Events are back, and when it comes to finding a home in the new normal, there may be no better picture of what that looks like than the event business. Virtual events were certainly a reality pre-pandemic, but became the only option during months of quarantines and office closures. Today, in-person events, virtual events, and hybrid events are all co-existing. When you’re considering how events play into your career, it will be critical to take advantage of all of them if you want to energize and advance your career. The good news is, not all events are created equally. Whether for health or social reasons you prefer one type of event over the other, today’s events industry offers options.
1. In-person events.
For those with health concerns or other issues at play, the good news is you don’t have to attend in person events. But if you’re like many and not immune compromised, taking a leap back into in-person events can be a great way to re-energize your career energy. Most events are taking advantage of health protocols, including facilities offering new procedures for sanitizing and cleaning, increased outdoor space for breaks and networking, and vaccine requirements for many in-person conferences and meetings.
If you’ve gotten really used to not attending in-person events over the past several years, it is a good idea to go out and get your feet wet again. Maybe you don’t need to leverage a new career network, but you may need to – and few relationships can replace those made or solidified at an in-person meeting (you don’t even need to shake hands).
Don’t wait too long before practicing your in-person networking skills. We’ve all met that person who says this is the first in-person event they’ve been to in two years – and it shows. Today, you’ll get a pass. In two years – you may get concerned stares. In person events can feel awkward if you’ve been avoiding them for awhile (I’m a natural hugger – I’m a minefield of awkwardness). But once you get past the awkward small talk you realize in-person conversations lead to connections you wouldn’t make otherwise. Virtual engagements are often highly transactional. That can be great. But in-person events are highly relational. Your career needs both.
2. Virtual events.
Virtual events are here to stay, and thanks to the huge growth in virtual event platforms, you have more opportunities to engage than ever. That’s great news for folks like me stuck in flyover states like Omaha. Being separated from so many events and partners used to seem like a major drawback. Today, you’re only a Teams call away. Virtual events allow individuals to participate in conferences, forums or conversations that would never have been possible previously. It opened up the aperture around accessibility and allowed more voices into the room. Just because events can take place in person doesn’t mean they all have to. The push for more virtual events is good news. Whether it’s the ability for search for your next job at a virtual career event or attend an industry forum. Virtual events open up new options.
Like all good things, however, too much virtual can have a downside. Think as strategically about which virtual you events as you would an in-person event. A career fair may be an easy way to participate in a few short conversations on your lunch break, but a full-day virtual conference may leave you pulling double-duty – all day watching sessions at your desk and all night catching up on other projects. Plan for a virtual event like you would an in-person one, and don’t just double your time at the desk.
Ode, to the event planners tasked with offering up the hybrid conference solution. Hybrid events blend some of the best of in-person and virtual options. Lead well, they can give a best of both worlds opportunity. Led poorly, and you end up with everyone disappointed.
The key takeaway – getting outside of your every day work life is important. However that looks for you – in-person events, virtual events, or hybrid events – finding time for professional development focused on networking and career development is a critical aspect of your career. Like obtaining a new certification or career credential, look to events as another tool in your career toolbox – and one you don’t want allow to get rusty.