August 2021 Leader Letter

Online Convention Focal Tips

Use some of your leadership skills to get the most out of a virtual event.

By Renée Covino

Attending an online event, like the Toastmasters International 2021 Virtual Convention, typically means an enticing location has been replaced by a very comfortable one: home sweet home. As a disciplined leader, you likely possess the mental skills needed to transport yourself (and possibly your teammates) to an amazing convention experience, just as you would in person. Here are six ways to increase your focus—and maximize the benefits of a virtual convention to you as a leader:

1. Study the tool, practice the platform.

Leaders get to know their environment before presenting or speaking. The same holds true for learning or listening. Your online conference will be supported by a tool or platform you probably have not used before. Take some time the week, day, or hour before the conference to check out the event lobby/home page and become familiar with the features and tabs. Find out how you will access sessions and events. Watch any available videos and read any tutorials on getting the most out of the conference. Share this knowledge with colleagues and/or invite them to join you.

2. Set schedule goals.

Good leaders are good time managers. Plan out your time, just as you would if you were in person at the event. Decide which sessions/meetings/networking opportunities you want to attend, check out if they are live and/or available any time, and map out your day(s) at the conference. While in attendance, put your phone on silent mode, or better yet, shut it off. Mark yourself out on your work calendar and do not check email. This is your time to learn, have fun, and fully engage in the convention experience.

3. Watch full-screen; be in the moment.

Leaders learn the benefits of putting their full attention on one task at a time. To truly focus and feel like you are “at” the conference, watch all events full-screen—on the largest screen you have available—and don’t click away to watch anything else. You can take notes on a separate device—a laptop, tablet, or even on a pad of paper.

4. Connect everywhere you can.

Leaders lead by connecting first. Take advantage of any connecting/networking events that the virtual conference makes available. Sign up to meet/hear speakers talk live. Plan to attend breakout sessions and happy hours. Enter contests. Great networking is still possible, even at a distance. Consider attending virtually with colleagues or connect with them after sessions to discuss and trade notes. This will raise the experience level for everyone.

5. Factor in breaks.

Stress management is a must for any good leader. If you plan on attending a full-day or multiple-day conference, you must allow yourself breaks to avoid fatigue and burnout. Pre-plan meals ahead of time and have them ready to go. Include coffee breaks and mid-day breaks in your menu. Include healthy items like fruit, nuts, water, etc. to keep your energy levels high. Don’t forget to stretch and take a short walk, when needed. Try to mimic the activity of an in-person convention to give yourself an exceptional virtual experience.

6. Look for leadership-specific education.

Great leaders continually hone their leadership skills. Many conferences break out education sessions by tracks—seek out ones that are geared to leaders. At the 2021 Virtual Convention, the Leadership/Professional Development track offers four inspirational sessions for leaders: How Toastmasters Can Advance Your Career, Following a Leader is Voluntary, Connecting, Creating, and Collaborating All Start With Communication, and Just Say It! The Secret to Giving Feedback.

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