||by Jennifer Hernandez
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Each year the women-focused conferences are designed to inspire connection, motivation, networking, inspiration and skill building for thousands of women across the country. To date, two conferences have been held; one in Texas and the second in Pennsylvania. Rounding out the final of the three yearly conferences, the Massachusetts Conference for Women will be held on December 10th, virtually.
Due to COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions, the UMass Online team knew attending this year's event would be a much different experience than in previous years. As an exhibitor, we were very impressed by how well the conference handled these new challenges – creating an environment for attendees and exhibitors to collaborate and engage with each other.
Even though the conferences have been held virtually, doesn’t mean they lacked the quintessential bells and whistles one would expect. In fact, being virtual may have provided attendees, speakers, and exhibitors more of an opportunity to network, attend sessions, and have more one-on-one time with exhibitors. Compared to a traditional conference where attendees juggle physically attending sessions and meeting exhibitors throughout the day. Removing those barriers resulted in an unexpected but welcomed change for both exhibitors and attendees.
Most recently exhibiting at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women in November, the UMass Online team wanted to share some highlights and key takeaways from the event:
- Conference Networking Lounge: This was a very innovative idea for attendees to take advantage of! The networking lounge was a dedicated space where attendees could privately chat with other attendees and chat publicly inside all the breakout sessions and exhibitor booths. Additionally, there were facilitated networking sessions with notable women in leadership who offered valuable insight on personal and professional growth.
- Exhibitor Hall: Traditionally, the hours of this one-day conference just fly by - limiting the time attendees can visit with exhibitors to learn about what they offer. By offering everything virtually, the Exhibit Hall was actually open a whole week after the close of the conference. This gave attendees the chance to focus on learning during the keynotes and breakout sessions and then dedicate time later to visit the exhibitor booths at their leisure.
Peer Chat Groups: This was something very new and we thought it offered so much value to everyone. The conference offered small group chats where various topics were highlighted, such as entrepreneurship, finance hacks, job search as well as parenting, and then attendees could collaborate together and share their experiences during different times throughout the day. Everyone had the ability to join one or all.
During the conference the UMass Online staff had the opportunity to connect with many impressive women - stemming from all different walks of life, career paths and educational backgrounds. However, the one thing they all had in common was that they were there to grow and support other successful women along the way.
Looking forward - more virtual conferences are on the horizon with this "new normal" we are all living in. If interested in attending the next conference for women, there is still time to register for the upcoming virtual event on December 10th. The Massachusetts Conference for Women has an impressive speaker line up - featuring Grammy Award-Winning artist and singer, Alicia Keys, and Lisa Ling, Executive Producer and Host of THIS IS LIFE on CNN, as well as other notable women presenters.
If you do attend, make sure to stop by the UMass Online virtual booth in the Exhibitor Hall to say hello! We hope to "see" you there.
To help illustrate what the virtual event looked like, here is the UMass Online booth at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women: