• Barb Mayfield

Countdown to a Convention 2.0


social media graphics for FNCE

Are you attending FNCE? That’s short for the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo – the annual meeting of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It is just over two weeks away. This year, as in 2020, the convention is completely virtual.


The benefits of a virtual conference are cost and convenience. The drawbacks are missed opportunities to visit a new city, engage with colleagues in person, get away from home and work, and be immersed in learning, networking, and fun. To get the most out of a virtual experience takes a different approach to preparing and attending.


In 2018, I posted 10 tips for getting the most out of a convention. Getting the most out of a virtual conference is even more challenging. In the same countdown fashion, allow me to share 10 tips to get the most out of FNCE 2021, or any virtual conference…


10 – Set aside the time as if you were attending in person. Virtual meetings may save travel expenses and eliminate the need to make arrangements to be away from home and work, but the trade-off is most people try to “attend” while maintaining the same level of home and work commitments as if the meeting wasn’t happening. Block off the time. You can’t get much out of a convention that you barely participate in.


9 – Identify your priorities. Why are you attending? Your off-the-cuff answer may be to get continuing education credits. That should be a high priority, but get more out of FNCE than just continuing education units (CEUs). Those who prioritize opportunities beyond the education sessions will get the maximum benefit.


8 – Make an education plan. To get the most out of the hundreds of educational offerings, plan ahead what to attend in real-time and which sessions you will access later. And be sure not to waste that benefit; continue your learning by accessing sessions for weeks and months to come. Watching a recorded session later has benefits too, one is the ability to stop, rewind, and review. The downside is a missed opportunity to engage. So, during FNCE…


7 – Prepare to engage during sessions in real-time. Check the online conference calendar and pre-select which sessions you want to attend at the same time the speakers will be present. Choose sessions that you want to be able to engage in the chat and in the live Q&A. As a speaker at this year’s conference, I would be sorely disappointed if no one shows up during our scheduled time to present. We look forward to an engaged audience. So, be the attendee who determines to…


6 – Make connections with speakers and audience members. Most attendees will sit back as passive observers. Many will multi-task during sessions and miss out on the potential for deep learning and making connections. Provide feedback and insights in the chat during the session. Consider following up afterward. Speakers provide contact information, so if a session really made an impression, let them know in an email.


5 – Don’t miss the exhibits or the bookstore. The virtual exhibit hall will showcase new resources and products from hundreds of exhibitors who will appreciate making connections with attendees. You can get credit for time spent learning in the exhibit hall, so it helps achieve your goal for CEUs. Identify which booths are a “must-see” and set aside time to visit. The eatrightSTORE offers a 20% discount during FNCE, which can be combined with the member discount. This is a great time to buy Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide!


4 – Make a plan to visit the poster sessions. Be inspired by what other RDNs and nutrition professionals are doing. Show up when they will be present so you can engage with them. Support their work. Share your ideas. Time spent here also qualifies for CEUs.


3 – Attend one or more DPG or MIG events. The schedule of these events is posted on the FNCE website. Groups send their members invitations and reminders via email. These events take place virtually and often have much lower attendance than similar events at in-person conferences. This makes your attendance more valuable and appreciated. Be the one who shows up. The connections you make could make a big difference.


2 – Make a networking plan. The biggest drawback of a virtual conference is the limited opportunities for networking in the conventional sense. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t network, you just need to think differently about your approach. Connect with others virtually. Networking can be the most valuable outcome of attending a conference. Do it with intention.


1 – Make a plan for putting something you learn into practice after the convention. Implement a new idea, access a new resource or product, share new information with colleagues, clients, or students. Look ahead to the next convention (hopefully in person!) and submit a proposal to speak. Give back.


Above all, strive to make the most of the convention. Even virtually, make it your goal to be fully present.


I would love for you to attend our panel presentation on Sunday, October 17 at 4 pm CT: “Building Bridges, Overcoming Biases, Communicating Effectively.” I’ll be there live, will you?


“For me, conferences are like little mental vacations.” ~ Erin McKean


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