You probably hear the words, "virtual dental conference" and think that it couldn't be anywhere close to the real thing.
Granted, when an event is forced to go virtual, there will always be some things you miss out on. It’s hard to replicate the tactile sensation of gripping a new dental handpiece through video conferencing ‒ and you’ll miss out on the unique energy of interacting with your peers in-person.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that virtual dental conferences are a bust. Far from it.
In fact, at a time when we’ve been forced to rethink all aspects of patient care, clinical delivery, and infection control, the knowledge you pick up through these events is more important than ever.
So, while virtual dental conferences might not be what you’re used to, they are very much the “real thing” ‒ and these tips will help you make the most of them.
Plan Ahead to Get Some Variety
It’s easy to feel underwhelmed with a virtual trade show or conference when you’re watching a parade of monotonous, lecture-style webinars.
Instead of spending the whole time with the same type of content, try to fill your conference days with a variety of different formats: keynote addresses, thought leadership, panels, Q&A’s, and so on. This “mix-it-up” approach will help you stay engaged and retain information.
Of course, as a conference attendant, you only have so much power over the content you’re presented. What you can do, however, is plan ahead and find virtual conferences that offer some variety, then plan your time accordingly.
Branch Out Beyond Webinars
One of the biggest draws of a traditional dental trade show is the opportunity to get your hands on new and innovative products ‒ and we mean that literally. No amount of product literature can equal the experience of a real, hands-on demo.
But how do you do that without being there in person?
Well, in 2021, there are ways to make it happen.
Today, many online trade shows offer a sort of virtual Exhibition Hall, complete with virtual “booths” where vendors offer up-close video demonstrations of their products. Some of these take place live, allowing attendants to ask questions or request a specific kind of demonstration in real time.
Say you want to try a new dental handpiece or scaler. You could spend hours gazing at product literature and watching video reviews ‒ or, you chat one-on-one with an expert and get everything you need in no time. Our team will be doing just that at the Virtual Pacific Dental Conference March 4th - 5th, 2021, and the Ontario Dental Association’s Annual Spring Meeting May 6th - 7th, 2021.
Make time to visit these virtual exhibitions and be sure to ask questions. While you might not be able to see and touch a product in real time, this is an excellent opportunity to connect with a sales representative. You could even request a real-world sample for your business or practice!
Make an Effort to Engage
Remember that initial awkwardness of hopping on Zoom the first few times? Unfortunately, you might find yourself reliving that experience at your first virtual dental conference meet-and-greet.
Networking has always been the cornerstone of any dental industry event. Their new, virtual counterparts are no exception. And like any endeavour involving career development, the value of these virtual events is contingent on the effort you put in.
Many video conference technologies that run webinars and similar events also have chat functions and features. This way, you aren't only sitting there and listening but gaining an opportunity to reach out to your peers and harness network connections.
Whether you're talking to fellow dentists, hygienists, consultants, or equipment dealers, you have much to gain by reaching out. Plus, like most chat functions, there's a chance your questions can be answered by the webinar or event host.
Breaking out into these chats gives you those similar interactions you’d have in person, nearly emulating those benefits.
Yes, networking on Zoom or a live chat is awkward at first. But you owe it to yourself to put yourself out there to make connections and immerse yourself in the activities. The more detached you are from everything, the less enriching the experience will be.
If you already have experience presenting at a dental conference in-person, consider volunteering to host a webinar this year instead. This could have two-pronged benefits in that you’ll be more invested in the process while also establishing your professional reputation.
That said, if you’re hesitant to prepare an entire virtual presentation on your own, you could also offer to help moderate an event.
Are Virtual Conferences and Trade Shows a Pandora’s Box?
Once everything is “back to normal,” so to speak, in-person conferences and tradeshows will once again be part of the dental industry.
However, many professionals in the space will realize how convenient and effective virtualizing these events can be. Busy dentists and hygienists will appreciate being able to make connections and acquire knowledge without commuting and dealing with logistics.
As such, expect more of a balance between in-person and virtual events as the years go by!