By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator
It’s spring … finally. Trees are budding. Flowers are blooming. Migrating birds are returning. Nature photographers are reemerging, too, eager for inspiration, education, camaraderie, and a chance to get immersed in this art form we love so much. But in a global pandemic you need a new way to gather, share, learn, and inspire, right? We got this! Heck, nature photographers are resilient and creative. Give us a challenge and step out of the way. For NANPA’s 2021 Nature Photography Virtual Summit, the doors have been opened to a whole new kind of experience.
All over the world conferences are being reborn, emerging from their pandemic chrysalis in new and exciting forms. The NANPA Summit’s tag line (“All the inspiration. Wherever you are.”) captures the idea that going virtual has some distinct advantages for attendees. If you’re on the fence about registering or can’t quite imagine what the experience might be like, there are eight big reasons virtual formats have become so popular.
Like a regular conference, you’ll leave with new knowledge, improved skills, fresh inspiration, more contacts, and tons of photography enrichment. The format might have changed, but you still get high-quality content and great presenters. What’s really different is that you can do all this without having to leave your own home. You can participate on any device, in any place, on your schedule. Need a short break? Pause the session. Child care issues or conflicts? You can watch anytime. Can’t attend those two days? Watch the videos later! Found a session particularly inspiring or helpful? Watch it again.
In-person conferences are expensive. You’re paying for your airfare, hotel room, restaurants, and car rental. Plus, your registration fee includes the organization’s expenses for hotel meeting rooms, AV equipment, housekeeping staff, and catering minimums. Virtual conferences eliminate all those travel-related costs and often have less expensive production costs. Members can register for NANPA’s Virtual Summit for only $150. For eight keynotes, 13 breakout sessions, four member-produced films, and lots of vendor demos, that works out to less than $10 per hour of content. Throw in a portfolio review and you’re still paying less than $200. That’s a bargain!
Better use of time
Imagine no travel time (or travel stress) going to and from the conference location! That means no layovers, no waiting in lines, no traffic jams, or construction delays. No taking you away from work or family for three or four days. In a typical conference, you’ll often find two or more sessions you want to attend that are scheduled at the same time, forcing you to choose one or the other. But you’ll have access to all the Virtual Summit sessions through May 31, 2021, and you’ll never have to miss a thing.
More networking (social and otherwise)
Instead of just the times immediately before, after, and between sessions you’ll have multiple chances to connect with others. NANPA has added a host of networking tools that allow and encourage attendees to connect with each other via discussion channels, chats, videoconferencing, and a social media-style activity feed where you can post a photo, idea, or question and comment on others’ posts. You don’t have to stand in line to let a speaker know you enjoyed their presentation. No awkward lurking, hoping to get an opportunity to introduce yourself to someone before they leave.
No more uncomfortable meeting room chairs or freezing cold conference centers! You can watch from your couch, desk, or patio. Have a snack or another cup of coffee. You can even attend in your pajamas with the dog curled up at your feet, if you want! And, without the stress of travel, seeping in a strange bed, or eating conference food, a virtual conference can be much healthier for you.
You can see the speakers and images on your computer screen or smart TV instead of some big, fuzzy screen twenty rows away. Nobody’s head is in the way, blocking your view. You can really see the photos and presenters. You control the volume. Plus you can pause and repeat, in case you miss something or want to study an image closer. And your home Wi-Fi is probably way better than the overloaded connections in a conference center.
Learn. Pause. Apply. Repeat.
Learn something new in a presentation? Want to try it out? At the Virtual Summit you can pause the program, pull out your camera, and give it a go. You don’t have to wait to get back to your hotel room or hang on until the field shoot at the end of the day. Want to try that new trick for bird photography? Just hit the pause button and step out into your back yard. Not quite sure you got all the subtleties of the presenter’s advice? Hit pause. Try it out. Rewind and play again until you have it down.
In addition to the carbon emissions you’ll save by not traveling, there’s also all the paper and plastic from handouts, marketing materials, and takeout food containers and utensils. Virtual conferences are good for the planet.
Like everything affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, conferences are adapting, and at least some elements of the changes are likely to become permanent. These transformations have often brought some major benefits, attracting people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend a face-to-face conference, giving attendees new ways of managing their own conference experience, saving participants time and money. So, what are you waiting for? Register now, for 2021 Nature Photography Virtual Summit!