Change My Mind: Online Conferences Are The Worst

So I have a confession – I dislike online conferences.

That might be surprising since I used to work for the company that ran iMoot. I was even the Keynote Speaker for Mini iMoot16. Some of my Moodle friends I only know virtually and met at these online virtual conferences.

But they have always felt cold to me. If you’ve met me at moots and conferences in the past, it’s probably because we had a chat at the coffee bar, or at the social. You might even have an impression of me that allI want to do is go out and party because I’m always asking “where’s the after party?”

I freely admit this. Some people might even think it’s unprofessional, I’ve heard that before. It’s rubbish. I go to conferences to network – to meet people and to make genuine relationships. We can do it over whiskey, we can do it over coffee, we can do it over a trip to the museum, I’m probably not going to do it over an early morning workout, but we can do it over a nice walk. In fact, if you really want to engage with me and do something I want, suggest we go on a photo safari after the conference. I bet I brought my camera!

The point is one of the reasons that I go to conferences is to meet people, make genuine connections and learn a little about them professionally and personally.

I have difficulty doing this at a virtual conference. There’s no hallway time, no in-between-the-sessions time to just chat. Some conferences open a “social room”, but most people aren’t online between the sessions. So the conferences feel very empty to me.

However, welcome to 2020. Who knows what the post-COVID conference world will look like? With the MoodleMoot this year going online, along with most other education conferences, my preferences for face-to-face conferences are irrelevant.

So change my mind! Share your pro-online conference arguments. Or do you agree with me? Let me know.

Do you have a suggestion for getting that genuine connection virtually? Here’s a thought, I wasn’t able to make the June Zoom, but I’ll try to make the next one. Maybe we can have a chat over virtual coffee.

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Scott Huntley

Kenneth "Scott" Huntley is an Instructional Designer with Transport for NSW and WordPress instructor with The Parramatta College. Scott is a Canadian (Nova Scotian) Expat living in the Southern Highlands of Australia. Scott is a Moodle enthusiast and an Internet of Things hobbyist.

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