Some would say yes without hesitation – you can’t beat a ‘real’ conference, there is no ‘face to face’, it is difficult to ask questions during presentations or demo’s, surely the technology is far to complex to let me join, I bet I will have difficulties, I simply don’t have time – and many other reasons!

I am an advocate of continuous learning and CPD, and see virtual conferences as a vital element in this process for all project managers, be they part of an organisation, a consultant or a student –no mater what field, sector or domain.

I am firmly of the view that no single person knows everything! This is why we construct project teams with the necessary skills to complete a project… and we must maintain, hone and increase these skills on a regular basis. We must not become complacent – project management, and the sectors it serves, is constantly changing and evolving and we must be on top of our game if we are to present ourselves as professionals.

From my point of view, virtual conferences fill a gap in our learning and networking schedule. We are all busy people; we don’t like being away from our work (i.e. downtime during working hours) and travelling is a key drain on our time. Coupled with this in the current economic climate is the desire to cut costs, and yep, training and development are usually first to go, along with travel and conference fees!

We simply do not have the time or resources to attend many conferences, I suspect many of us would like to go to a conference every now and then, but do not attend more than one every couple of years, and only then in a good year!

This is where virtual conferences and webinars come into their own. We can attend without having to leave the office, or waste time travelling, and many allow us to ‘check-in and out’ at our leisure, watching streaming video presentations, slide shows and demo’s as if we were actually there. If we view live we can ask questions (and yes they do get picked up and answered!).

In my opinion a virtual conference is the next best thing to actually attending a ‘real’ conference, I can interact from my own office, at a time I want to, I can pick and choose sessions to view, and the others are usually recorded so I can watch later. I do not have to tie up 3 days of my time travelling and attending, I can pick and choose the select elements I want, all from the comfort of my office.

So I ask the question, are virtual conferences a waste of time, or are they a vital tool and important component of continuous development and engagement in our busy lives?