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With many conferences, seminars, courses, and other events being moved online due to travel and social distancing restrictions, webinars and other online presentations are becoming the norm. With this, there comes a whole new set of challenges as we struggle to incorporate them into our already jumbled and chaotic lives. Check out some quick tips below to help tour & experience operators get the most out of online events.

Conferences vs Courses vs Workshops vs Webinars

Online events are not all created equally, and it’s important to understand the differences in order to have clear expectations of what to expect and what you stand to gain. In a general sense a webinar includes a speaker who does a presentation, with a question period at the end. A workshop may include spilling off into smaller groups to carry out tasks. And a conference could be made up of both individual presentations as well as panels, workshops, networking. A webinar (web seminar) could be a lecture, workshop, or presentation. A course is a specific training, and can be either a single event or a series. In some instances, the terms are used interchangeably so do a bit of further investigating into what the event actually entails.

Do Your Research

With so many events to choose from, do your research to find the ones which have the most value for your goals and return on investment for your time and/or money. Some online events target specific skills, others are regional, some focus on tools (such as booking softwares), others bring different types of people and companies together. Whether it’s a specific area of your business or knowledge you’re trying to grow, a new demographic you want to connect with, or a particular speaker that interests you, avoid online event burnout by attending the right ones for you rather than every single one which is available.

Set Your Goals 

If you’re attending an online event then it’s most likely that you’re hoping to either improve your business, your networks, or even grow personally and enhance your skills. It’s important to define your desired outcome ahead of time. In line with doing your research of what events to attend you can potentially narrow it down even further to help you decide which specific parts the event would be most relevant to attend live. This way you can then also critically apply any new knowledge to your personal situation and put yourself in a better position to walk away with a detailed action plan.

Dedicated Time

Make sure that you have no calendar clashes, or that you won’t have to jump offline as soon as the allotted time is up. As with most things, it’s extremely common for webinars and other online events to run over on time. Ensure that you’ll be able to stay engaged throughout by delegating someone else to answer the office phone, and anticipating any other interruptions. If you’re attending an online conference or multi-day course and you have limited availability, prioritize and make the best use of your time in line with your goals by carefully selecting which presentations, workshops, or panels you’ll attend.

Prepare Questions

If you’re attending a webinar or other event hosted by an industry expert, prepare a set of questions beforehand that you’d like the presenter to answer during the presentation. If your question isn’t answered organically then utilize the (usual) Q&A session at the end. Make sure you add to your list throughout the session. If you’re not able to get your questions answered, then don’t be shy to follow up with the host. It’s likely that they’ll be flattered by your interest and this may even allow you to build deeper connections. If you are attending a networking event then ensure that you know what information you want to garner from your new contacts in order to qualify or disqualify them as a valid lead or partner.

Remove Distractions

As challenging as it may be, keep your phone out of reach and set it to silent mode. It can be extremely difficult to maintain focus for up to one hour at a time (I struggle with 10 mins) so removing any temptation to fidget or check your emails will certainly help. Maximize your browser window so you can watch in full screen and turn off your computer notifications. If you can, find a quiet place with a strong, stable internet connection where there’s no one else around to bother you. Cafes are the worst for background noise, distractions, and inconsistent internet.

Get Comfortable

Prep your tea or coffee, get yourself a snack, and nip to the loo ahead of time so you’re able to stay present and focused. Try logging in 5 minutes ahead of time to ensure the relevant software is installed/functioning and that your audio (both input and output) is working. Have a pen and paper handy for the next part…

Take Notes

If you’re attending a webinar then it’s likely that the host will send out the presentation deck after the session, but don’t let that stop you from taking notes. Note-taking keeps you engaged and focused on the session, as well as giving you insights that you wouldn’t otherwise have from the uniform slide deck by identifying the points that stood out or are particularly relevant for you. If you’re joining with a friend or colleague, then it’s good to share your notes with someone else after the call and find out the main points that they personally took away from it.

Create An Action Plan

After attending the online event, you should now have some of the tools you need to reach, or get closer to, your goals. It could be that you already have a broader action plan and you can now tick off the webinar, and add or tweak your next steps. If you haven’t created one yet, then an action plan reaffirms your overall goal, and lays out the measurable steps you need to put in place to achieve it. These should be broken down into smaller specific tasks and it should be realistic for you to complete them within the timeframe you set yourself. It’s important that you’re motivated to achieve these goals and willing to complete the steps, otherwise, it’s difficult to manage your own personal contract. Stay accountable with yourself!

Catch up on the Parts You Couldn’t Watch Live

A great thing about online events, in particular for larger conferences is that while you can’t attend all the simultaneous events live, you can catch up on them afterward. This means you can maximize what you get out of the event and broaden the scope of topics you can learn about. By watching the recorded broadcasts you’ll have additional material to continue your education in the coming weeks and months.

Follow Up

Follow up with any connections that you make in a timely manner. If you’re attending an online networking event, it’s likely that they’ve made many connections themselves throughout the course. Remind them of who you are and why you’re connecting and arrange your next meeting where possible.

Online events can be a great tool for tour and activity operators to learn and connect with others. But it’s important to make a plan and follow through on it to make it worthwhile. The time and effort you put into the experience have the potential to be incredibly rewarding, so do your research, register, and attend!

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