Tips for getting the most out of the virtual Ecology Across Borders 2021 Meeting

The corona pandemic continues to make international travelling difficult. Luckily, tools for virtual meetings have developed rapidly in order to facilitate the continued exchange of knowledge and ideas.

While virtual conferences will never be the same as in-person meetings, there are also many positive sides to meeting virtually. Here we list a few tips on how to get the most out of your virtual EAB meeting. To start, get yourself set up on the virtual attendee hub, which you can download as an app, or access via your web browser.

1.  Introduce yourself

At in-person meetings, you can more easily meet new people. You start chatting while waiting in line for coffee. You strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you after a talk. A colleague introduces you to someone they know over a beer at a mixer. At virtual conferences, you might have to work for it a little more. A first step before the conference is to add information to your profile – this makes it easier for other delegates to get to know you. You can find instructions here. Bonus: By filling out your profile, Whova will recommend people you might want to talk to. 

During the conference, reach out to presenters. Did you watch an interesting talk? Send the speaker an email and introduce yourself. Contact other attendees on twitter. Keep an eye on the #EAB2021 tag. Or to make it even easier for yourself, join the virtual attendee hub, where in person and virtual attendees can mingle. You can schedule meetings with other attendees, regardless of where they are, or send them direct messages without the faff of trying to find their email address online. You can also interact with others and ask questions during the three online poster hours. Not in the right time zone? You can also ask questions during other times and the poster presenters can check in on the chat at any point throughout the week. Try checking out one of the five speed networking sessions. 

Online Poster HoursSpeed Networking Sessions
Thursday 9 December
08:00-09:00
14:00-15:00
Monday 13 December
18:00-19:00
Sunday 12 December 
10:00 – 11:00 19:00 – 20:00 
Monday 13 December 
10:00 – 10:30 
Tuesday 14 December 
17:30 – 18:00 
Wednesday 15 December
08:00 – 08:30

2.  Don’t multitask

Just like any other virtual meeting, it is tempting to check your email while listening to a talk, or doing other work. Set your autoreply to “I am at a conference”, just like you probably would if you were actually physically at a conference.

3.  Plan ahead

Even though online conferences make it easier to see talks and you don’t have to choose which room you want to be in, you should still plan ahead. Read the program. You can familiarise yourself with the online meeting overview here. Figure out which talks are most interesting. Make a plan. You won’t be able to see everything. Use the virtual attendee hub to view the programme and add key sessions to your own personal schedule, to keep on top of everything. You can also use this to view on-demand presentations and join the Q & A. 

4. Make the most of live sessions – or not!

When planning, make sure you check which sessions are live, and which are on-demand. If you value interacting in real time and your time zone is compatible, plan your time around the live sessions, when you can interact more directly with speakers and other attendees. If you prefer to do things in your own time, and are less keen to ask questions in a more pressured environment, then plan around the on-demand sessions where you have more control. 

5.  Switch locations

Just because you’re attending a conference from your computer, doesn’t mean you have to attend the conference from your desk. Bring your laptop somewhere else: a coffee shop, the sofa. View talks on your TV. You can even just listen to a talk while going for a walk. 

6. Take a break

Remember to take breaks between talks too. Leave the screen for a few minutes. Get a cup of coffee. If you have colleagues also attending virtually, chat to them about the talk you just heard, rather than just immediately sitting back down. 

We hope you enjoy the conference and feel free to “say hi” to us too,

Julie Sheard and Elizabeth Preston

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