Don’t get me wrong. I love Chicago. The pizza, the hot dogs, Navy Pier, the Cubbies…no wait not the Cubbies. I’m a die hard St. Louis Cardinals fan, but besides the Cubs, I love just about everything about Chicago. However, I recently had the opportunity to attend Head Start’s Leadership Institute which was held in the Windy City, without leaving the comforts of my living room.
Clad in my pajamas with a cup of coffee in hand, I was one of the many participants who took advantage of the free, online sessions which were offered along with this year’s face to face event. Hats off to the Office of Head Start and Zero to Three for collaborating to offer this virtual experience to supplement this year’s Leadership Institute.
While I did miss the many offerings of the City, I have to say the organizers did an excellent job of making me feel I was truly a part of the conference. None of the major advantages of attending an event like this in person were lacking in the on-line offering.
Since this was my first experience attending a national conference virtually, I had my doubts. I’ve attended countless webinars (both good and bad), so I wasn’t sure how this would measure up to being on-site at the event.
The presenters did an excellent job of engaging the virtual community, by asking us questions and giving us the opportunity to pose questions, and even taking time to read our comments and answer our questions. Handouts were available to download, and any notes we typed into the notes section of the dashboard were emailed to us immediately following the session.
What about networking? This is sometimes the most valuable outcome of attending a conference such as this. Gathering together with your peers and sharing tips and insights to make your program better. This experience was not lost in the on-line offering. Using the chat box, many participants shared tips with one another and contact information to arrange a time to further discuss common struggles and solutions.
I can truly say this event exceeded my expectations in every way. I would strongly encourage programs or individuals who are seeking more cost-efficient alternatives to training to consider attending an event like this in the future.
While you may not be able to post pictures of your delicious Chicago-style pizza for friends back home to covet, you will gain valuable information without the costs and time lost associated with travelling to a conference.