Top 10 Ways to Capitalize on Virtual Legal Conferences
The Filevine Catalyst Summit is coming August 18th. Here’s how to make it—and other virtual events—a launchpad for your future.
Psychologists have found that our reactions to emergencies go far beyond the “fight or flight” response. When we’re under stress, we also have an increased desire to connect with others. They call this the “tend and befriend” response.
In the middle of a crisis that demands physical distance, we’ve seen ample evidence of tending and befriending. But legal professionals are still craving connection with others more than ever before.
That’s what makes this a crucial time to expand your professional social circle. But how can you do that when your social events are canceled and you’re working remotely?
Virtual legal conferences hold the key.
Virtual events are accessible, easy on the pocketbook, and good for the environment—but they require some extra attention. You can’t just sign up for a conference and expect to leave with new friends and brilliant ideas.
Here are 10 tips to ensure you take full advantage of upcoming virtual events and remote legal conferences.
1. Find the Right Conferences for You
Not all virtual legal conferences are equally deserving of your attention. Make sure conference hosts understand the possibilities and limitations of the virtual format.
You can’t adapt a play into a movie just by filming the stage. In the same way: you can’t make a conference remote just by live-streaming it. Seek out the conferences which will be able to deliver online engagement and small-group networking.
2. Clear Your Calendar
When you get on a plane and travel somewhere new, it’s easier to leave your appointments behind and focus on the presentation in front of you. But when you’re attending a virtual conference, there’s always a temptation to wedge in a little bit of light research or memo drafting as you listen.
Avoid the temptation to multitask. When you try to do two intellectual tasks simultaneously, you’ll do them both badly.
If you want to actually learn from the conference, block out your calendar, mute your phone, and give it your full attention. Take notes on a notepad if it helps you focus. If that’s absolutely not possible for you, participate in another activity that doesn’t divert your mental concentration, like knitting or folding laundry.
If a conference is really so lackluster that it doesn’t deserve your attention, it’s best to turn it off and focus on something that does.
3. Learn the Tech Beforehand
You don’t want to be that person who accidentally unmutes themself at the wrong time or sends a public chat that was meant to be private — and you don’t want to take so long configuring the teleconference platform that you miss part of the session.
The conference will explain beforehand what platform they’re using. If it’s one that’s new to you, take a little time before the conference starts to make sure you understand it.
4. Come With Questions
At conferences like Filevine’s Catalyst Summit, you’ll have experts at the ready, interested in sharing their experiences and ideas. Come prepared with specific questions about problems you’re facing in your practice or new techniques you’d like to try.
Often the conference platform will allow for Q&A sessions or chat features. Asking thoughtful questions can not only give you useful answers, it can also catch the attention of presenters and audience members, and lead to networking opportunities.
5. Look the Part
Make sure you look professional and presentable. Enable your own video whenever possible so others can see you. This increases the possibilities for networking, or for at least sticking in the minds of others.
In addition, dressing professionally will help you focus on the subject. Scientists call this phenomenon “Enclothed Cognition.” Clothes with symbolic value can actually improve our ability to focus and tap into higher-order thinking.
6. Find New Mentors
Listen for the voices that impress you, and reach out to them.
When experts present at an event without a live audience, they can feel a little bit like they’re talking into the void. No matter how big of a name they are, when someone reaches out to them afterward with appreciation, it will feel wonderful.
Often, presenters will share their email or social media handles at the beginning or end of their presentation. Write those down and follow up with them. Be sure to include a specific detail from their presentation that stood out to you, to communicate that you gave them your full attention.
Also, reach out to others in the audience who asked interesting questions or chimed in with a thoughtful addition on chat.
7. Hashtag It
You can also network on Twitter and other social media sites by following the event’s hashtags and posting it yourself. During on-site conferences, some of my favorite interactions are the ones that happen by accident. After a session, I bump into someone in the hallway and we strike up a conversation.
I find that following social media hashtags is a good way to mimic this experience virtually.
8. Be Heard
Virtual Events often include features that allow you to engage more deeply with the discussion. These can include ‘raise your hand’ buttons, allowing the host to recognize you for a question or comment, Q&As, and online chat.
Not only will these keep you and others more engaged in the experience, but they’re also each key networking tools, allowing you to stand out to the presenter and others in the audience.
9. Avoid FOMO
Virtual legal conferences remind me of that Harry Potter movie where Hermoine had the ‘time-turner,’ allowing her to attend classes that occur simultaneously. With in-person conferences, you often have to choose between competing break-out sessions. But with a virtual event, sessions are often recorded and shared. That means you can catch even more of the conference, and reach out to presenters who impressed you, even if you didn’t see them in real-time.
10: Make It a Group Effort
Maybe you don’t typically fly your staff out to conferences. But with a virtual conference, you can more easily include the whole office. Virtual conferences democratize the process of continuing education.
This is particularly valuable with legal technology conferences. Often the best ideas about implementing new technology and tools in an office come from non-lawyer staff. Allow them the kind of educational environment that will better spur creative thinking, and your entire office will reap the rewards.
Even if you’re not in the same room together, set up some channels to share your thoughts with each other in real-time. You can talk about how the information presented might be relevant to problems you’re facing, and emphasize ideas that might work for you. This will get creative gears working, and also keep members more focused and motivated.
You could also do this with colleagues from other firms or professional organizations who are attending the same virtual event.
Come August 18th, we’ll be using all 10 of these techniques at Filevine’s first-ever Catalyst Summit. We hope you join us for networking, problem-solving, and engaging with the conversations that will help shape the future of the legal profession.