Many associations are pivoting their in-person conferences to virtual conferences. Many, but not all. Some associations are doing away with their conferences altogether. Perhaps they can’t afford to turn their revenue center into a cost center. Perhaps they don’t like the virtual conferences they’ve attended and don’t want to put on a similar event. Perhaps it seems safest to eliminate the costs associated with the in-person conference. No matter the reason, there may now be a big hole in their value proposition. The people who would have attended the conference no longer have access to the connections they might have made.
Associations are the community driver for many industries, professions, and fields. Traditionally in-person conferences and events were the drivers of that community. How do we build community now? How do we facilitate conversations? How do we connect peers? It is a struggle to imagine how associations might do this without in-person events for the foreseeable future. However, it can be done.
There are many people in my own network who I have never met in-person. They are people who I know, respect, and like. They have introduced me to other great people, and I have done the same for them. I have exchanged ideas with them, have partnered with them, been hired by them, or hired them. These relationships have been built entirely virtually.
Virtual networking won’t look the same as in-person networking, but connections made virtually can be just as meaningful.