As you get ready for this year’s innovative and exciting Annual Meeting, it may be useful to think about how to prepare yourself so you can benefit optimally from the event experience. Since many of us are taking part in an all-online conference for the first time, here are some tips you can use to get the most value and enjoyment out of AIB 2020 Online.

Tip 1: Set Aside Enough Time

Remember that when you attend a physical conference, that is what you do—you attend the conference. You may grab an hour in the day to answer the most urgent emails, but basically, you are “out of office”. Treat the online conference the same way. Do not try to fit in regular work. If you can take conference leave, take conference leave. If you have family obligations, negotiate time for you to attend the conference.

Tip 2: Don’t Stress if You Have to Miss Some Sessions

To accommodate our worldwide membership, we have chosen to schedule panels  in blocks to accommodate various time-zones. The good news is that you will not suffer jetlag! This also means that you should be able to attend two sessions—but one session will be happening while you sleep.

Moreover, it is likely that some sessions will happen while you need to grab yourself a sandwich or as you need to get your kids started on an online activity. A practical tip is to use a laptop to follow the conference. You need a fair-sized screen so you can see the slides! But a laptop does allow you to move to the kitchen or the workroom without losing track of the sessions.

Tip 3: Relax and Stay Focused

Engaging online is exhausting. For this reason, the sessions as a rule are 50 minutes, with a 10 minute break. Use the breaks to stretch and refresh. We also scheduled a break over the weekend. Use that time to rest, reflect and regroup.

In spite of these precautions, being online too much can sometimes make it feel as if you are “sitting inside the box”.  It could help to do something while you are participating in the conference: walking on a treadmill, folding laundry, or doing something with your hands. You know the sort of mindless tasks that help you to relax—use those strategies to make it easier for you to focus, too. This is your conference!

Tip 4: Find Your “Priority Programming”

To make sure that you get the most out of the conference, go through the program in advance, and identify which sessions are “must sees” and which sessions you would like to attend, but can skip if needed. Make sure that you do not schedule your sandwich break during a “must see” session.

Of course, at all conferences, there are sessions you cannot attend. The good thing is that all of the sessions at AIB 2020 Online will be recorded. You will have the opportunity to watch any sessions you’ve missed at a later time.

Tip 5: Take Opportunities to Network and Engage

The different sessions at this year’s online AIB conference fulfill different purposes. The larger sessions and panels give you the chance to hear from leaders in the field. But a major part of a conference is debate and discussion. Smaller sessions, such as Fellows Cafes, Meet a Journal Editor sessions, and Chapter/SIG Networking Happy Hours offer the chance to really engage with others.

Use the Discussion Forum to engage with paper authors and to provide feedback. But remember that a lot of the engagement will be asynchronous. Leave your question or comment—and come back after a few hours or a day to see if it was answered. If you are keen to follow up privately with an author, use the AIB 2020 “Meeting Hub” and request to connect and arrange a time to chat or video conference with them. And if you receive such connection requests from the Meeting Hub, please use the opportunity to interact with your fellow conference participants.

Finally, don’t forget to have some fun! IB scholarship is serious work, but AIB 2020 Online doesn’t have to be an all-business event.

Take time to say hello to your friends and colleagues, post your favorite moments on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn using the #AIB2020 hashtag—whatever adds to your enjoyment.

We look forward to seeing you soon, online!

Helena Barnard, VP Administration