If you ask the average entrepreneur what lessons or skills they have learned and developed over the past year, one answer comes up again: ZOOM (a.k.a. flexibility.) There is no flexibility in the modern business world without a digital presence. The tools exist for small businesses to create an online, global platform that can work towards various societal needs with very few input resources. The future of education is digital, and tying your business’s investment in digital presence to skills training or other educational opportunities is a brilliant, cost-effective way of growing your footprint.
COVID-19 and the resulting changes to the day-to-day operations of millions of people worldwide have accelerated this shift toward digital infrastructure and technological competency. At ICSB, we believe that this transition to a more global and digitally connected environment provides opportunities for all small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and sustainable entrepreneurs to increase their knowledge and to network through a collection of digital conferences.
We want to emphasize that while the potential value of digital conferences and the broader expansion of technological advancement, in-person meetings, and opportunities to meet and socialize remain the ideal for a robust exchange of information and perspectives. However, in a world that continually asks us to adapt, we must continue to be ready to do so.
One of the main attractions of a digital conference is location neutrality. Conferences can be hosted from wherever, and it becomes exponentially easier for distant parties to attend events that would ordinarily have been very difficult in regular times. This approach also centers on disabled actors and other parties that require a different set of accommodations. When we say we want to build a more equitable and just world, these are some of the more minor, more complicated things we must pay attention to.
Additionally, a digital conference’s environmental impact is a fraction of the average ecological costs of long-distance travel and other amenities of an in-person function. We must emphasize sustainability and consider expenses that we have historically ignored.
While this age of digital conferences and events is relatively new, there are ways to maximize your event’s effectiveness. As Lawton (2020) writes, some of the key considerations include:
- Timetabling of speakers should be optimized to account for the different time zones in which speakers and participants are located.
- Presenters should be taught how to use the software before the conference, including optimizing their environment, lighting, positioning, and digital broadcast clothing.
- Audience participation via asking questions and voting in polls is essential to keep the audience engaged and scrutinizing presented material.
- Technological failures are distracting and time-consuming. A dedicated team should be assigned to troubleshoot and make contingency plans when the issue cannot be resolved.
- Decide how recorded content will be made available and whether this will be restricted to registered participants or open to a broader audience.
The details will change according to the specifics of certain events. Still, we believe a foundation emphasizing preparedness, audience engagement, and technological competency is a definite beginning as we evolve our practices to meet the times’ challenges. Additionally, we believe incorporating these strategies will create a special and unique experience that does not merely look to replicate the features of a traditional, in-person event. Digital conferences and circumstances are individual and offer their pros and cons.
We believe we must lean into these challenges if we want to continue to succeed.
Article by: Dr. Ayman ElTarabishy, President and CEO, ICSB