowing organizers to take the pulse of the event and even fine-tune the conference experience on the fly. 

Virtual platforms also offer massive amounts of data that far outshine the information that can be gathered at traditional conferences. Data analytics on virtual events can provide important insights in a wide range of metrics, such as the total number of attendees, number of registrants for different programs, level of engagement in the form of views, clicks, playbacks, and more. This information is critical for organizers in identifying strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement for their events. 

Long-term Implications of Virtual Conferences and Meetings

By transitioning conferences and meetings to virtual settings, organizations can expect to save a hefty sum in event expenditures while reaping the many additional benefits of online programming. The pandemic has drastically altered the definition of normal for all of us, but the efficacy and rising popularity of virtual meetings could signify a change for the better that we would do well to carry forward in the future.