logo, APHA 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting and Expo, Oct. 24-28, Creating the Healthiest Nation: Preventing ViolenceThe hustle and bustle of a packed convention center may be on pause, but the rest of the year’s APHA Annual Meeting and Expo is moving online.

With APHA 2020 just around the corner — officially kicking off Oct. 24 — it’s time to get ready for this year’s virtual format. In a Facebook livestream hosted last week, Michele Late, deputy director of communications at APHA, and Aisha Moore, senior consultant at John Snow, Inc., provided helpful tips on how to get the most out of any virtual meeting.

Be prepared 
Check out the meeting’s schedule of events and familiarize yourself with the platform in advance. Personalize your experience by filling up your calendar with keynote speakers and events you find most interesting. “Typically when they bring on a keynote, they're amazing people, and I don't want to miss that,” Moore said.

Set the scene
Unlike in-person meetings, virtual settings can present an array of distractions. It’s easier to stay focused with a clear desk and comfortable space. Moore recommends designating plenty of time to fully enjoy sessions. If you use the computer camera, make sure you’re in a well-lit space with a neutral background to help minimize distractions for other attendees, too.

Scribble and share
Taking notes is a great way to maintain focus during virtual sessions. Notes can also turn into valuable takeaways to share with your network on social media.

Following designated hashtags, especially on large platforms like Twitter, is also a great way to receive live updates about the conference and interact with other attendees. This year’s APHA Annual Meeting is using the hashtag #APHA2020 — selfies are highly encouraged!

Take part in opportunities to engage and interact. Many conferences, including APHA’s Annual Meeting, include live Q&A sessions, networking opportunities, and in-depth discussions on hot topics. “Look at what opportunities are available and then take advantage of them,” Late said.

Conferences are always a great way to meet new colleagues, partners and friends — even in a virtual setting. Creating a profile with your name, job and interests allows other attendees to easily find and connect with you.

Moore recommends creating a list of people you would normally meet at a conference and instead inviting them to a phone call. She also suggests emailing contacts after an interesting conversation to stay in touch and expand your network.

Watch the full video on APHA’s YouTube channel.

Tune in here Oct. 19 at 2:30 p.m. EST for “Navigate and Network: APHA 2020,” an interactive session with specific tips for how to optimize your APHA Annual Meeting experience. APHA staff and leaders will take you through APHA’s virtual Annual Meeting platform and offer recommendations on how to network like a pro in the virtual setting. And don't miss the Oct. 20 Social Media Lab session, "APHA Goes Virtual: Guide to the 2020 Annual Meeting."

Check out all the great ways to network and engage at APHA 2020. Can't wait to see you there!