When gathering face-to-face with hundreds of people isn’t advisable, does professional learning and networking need to wait, too? Not at all. You just take the face-to-face out of it.
What Are Virtual Events?
In an age where people regularly go online to learn everything from how to whistle through their fingers to how to unclog a sink (for 48 more skills, see here), creating and participating in an entire learning event “virtually” is a natural evolution. In a virtual event, people experience what happens online rather than gathering in-person.
Unlike in-person events, virtual ones aren’t restricted to a single location. A remote attendee can join and participate from anywhere in the world, as long as he or she has access to the internet. People attend virtual sessions from the comfort of their own homes, businesses, coffee shops, favorite park benches…you get the idea.
This is a major benefit of virtual versus in-person events – reaching a wider audience than possible when throwing a face-to-face gathering in a specific city. With those events, not everybody can attend due to the expense and effort of travel. And because event planners don’t have the venue and catering costs of an in-person event, savings can be passed on to virtual attendees in the form of lower or non-existent registration fees – a second major benefit.
Virtual events also involve multiple sessions – in other words, they are not just a single presentation via video or webinar. While webinars are valuable in providing attendees with an informative session, virtual events offer them flexibility with agendas that span across time. Attendees can curate their own experiences and determine which sessions most interest them.
Virtual events include keynote presentations, training and education workshops, discussion areas, social networking opportunities, and exhibit areas for vendors. In other words, they are interactive. Keynote addresses may involve instant polls, the training and education sessions usually have Q&As, and online chat facilitates attendees connecting with one another during and in-between sessions. These same interactive, community features make it possible for attendees to have conversations with speakers and sponsors as part of the greater event experience. In fact, virtual events often include designated networking breaks to let you take a breather between longer sessions and chat with fellow customers.
While there’s no need to be fluent in the language of virtual event organizers, here are some other terms it can’t hurt to know:
- Live events (synchronous) – While still transmitted online, live events are scheduled for a certain day and time and occur in real time; in other words, they’re not recorded and replayed but involve people interacting right as the event is occurring.
- On-demand (asynchronous) – These events can be accessed upon request anywhere, anytime; they are pre-recorded. A previously “live event” can be recorded and archived for additional viewing on-demand.
- Hybrid event – An event that combines elements of both in-person and virtual content, including content that takes place in real time (synchronously) and on-demand (asynchronously).
- Virtual trade shows – An internet-based way of replicating the experience of a trade show by creating a visual representation to click through. Attendees navigate among virtual booths in an exhibit hall and can view or hear live or on-demand content. Communication with booth representatives is usually done with text-based chat.
- Mobile event app – Whether on a smartphone or in a web browser, an event app connects attendees and provides a messaging system. People can create a profile and “meet” each other virtually to chat, ask questions, and schedule one-on-one appointments. This includes chat and meetings with exhibitors and sponsors. Here’s a fun fact from one organizer’s post-event data: An indecisive attendee changed his mobile app profile 52 times!
Pharmacists Going Virtual
So, who in the pharmacy world has chosen the virtual route for events during this time of restricted travel? Below are just a few examples of pharmacy organizations that have decided to stay connected virtually:
- The Louisiana Pharmacists Association is “reimagining” their live events for 2020 as virtual experiences.
- The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) will host a series of free Virtual Pharmacy School Fairs where participants can learn more about Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree programs and masters and Ph.D. programs in the pharmacy sciences. Attendees can chat online with pharmacy schools nationwide to learn more about pharmacy education and careers.
- The AACP is also moving its annual meeting, originally scheduled for Long Beach, CA, to a virtual format.
- Health Connect Partners (HCP)’s Hospital Pharmacy Conference for spring is virtual. This interactive gathering will deliver both presentations and opportunities for collaboration and networking. Meeting programming will be available online in July, either broadcast live to attendees or available as a pre-recorded session to view on-demand. All sessions will be recorded and be available to view for up to a year post-conference.
- The Texas Pharmacy Association is going virtual this summer. Tentative plans would allow participants to receive about 17 hours of continuing education, including sessions required to maintain state licensure. Plans are also underway to conduct the House of Delegates meeting via videoconference, as well as a virtual exhibit hall and online awards ceremony, among other events.
QS/1 has also transformed its first joint customer conference with Integra into a virtual experience! The iQ Virtual Series is designed to provide valuable, flexible interaction – industry education, product training, continuing education credits, and opportunities for networking. Other interactive inclusions are a full exhibit hall, live customer panels, interactive café, and giveaways. Each iQ Virtual Series occurs on Live Wednesdays over a three-week period, so customers get short, targeted learning opportunities while minimizing time away from running their pharmacy.
As these examples show, the learning and connecting that pharmacy professionals thrive on, just like the invaluable services they provide to patients, haven’t stopped. They are just being delivered in another way.