Competitive Advantage Goes Virtual: Here’s What You Should Know and How to Make the Most of the Experience

This year, students will have the opportunity to participate in the first-ever virtual Competitive Advantage conference. Previously scheduled for September 11-13, 2020, Competitive Advantage will now take place September 11-12, 2020. Global online events platform Hopin will be used to host the conference. 

The decision to transition to a virtual event was made with students, staff and other constituents’ health and safety in mind as COVID-19 continues to put many in our community at risk. “We are confident that, in time, normalcy will return,” says Peter J. Aranda, III, executive director & CEO of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management. “In the meantime, we invite students to join us for an impactful virtual experience on par with our in-person event.”

Designed for college sophomores, juniors and seniors, Competitive Advantage is a leadership conference that gives underrepresented minority students the tools they need to achieve success in college, careers and graduate school. In just a couple days, students are exposed to different industries and career paths, develop leadership and professional skills, network with corporate executives and learn about internship opportunities. Attendees to the 2020 Competitive Advantage conference can expect the same high-level experience and more.

While different in nature, the virtual conference does offer some advantages over an in-person event. With no geographic barriers, students can attend from anywhere — specifically, from the comfort and safety of your home. The ability to ask questions freely in the chat feature means you don’t have to feel intimidated, and easy access to content and connections means more opportunities to learn and grow your network. Self-directed, Hopin makes navigating this experience easy.

The venue includes multiple interactive areas that allow attendees to connect and engage. It allows you to move in and out of rooms — much like an in-person event — where you’ll gain access to live video sessions led by industry experts, interact via chat or video, engage in skills workshops and make professional connections. Company representatives also have the ability to interview participants for internships via one-on-one meetings.

To help students prepare for and navigate this virtual event, we’ve compiled a list of tips. Read on to make the most of your 2020 Competitive Advantage experience:


Pre-conference Prep
Review the conference agenda.
• Write down one to two goals you have for attending the conference, and leverage the agenda to help you achieve those.
• Create a color system and highlight your top sessions. Have a few back-ups should you have extra time or something changes in the schedule.
• Do some research before your sessions. Look up presenters on LinkedIn, or Google them to see if you can find any information about them. Then, formulate some basic questions that you can bring into the session.

Test your technology.
• Review what technology requirements the conference platform needs to optimize performance and reduce any technical snags. If necessary, update software.
• Log into the conference a little early to ensure your camera and microphone are working properly and to give yourself enough time to troubleshoot.
• Have a back-up plan should your internet go out or your computer not work. (A beta version of Hopin is available on mobile devices.)

Clear your schedule, and set boundaries.
• Communicate with friends and family that you will be busy during this time so they know not to disturb you.
• It can be tempting to check emails or answer text messages, so assign designated times to do this if you must.
• Set goals for yourself regarding participation to hold yourself accountable. This can be as simple as, “I’m going to ask one question via the chat box for each session I attend.”
• Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date.


Day of Conference
• Even if you’re virtual, it’s important to dress for the occasion. You’ll likely be on video at one point or another — plus, research shows that what you wear impacts how you feel and behave, so make yourself look nice.
• Have your highlighted agenda, your questions and a notebook (digital or otherwise) ready to record quick notes and jot down questions.
• Remember virtual etiquette: Mute your microphone when you’re not speaking, be aware of your surroundings and tidy up your background (in case you’re on video).
• Eat before your sessions or during breaks, and have water handy throughout the event. You never know when you’re going to want to speak up or will have to be on video.
• Remove distractions like your phone that could cause you to miss valuable information and come off as rude and unprofessional.
• Engage! Leverage the chat box feature, speak up and use your video when it’s appropriate.
• Don’t underestimate the value of virtual networking. Use the opportunity to meet peers, learn more about different companies and make deep connections.
• Greet corporate representatives professionally, and remember that first impressions are lasting ones.
• Be respectful of corporate representatives’ time and considerate of your peers. It is never good to monopolize anyone’s time.


• Reflect on your experience and what you learned.
• Follow up with new friends and corporate connections you spoke with. Send a quick note thanking them for their time or asking them a follow-up question.


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