How to make the most of virtual legal events

Roycee Hasuko | October 27, 2020 | Articles

Not sure how to get the full benefit from legal events now that they’ve gone virtual? It’s all about preparation.

While it may take some time to work through technical difficulties and the limitations of virtual events, the shift to online conferences can also work in your favor. Not only can you consume more content thanks to session recordings, but you can also attend conferences without the additional travel expense.

Whether you’re a first-time or experienced attendee, the key to getting the most out of a virtual legal event is to spend more time planning your experience.

We’ve broken our advice into two categories: first-time legal event attendees and experienced attendees. Click below to jump right to your preferred section.

First-Time Attendees

If this is your first time attending a legal event (virtual or otherwise), don’t worry—we’ve got you covered with pre- and post-event checklists, as well as tips for making the most out of the event itself.

Do Your Homework Before the Event

Event schedules can be overwhelming, making it easy to miss out on great presentations or valuable networking opportunities. A bit of preparation before the event will help you take full advantage of the event’s offerings.

Read through the event schedule and review vendors. Make note of any presentations that intrigue you or vendors you’d like to learn more about. In-person events allow for “vendor shopping” during the event, but you’ll need to plan ahead for virtual conferences. If there’s a vendor you’re really interested in, see if they have any drop-in hours or if you’ll need to set an appointment to chat.

Get connected to your regional legal ops networks. This is especially important for virtual events because you’ll have fewer chances to just bump into people throughout the conference. Connect with nearby colleagues beforehand so you can plan meetings and attend sessions together.

Networks to look into:

Social media is another great way to connect with other attendees before the day of the event. Check if the event has a branded hashtag you can follow to find other attendees—you might even get a chance to have interesting conversations before the conference begins.

If there’s no hashtag, look at event RSVPs on Facebook or watch for updates on LinkedIn. Chances are, you’ll find like-minded people posting about the upcoming conference. Seek out professionals with similar interests or pain points—these are the people you’ll want as conference buddies. Joining forces with colleagues doesn’t just strengthen your professional network; it also gives you go-to people to debrief with after sessions.

Plan Your Schedule

Before you make final selections, make sure you’re clear on what you hope to accomplish by attending this virtual event. Your schedule will look different if your main goal is to investigate new legal tech options versus building your professional network.

Decide which sessions you’d like to attend, and list backups. Alternate session lists can save you if you run into technical difficulties or if your first-choice session isn’t what you expected. In a virtual setting, last-minute switches aren’t as simple as leaving one room and strolling over to another, so it’s important to have a plan B.

As you review sessions, look for familiar names among the presenters. Speakers appreciate familiar faces in the audience, and your attendance could lead to great networking opportunities. Consider reaching out to the presenter beforehand to let them know you’re looking forward to their session. It’s a small gesture that will make following up with them after the event easier.

Lastly, get your camera ready! It’s difficult for people to connect with a blank screen and a faceless voice, so be prepared to keep your camera on during sessions and meetings.

Test Your Video And Audio Setup Before The Virtual Event. Make Sure You’re Happy With The Lighting, Sound Quality, And Everything That Appears In The Background.

Check your lighting, audio, and video angle ahead of time so you can avoid awkward video meetings. You’ll have a hard time feeling confident if your face is hidden in shadows or the sounds of your dogs barking force you to stay on mute. Small changes such as a ring light to boost your lighting or a Krisp filter to block out your overly enthusiastic dogs can make a big difference.

Prepare For the Challenges of Virtual Interactions

If you want to absorb knowledge and make meaningful connections, you can’t be afraid to ask questions. Get comfortable with being vulnerable. Virtual events bring extra challenges. Prepare yourself for some awkwardness and technical difficulties, and go into every interaction looking to learn.

During virtual sessions, follow the presenter’s lead. Some presenters will take real-time questions while others will collect them in the chat for the end. Keep an eye on the chat, and look for people who share your pain points or have similar questions.

Networking at virtual events is tricky but not impossible. You can connect with others in various ways, such as:

  • Following up with people you connected with beforehand to see if anyone is interested in post-session chats.
  • Seeking out casual rooms such as informal virtual happy hours, discussion groups, or watercooler chats.
  • Blocking off time on your calendar in the days following the conference to connect with people you interacted with during the event.
    • Send messages 2–3 days after the event so people have time to rest but will still have the event fresh in their minds.

Finally, make sure you build in decompression time after sessions to reflect on the content. Don’t make the rookie mistake of scheduling back-to-back sessions. You’ll burn out quickly and struggle to get value out of the event.

Skip to After The Event Section!

Experienced Attendees

If this isn’t your first time attending a legal event, you can focus on leveling up your experience by being more strategic about your involvement before, during, and after the conference.

Seek Out Opportunities Before the Event

As with any legal event, it’s important to ask yourself what you hope to accomplish by attending. Whether your goal is to improve your personal branding, land a spot on a panel, or guide first-timers—there are many ways to get involved.

Look for leadership roles or apply to be a presenter yourself. If you have a unique perspective or knowledge you can share with others, beef up your online presence ahead of time by creating a video resume, publishing guides for first-time attendees, or working with conference organizers to improve the virtual event.

Helping up-and-coming legal ops professionals navigate the conference scene and the industry in a general way is a great way to contribute as well. Mentorship is mutually beneficial—you have a chance to build up future teammates while mentees learn from your experience. Because legal operations jobs are still developing, mentorships can really shape how the entire industry moves forward. Plus, mentors have greater job satisfaction and more career opportunities, thanks to the personal branding benefits.

Make sure you read up on what’s new in the industry. As an experienced attendee, you can add value to conversations around vendor news, law firm/legal department dynamics, the latest in legal tech, and more.

Deepen Your Connections During the Event

Now’s your chance to level up your experience by seeking out new perspectives and sharing your professional insights.

Diversify your network by talking to all kinds of attendees: vendors, law firms, and other legal ops professionals. This is your opportunity to talk to law firms who can give you a neutral analysis of the legal ops and law firm relationship and gather insights from people outside of your specialty.

Be vocal during sessions. Share your opinions, challenge industry standards, and keep conversations interesting. You can also increase your visibility by adding your LinkedIn handle to your Zoom name, introducing yourself each time you share a comment, or hosting casual networking sessions.

Zoom Name
Caption: In Zoom, open the participants tag to change
your name. You can get your LinkedIn URL by visiting
your profile.

Lastly, keep your camera on! You cannot underestimate the power of face-to-face interaction. Double-check your video and audio setup ahead of time to make sure you feel confident about your on-camera appearance. You can even use custom Zoom backgrounds to really stand out (and even sneak your LinkedIn or social media handles into the image for additional branding.)

After the Event

Whether this will be your first event or your tenth, the work doesn’t end with the final session.

Make sure you run through your post-event checklist:

  • Follow people and companies on social media.
  • Send follow-up messages to new connections and/or set up a time to talk in-depth.
  • Save session recordings: This is a major benefit of virtual events—be sure to save recordings before they expire.
  • Verify if any sessions count toward continuing legal education (CLE) requirements: CLE credits have a time limit—make sure you submit the necessary paperwork to get credit.
  • Bring knowledge back to your team: What are you excited to talk about? Any new tech you’d like to pitch?

Experienced attendees can take the knowledge-sharing step a bit further by sharing deeper insights through articles, LinkedIn posts, or conversation-starters on industry forums.

Be Prepared With our Pre- and Post-Event Checklists

There’s so much more to virtual legal events than the events themselves! Both first-time and experienced attendees need to do quite a bit of preparation beforehand and a good amount of follow-up after a conference to get the full benefits. But don’t worry; we can help! Sign up for our newsletter to get free downloadable pre- and post-event checklists. We’ve even provided separate pre-event checklists for first-time versus experienced attendees.