Would you like to attend a virtual conference but are afraid that you would miss the camaraderie of a face-to-face (F2F) conference? Are you secretly curious about virtual conferences but feel like they just don’t count because they are…well, virtual? Does the thought of attending a virtual conference make you cringe? Whether you are curious about what virtual conferences are all about or are positive they aren’t for you, I’m here to tell you why you need to attend at least one virtual conference. If you happen to be a fan of these conferences in “second life” then read on to find out new ways to get the most out of them.

Virtual conferences are growing in popularity which isn’t a surprise in our digital world. Attending a virtual conference is much like attending a F2F conference but without the headaches of traveling.  My first virtual conference experience was attending the Library 2.010 Worldwide Virtual Conference, which happened to be the first year this now annual global conversation, which focuses on the future of libraries, was held. I submitted questions to presenters, talked with fellow attendees in chat rooms, and visited exhibits later (the entire conference is archived) that I wasn’t able to attend during live event. It was a rewarding educational experience and in my opinion this free event, which is held entirely online around the clock in multiple languages and time zones, is the best virtual conference around. But don’t let that stop you from trying others—there are lots of good ones out there.

Librarian Cheryl LaGuardia was eager to attend ALA’s Virtual Conference on Mapping Transformation (held in 2013) and the experience left her wanting more. As she explained in her post, My Ideal Professional Conference, how cool is it to “not travel anywhere, except virtually, to attend a big national conference, visit all of the exhibit booths at your leisure, chat online with vendors, and not go virtually by vendors you want to avoid.”

If you want the fellowship of a F2F conference try hosting a Virtual Conference Party at your library—or even at your home! Or gather fellow library staff to attend some archived exhibits and hold a post-conference discussion. Volunteering for a virtual committee or submitting a presentation proposal will also make you feel more involved. Though virtual conferences may never completely replace the F2F conference they can be a substantial (and less expensive) slice of the professional development pie for library staff anywhere.