In the previous article of this series, we discussed the benefits and limitations of virtual conferences. Despite limitations, virtual conferences still allow you to share your knowledge, get valuable feedback, and find opportunities for new collaborations. You shouldn’t miss the chance to catch up on the latest news in your research field and network with other scientists because of the virtual format. We talked to Abcam’s Events team, who transitioned all Abcam conferences in the digital space, and gathered some useful tips on how to benefit the most from virtual conferences.

Sign up for remote conferences you normally wouldn’t be able to attend

For master or PhD students, attending a big overseas conference can be financially draining, especially if you’re coming from a small university or research group with limited funds. The virtual format helps to break this barrier: you don’t need to pay for travel, hotel, or visa. So don’t miss out on this opportunity to join key conferences in your field without spending a lot of money.

Many large conferences for 2021 have already been planned in digital format. If you haven’t attended any virtual conferences this year, consider the most important remote conferences for your research field and sign up now. If your project is advanced and you have enough data to present, don’t be shy and apply for a talk. For more advice on conference talks, you can check out our article on presenting at conferences.

Register for everything and attend what you can

Many virtual conferences and events record live talks and upload them online as on-demand content. For example, Abcam provides on-demand presentations for all our virtual conferences or events. When registering for a digital event, check beforehand if presentations are going to be recorded and become available on demand. This way if you’ve missed a certain session, you can always come back and watch it at your convenience.

We suggest you register for all events important for your research topic, even if they have conflicting timelines. Try to watch the most relevant talks live and catch up with the recordings, once you have some spare time.

Focus on the most important talks

Remember that your attention span decreases during virtual conferences compared to in-person events. Even during conventional events, it’s challenging to listen to all talks without losing your focus. But keeping your attention while sitting on your couch, with google at your hand, takes this challenge to the next level.

We recommend not to listen to all talks but prioritize those particularly important or interesting to you. As mentioned before, most of the virtual conferences will upload the recorded talks afterward so you can watch them online at your convenience. To minimize the distractions, you can block time in your calendar for the talks you’re planning to watch live.

Be proactive about networking

Without coffee breaks, poster sessions, or post-conference mixers, networking becomes a real challenge. During a virtual event, interactions with other scientists may not happen naturally and must be created intentionally by you. Keep that in mind and be proactive about networking.

You can look through the program beforehand and identify speakers with whom you may want to collaborate or just discuss certain research topics. You can also email a speaker before the conference and arrange a meeting during a QA session or a virtual coffee break. Also, check if a conference offers a networking app, which allows you to read other scientists’ biographies and reach out to them to initiate a conversation or schedule a virtual meeting.

Submit questions online

If you aren’t brave enough to ask a question in person, submit questions online through moderated chats. Asking questions in the chat can allow you to formulate better queries. Also, if you’re a junior scientist or non-native English-speaker, you may feel less intimidated while typing a question online compared to asking it in a big conference room.

We hope these tips will help you benefit the most from virtual conferences in these challenging times. Do you have any useful tips to add? Please share those with us at, and we will include the best tips in our next article.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash