News alert: Virtual conventions make you just as tired as in-person conventions. I never would have thought this was the case, but we just hosted Fall National College Media Convention and I am tired.
Associated Collegiate Press and College Media Association host the annual convention, which was virtual for the first time this year because of COVID-19 safety and travel concerns. As CMA president, I was thrilled by Fall National College Media Convention’s success. We had two keynotes, more than 100 breakout sessions, almost three times the number of expected attendees, and we pulled it all off on a platform we’d never used before. I was basking in the glow of success, while also feeling like I needed several days to lounge on the sofa and recover.
Spoiler alert: I did not get days to recover. I got more like a day before an ice storm hit Oklahoma, leaving us without power for the next two days. While I was able to rest (There wasn’t much to do but stare into the dark.), it was cold, miserable and not at all relaxing.
I’m happy to report that I’m back in the 21st Century with power and WiFi, and I’m taking time to reflect on what I loved about virtual convention.
1. Enjoying the comforts of home
One of the biggest perks of virtual convention was nerding out from the comfort of my own home. I walked straight from my bedroom to my home office each morning to log on to convention sessions. I had coffee to drink, a fragrant candle burning in my office, my dogs laying everywhere and I joined sessions all day while wearing my house shoes. When I was done with convention each evening, I had dinner in my kitchen, with my family, then headed off to sleep in my bed.
While I missed not visiting a cool city and staying in a beautiful hotel, prepping for and attending convention was much less stressful and physically taxing than traveling to attend.
It was, however, interesting to balance convention attendance with other regular responsibilities. It’s difficult to take off from everything else when you are home.
2. Accessing more information
The virtual format meant attendees were able to get access to more information more quickly than they have in the past. Speakers could immediately share handouts, presentations, links, etc. with session attendees. Attendees also have access to all of the convention’s more than 100 sessions for two weeks. Learning nerds like myself are delighted by all of the access to smart people and helpful materials.
3. Sharing on social
Live tweeting from convention used to be super popular, and attendees would blow up the hashtag, sharing what they were learning with others who couldn’t attend. Then, after a while, it seemed like tweets from conventions slowed down a lot. Twitter conversation was back in a huge way for virtual convention. And the side discussions weren’t just happening on Twitter. Fall National College Media Convention attendees shared and engaged in the discussion space during sessions, on Twitter and my advising partner set up a Slack channel for us to talk to our staff about what they were learning.
I loved the added layers of discussion that technology lent to the virtual convention. It seemed everyone was engaging more freely than they have in the past few years. The community building felt so good at a time when the pandemic has most of us pretty isolated.
4. Seeing each other
I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to seeing my adviser friends on the screen. We’re used to seeing each other in person once or twice a year, and I knew this wouldn’t be the same. But it still felt great to see everyone virtually. I also still felt that rush of excitement and possibility that comes with attending convention and getting new ideas.
The only negative about Fall National College Media Convention
I was a big fan of Fall National College Media Convention. It far exceeded my expectations in the virtual format. But, of course, it wasn’t all positive.
We weren’t together, and no amount of technology can account for not seeing each other in person. I still miss my adviser friends. I missed getting to know new students.
I’m happy I was able to help plan and implement our first virtual convention – educating students and advisers while keeping them safe – but I can’t wait until we’re together again.