NASPA
2023 NASPA Annual Conference

The Benefits of a Virtual Experience

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In 2020, the NASPA Annual Conference that was scheduled to be held in Austin, TX was canceled. The following year’s conference was held virtually because of a global pandemic that brought much of the world to a halt and reshaped the nature of human interaction and gathering for the foreseeable future.  While it is possible that the world had already been trending in this direction, the pandemic forced us to reckon with the new reality sooner than anyone was prepared to. Now we know that virtual experiences are here to stay, whether as a part of our day-to-day professional activities (who hasn’t been on a Zoom call recently?) or even as a part of our conference-going experiences.

Far too often, virtual experiences are viewed as secondary or lesser experiences, sometimes because they are planned in that way. Planning a virtual conference can be an afterthought - and attending a virtual conference can be the same, even for those who register and pay to participate. A virtual conference can easily take a backseat to our normal daily activities. Technical difficulties aside, virtual conferences often generate less excitement and participants are more susceptible to distractions. 

The 2023 NASPA Annual Conference will host several thousand student affairs professionals in Boston and many more in the virtual space. The NASPA Virtual Experience will be unique in that it will be a fully immersive and engaging experience, rather than an afterthought in the grand scheme of the conference.  The Conference Leadership Committee has thought creatively about how to create an integrated experience for both place-based and virtual attendees and ensure that virtual attendees have a worthwhile experience. The NASPA Virtual Experience will include a comprehensive array of presentations, experiences, and engagement opportunities that will make the conference accessible to student affairs professionals from across the globe.

The Benefits of a Virtual Experience

Many student affairs professionals don’t love the idea of a virtual conference, finding them impersonal or restrictive. One of the benefits of a virtual conference is the opportunity to retreat from everyday routines to become immersed in knowledge-sharing. The lack of in-person interaction becomes problematic for those who thrive in live collaborative environments, and presenters often struggle to connect with their audiences. Undoubtedly, the unexpected or casual meetups and connections that happen at place-based conferences can lead to new avenues of professional development or connections.

However, it is worth noting that creating virtual experiences has made professional development accessible to new audiences. Virtual experiences remove barriers, including those that result from long home absences and financial burdens, among others. Virtual conferences have also enabled more introverted professionals to take advantage of a large conference experience in more palatable or digestible forms. All of these aspects allow for a more inclusive conference experience.

We are experiencing a paradigm shift in the future of conference-going that has inspired new forms of creativity, better tools for close collaboration, and a removal of barriers that enhances inclusivity, productivity, and opportunity. The NASPA Virtual Experience is intentionally designed to mirror the structure of the place-based conference while making resources available for all attendees.  

Discord

To kindle social interactions in the virtual space, NASPA has adopted the social media platform Discord. Discord is a popular platform where you can chat, talk, and hang out, and it has become one of the key features of the 2023 NASPA Virtual Experience.  Discord is a safe environment, as it is a private invite-only space where you can spend time with other student affairs and higher education professionals who share common interests.  

The #NASPA23 Discord server will be organized into channels dedicated to specific topics, interest areas, or other networking opportunities. You will have the chance to explore the different channels to connect with other NASPA members with similar interests. If you are unfamiliar with Discord, you’ll want to start with the Welcome channel, where you can learn about more Discord features and find a convenient help desk.

The Conference Leadership Committee has embraced the virtual format as an opportunity to support and engage everyone who wants to participate in the NASPA Annual Conference, no matter where you are! We hope you will consider joining us for the NASPA Virtual Experience.

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