With the move to a virtual conference, the conference planning team has had to reimagine the conference experience. We have prioritize two major themes: networking & professional development.  
Networking - is highly valued by conference attendees and therefore prioritized by conference planners. According to Connection Magazine, program content and networking are the two top reasons conference attendees choose a particular conference.

The key outlets for networking at a standard conference occur:
  1. During dinner groups 
  2. During receptions
  3. During meals
  4. During breaks
These obviously won’t work for the Not-So-Standard Conference, so the conference team plans multiple opportunities for interaction, from Sunday evening entertainment (tbd), to Brown-Bag sessions, SIG sessions before or after the conference, and a virtual game night on Monday evening. Session moderators and chat moderators will also provide opportunities for attendees to ask questions during sessions, and a virtual lounge will offer opportunities to interact with our sponsors.

Professional Development – is a key component of the Not-So-Standard Conference Experience. Providing an opportunity to submit a proposal and present from a variety of presentation formats (this year we are featuring online!) and receiving a professional critique of one’s submission are standard fare. Further, providing keynote speakers and panels addressing key issues in IR is important. Providing skills and knowledge development through a wide variety of professional development workshops and Program presentation sessions are key.  This year, we’ve added the Your Guiding Light workshop series, which will continue throughout the fall.

Newcomers to IR/Newcomers to NEAIR – friendliness and collegiality are crucial to the conference experience. At NEAIR the playing field is level – elitism, titles, etc. are downplayed. Conference planners prioritize mentoring and other means to welcome these groups.
Dining- You are on your own here this year.  The conference team suggests staying hydrated, so keep a water bottle or tasty drink nearby.  And snacks, snacks are always a good way to stay awake.  Granola bars, candy bars, fresh fruit, cookies- whatever works for you. You are in control here. Brown-bag sessions are a way to enjoy your lunch while congregating with others.  Find a session that works for you and bring your favorite meal. We suggest muting when you chew. 
Excursions – Throughout the conference, the mobility of a laptop or tablet will allow you to explore the many nooks and spaces of your home or office. Conference breaks will allow time for you to stretch, perhaps catch a little exercise, and journey to your bathroom.  Maybe even step outside to get some fresh air. But be sure to be back in time for the next session or the conference train will leave the station without you!