I believe virtual conferences are the wave of the future. I just returned from a 4-day genealogy conference in Salt Lake City. With the air travel, hotel expenses, restaurant meals, and conference admission, I spent more than $1,500 US. I also spent six days away from home: one day traveling to the event (in the cheapest airline coach seats I could find), four days at the conference, and one more day returning home. I am sure that attendees from overseas spent much more than I did.
Obviously, many people are not able to pay that much money or to take that many days out of their lives to attend such an event, regardless of their interest level. Luckily, technology can provide an alternative.
Holding events online is called a “virtual conference.” The presenters usually remain in their homes, using their own computers and video cameras to deliver their talks, videos, and slide shows. Attendees also typically remain in their homes or go to a nearby library or office and watch the conference events live on computers. Travel expenses and meals are close to zero. Even a conference syllabus is usually available online as a free electronic download, much cheaper than the $25 to $50 required to print each syllabus on paper.
In addition, the virtual conference organizers do not need to spend thousands of dollars for renting a modern conference center. The end result is lower costs all around. The attendees benefit again because admittance to virtual conferences is usually much, much cheaper than attending a conference in person.
Is an online virtual conference just as effective as attending a conference in person? I will suggest it is not. There are several elements missing in a virtual conference. I know I certainly miss the camaraderie of talking with other attendees in the hallways or in social situations before and after the daily conference events. Nonetheless, I will suggest that the virtual conferences do provide MOST of the benefits of an in-person conference and do so at a fraction of the price of traditional events.
Their are two financial considerations:
- The ever-increasing expenses of travel, hotels, and restaurant meals
- The ever-decreasing expenses of producing live virtual conferences
Here is a suggestion to future conference organizers: you might want to hold your next event in the online world.