My First Virtual Conference

vc-screenshot-sessionI don’t know about you, but every time I go to a conference or trade show, after about an hour I’m getting a headache from overstimulation: Too much shiny stuff and bad lighting. Crowds. My face hurts from smiling at the poor booth people while they do their pitches. My feet hurt. And why is there never enough air? So when I had the chance to “attend” my first virtual conference a couple of weeks ago, I jumped at it.

One of the things I do is translation and, like all of the translators I know, I have a profile on ProZ.com. This year is the site’s 10th anniversary and, to celebrate, it held its first virtual conference on International Translation Day. It was free, and I signed up, even though I knew I wouldn’t get any free pens out of it.

The exhibitors were major translation agencies and computer assisted translation (CAT) tool companies, so it was worth my time to check them all out. There were several ways to get to the “booths.” Each had an interactive information area with links to text and video you could view on the spot, or you could save documents to your “briefcase” to take with you. There were reps available in every booth for live chat, and you could also chat with other visitors to the booth.

Booth

An exhibitor booth

There was a “conference hall” with live webcasts that could also be viewed later, on useful topics like how to negotiate rates. There were scheduled networking events, essentially a chat room, for specific groups (translators of certain languages, for example). It was possible to exchange “business cards” with other attendees (the app used the data you registered with).

The platform Proz used, provided by Unisfair, was pretty user friendly, and my overall experience was a positive one, although the interface was kind of cheesy. This particular platform may be too pricey for individuals, but there are probably ways to duplicate the overall effect using other apps if you want to get creative and hold a gathering of your own.

It seems like the virtual event concept is still pretty new and that there’s room for improvement. I’d like to see an app that does all the same things but in a much less literal way: Simplified, lean and mean, with less Flash.

Proz has decided to leave the conference up until next September if you’re interested in checking it out.

If you’ve attended a virtual conference, I’d like to hear your take on it.

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