A New Way to Engage


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Networking is easy at virtual conferences like ACA International’s 2020 Fall Forum & Expo. Check out these tips to build connections during the online event.

10/8/2020 9:00

Virtual conferences may be the norm, for now, but with change comes opportunity and ACA International’s 2020 Virtual Fall Forum & Expo is no exception.

Attendees may not get to rub elbows with their fellow members and friends from across the miles or see in-person demos of products and services in the expo hall, but ACA’s Nov. 4-5 virtual conference offers new, innovative ways to make those connections.

During ACA’s Virtual Convention & Expo in July, attendees had the opportunity to test out the social wall and one-on-one chat features to connect with members, ACA staff and vendors, resulting in feedback and messages like:

“As usual, the ACA International team surpassed my expectations, put together great content, speakers, and did it in a new, virtual form that worked pretty darn good. We were all impressed with the traffic moving through and ease of use.”

–Chad Probst, Chief Revenue Officer, BillingTree 

“Good morning! First time at an ACA Convention, excited to learn and experience new things!”

–Keiana Perkins, Trainer, Universal Fidelity LP

At Fall Forum, you will still see familiar faces through our interactive one-on-one chat, video chat and messaging, plus you’ll have the opportunity to attend 12 Innovation Stage sessions and connect with exhibitors showcasing the latest technology and services for the accounts receivable management industry.

After attending ACA’s virtual convention in July, Sarah Headly, president of Peacock Consulting LLC, found some new ways to interact with vendors in the virtual expo hall, which included video demonstrations and introductions to products and services.

In person, you may be able to test out a gadget or see how it would work for your company while talking to the vendor’s representative. Headly had some suggestions for how vendors can make the most of the virtual experience.

“When a person visits your virtual booth, the vendor will often quickly message that person, causing them to switch gears to respond to the message instead of continuing to see what the booth had to offer,” Headly said. “In person, the conversation and booth review easily happen at the same time—not so much virtually. Keep in mind that it is very easy to find the visitor virtually, even if they leave your booth quickly—you can still message them. I think it is a good idea to give a visitor time to look around before messaging them.”

These virtual interactions have their perks and can lead to long-lasting professional connections. As with in-person conferences, following up with new contacts is critical and ACA’s virtual platform provides attendees the opportunity to see who is online during the event, say hello and save their contact information in just a few clicks.

Most virtual conference platforms have built-in tools to help attendees engage and talk.

“Although I prefer in-person events, one of the indirect benefits of delivering virtual value to stakeholders is the opportunity to reach a wider audience,” said Cally Christensen, regional development director for Professional Credit.

Virtual conferences take away travel time (and sometimes headaches) and open the door for more attendees to join.

“We are no longer trying to host a local venue that everyone can travel to and attend,” Christensen said.

The downside to that is not being able to explore a new or favorite city and unwind at the end of the day, but ACA’s virtual events include the same social meet-and-greets and happy hours.

“It was so hard for me to get used to camera-on functionality. I started in this industry over 20 years ago back in the days of letters and calls,” Christensen said. “It really adds to our authentic connection and building rapport. That said, it’s important to take part in the virtual happy hours and networking events. They are an important component in our peer-to-peer networking efforts.”

During ACA’s Virtual Fall Forum & Expo, the Women in Collections Resource Council (WICRC), a group working to connect women in the industry and provide tools and resources, as well as ACA’s Political Action Committee (ACPAC), will host separate happy hours at the end of the day Wednesday, Nov. 4.

“During a virtual conference you can make plans to meet by phone sooner because you don’t have the travel time and readjustment time post-conference that you have with face-to-face conferences,” said Debra Ciskey, IFCCE, executive vice president of The Collections Coach LLC and co-chair of the WICRC. “You don’t lose the enthusiasm to meet and continue the discussion. I find the immediate responsiveness of speakers, vendors and contacts very refreshing.”

Virtual conferences also allow more opportunity to follow up with new colleagues you meet, where you might miss them in between meetings at an in-person event.

“People, including myself, are pulled in multiple directions at once at in-person conferences,” Ciskey said. “You may agree to meet later at a particular event, but sometimes that doesn’t happen because something else came up, especially when attendees have their family with them at the conference. Virtual networking allows a single focus of attention without all the distractions and decisions about what to do or where to go next.”

Here are a few general tips for networking at a virtual event:

  • Prepare. Research the event agenda in advance, download the event app and connect with any speakers or attendees you met at a past conference to see if they will be online.
  • Connect, participate and set goals for yourself. While there is some ease to chatting someone up at a virtual event, it can still be daunting. Try messaging two colleagues each day and don’t forget about the expo hall.
  • Dedicate time for breaks and block off the part of your day you will attend the conference. It will make it easier to complete other work you have on your plate and not get fatigued from screen time.
  • Follow up and make sure to save fellow attendees’ contact information. Social media is a great way to connect, too.

Register for ACA’s 2020 Virtual Fall Forum & Expo today for access to legal, health care and operations education and much more. The virtual event will take the association into the new year with exciting education and networking opportunities all on an interactive online platform.

View the 2020 Virtual Fall Forum & Expo agenda here and stay tuned for updates. Subscribe to ACA Daily and Education & Event updates by logging on to acainternational.org and selecting “My ACA” at the top of the website.

If you’re interested in becoming an event sponsor or exhibitor, visit the 2020 Virtual Fall Forum & Expo sponsor and exhibitor website to browse tiered packages that include sustained visibility and connections before, during and after the event.

Thank you to current sponsors FICO, Interactions, Observe.AI, Renkim Corporation, Solutions by Text, Applied Innovation Inc., RevSpring, and DAKCS

Contact Member Services at [email protected] or 800-269-1607 for more information.

Related Content from ACA International:

State of the Industry on Deck at ACA’s Virtual Fall Forum & Expo

ACA is Back Online with Interactive 2020 Fall Forum & Expo

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