What's a Virtual Conference?

Aug. 20, 2020
Many in-person conferences and tradeshows have changed to a virtual setting. I'm curious about what they'll be like for the law enforcement industry.

I’ve spent the last 14 years attending law enforcement conferences, walking trade shows, visiting company booths, and talking my way into seminars meant for attendees. All this was a great way to safely learn what I could. Aside from getting hands-on some products, these events provided an opportunity to ask questions, network, and collect information on new products to bring back to the office for further research—as well as grab a free pen. 

Enter the pandemic.

With the interest of public health and safety in mind, many trade shows and expos have opted to cancel their in-person events. While others have rescheduled, many have opted to go virtual, revamping their seminars as an online experience.

Coming August 24 to 27, the International Wireless Communication Expo Virtual Conference will launch its Virtual Expo Hall. The event provides registrants the ability to “’curate’ their own experience and determine which sessions/sponsors/booths they would like to attend.” While the event hasn’t happened at the time of this writing, it seems attendees will be provided an interface to select exhibitors, discuss with others in the same space, and have an option to have a live video chat with a representative of the company. Sessions themselves are both live and will be on-demand afterward. Likewise, the newly formed IACP 2020 Virtual Training Event and Expo (Oct. 21 to 23) reports that they’ll have more than 100 workshops and educational presentations available online for 12 months “on IACP’s virtual meeting platform.” Stay tuned, more details will be made available.

Our own Station Design Conference has also created an online event. Bill MacRae, Vice President and Group Publisher states in the June 30 announcement, “We are excited to announce the launch of Station Design Direct, a new virtual experience designed to educate, inspire and connect the fire and law enforcement communities with experts involved in the designing and construction of stations and public safety facilities.” Station Design Direct (scheduled for late September) will feature a curriculum presented in an interactive format. Sessions will provide targeted programs, led by specialists and end-users in the field of fire, law enforcement, and public safety design. Q&A opportunities will allow for information exchange and idea sharing.

It seems more virtual events are announced regularly. My bet is there will be more once a platform finds some traction. Skype was once very new. The video meeting conference was once not as widely utilized. And streaming live video was either saved for YouTube or the occasional webinar. So, have patience. These virtual events are young but modern technology is putting a chance to be innovative right in our inbox. Maybe there’s even an opportunity for some clever community outreach events for law enforcement as well.

No free pen though.

Stay safe out there. Thank you.  

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