How Virtual Events Gave Me Energy In These Strange Times
Events have always been key for networking, having fun, and exchanging knowledge with others. Then, in 2020, COVID-19 happened and it changed how we connect with each other and when it seemed that, what once was defined and valued for the face to face interaction was no longer an option, the world adjusted and still brought everyone “together” breaking down any borders that were once limiting. Lilith Van Biesen experienced this change first hand and she told us her experience.
After being part of the Salesforce Ohana for a few years, I attended my first Trailblazer Community Group gathering in February last year. It was an amazing experience to meet like-minded people who are as passionate about Salesforce as I am and hear about their background and how they tackled some of the more challenging requirements in their projects. Eagerly looking forward to the next gathering, I spread the word and shared the enthusiasm with my Salesforce friends and colleagues, planning to collectively join the next session together. Then COVID-19 took over, turning our world upside down and changing the concept of gatherings and the definition of what was normal.
At first, events were postponed to later dates in the hopes that we would be able to return to our lives by summer. By mid-April, the realisation came that we would be stuck in this new normal for a while and these communities started showing their creativity and resilience. Virtual events replaced the once-in-person events and geographical lines started to blur. Whereas attending events in other countries, time zones, or continents previously came with quite some logistic overhead and limitations, people were now able to attend gatherings from all over the world. Dreamin events became Virtual Dreamin, TrailheaDX, Dreamforce, Cactusforce, and many others moved online as well, and all were clear successes. They demonstrated that it is possible to be “together” online and that geographical limitation is something of the past – now everyone can attend amazing sessions that otherwise they wouldn’t be able to attend.
These virtual events gave me something I really needed: the energy to dive back in and use these strange times to expand my knowledge and network.
I scoured Trailblazer Community Groups, Meetup, Trailhead Live, and social media such as LinkedIn and Twitter for interesting sessions and events I could attend. This snowballed into a lot of new challenging opportunities and first experiences: moderating a Q&A session, joining the leadership of the amazing SAIMA group, being a judge on a mock review board, and being a presenter in a session. Even though these experiences were definitely scary at first, they were amazing adventures that allowed me to interact with people I admire very much, contribute to a community full of talented and inspiring people and become an active part of it.
From attending virtual events, I learned a few tips and tricks to make sure I make the most out of these sessions. Here is my top 5:
Learn how to use the tool: The event will be hosted online, via a tool that you may or may not have used before. Take 15/30 min before the event to find out how to access the session, check your audio, and work out any glitches so you can make the most of your time “onsite”.
Keep your family in the loop: This working from home reality for some of us might also mean that we are never really truly alone. If you chose to attend a virtual event it’s because you saw value in the speakers, educational sessions, and networking opportunities, so don’t throw away the time you have to learn and grow. Make sure that your family is aware that you will be attending an event so you can be completely focused.
Snacks: During a busy day we might find ourselves not having enough time for proper meals, so to make sure your “hanger” doesn’t distract you during the event, get some snacks ready and have them close by.
Take notes: A session can be extremely valuable for the knowledge shared and you might like to take some notes. Choose a way that works for you. I usually try to take my notes digitally so I don’t risk losing them and I can easily search through them later on, but sometimes nothing beats going old school with a pen and paper out and your fingers off the mouse and keyboard for full focus.
Watch & re-watch: Check if the event will be recorded and if it is, you don’t need to worry about missing a word, a sentence, or even a parallel session, you can always re-watch it afterward.
“However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.” (Stanley Kubrick)
This has rung so true over the past year and I can only thank the people who have brought this to light. I’m excited about all the incredible things this new year will bring and share the light with the rest of the community! If you want to connect and know more about joining these events, you can reach out to me on LinkedIn.
Lilith Van Biesen, Technical Architect