I am attending a major conference on B2B and B2C marketing right now with about 12,000 other attendees. I’ve already listened to David Plouffe, Obama’s key communication guy and mastermind behind his successful campaign, deliver the keynote address. I visited the exhibitor’s booths, picked up some great literature on ebooks and virtual marketing, participated in a lead generation survey, and entered to win some fabulous prizes. The noise of the crowds could be a bit deafening, but I was able to tune it out. I was able to network, meet some interesting people, and listen in on some interesting conversations.For this working mom who usually thinks of large conferences as stimulating but stressful, time consuming, and often insane experiences, this one was peaceful, productive, and sane. The best part was that I didn’t travel any farther than my computer to participate. I didn’t fight airport crowds and deal with delayed flights. No one lost my luggage. Heck, I didn’t even have to pack a suitcase!Today I took part in my first virtual conference. I accidentally stumbled upon the Digital Marketing World Spring 2009 Conference on line, probably during one of my many Google expeditions. What an exciting experience! The whole front-end process is just like attending a real event. I registered, perused the list of speakers and exhibitors, decided what I hoped to learn from the experience, and chose my user name and password. I registered by filling in my name tag and sharing my bio and business information.When I entered the conference, I was greeted by a cyber-based convention center! There in front of me was the exhibition hall, where I could visit the vendor booths. To my left was the auditorium, where I would go to listen to excellent speakers like Plouffe bring me up to speed on the latest, greatest marketing and communications best practices.  To the right was a lounge, where I could go and network with other attendees. The biggest surprise was the simulated noise heard on the home page. The buzz was made to sound like that hum of a crowd. If noise isn’t your thing, you could quiet things down by changing your settings. For me, who normally doesn’t like background noise when I work, the murmur of the crowd made me feel right at home on the convention floor, even though I was settled back in my chair with no one around.Upon entering, I was able to download a virtual attendee guide and exhibitors guide. Instructions for navigating the conference and communicating with speakers and others in attendance was clearly outlined. Even though I was fighting with my Outlook program this morning, attending DMW was a breeze.Of course, I visited all the booths and entered to win any one of the prizes offered, ranging from services to a gift card for Starbucks. Yes I would get distracted by an email or phone call. But with virtual conferences, I know I can get the information later.If done right, virtual conferences are a productive way to network, get the latest market intelligence and best practices in your area of expertise, and gain exposure for your services at a low cost and well within budget.In fact, perhaps my only disappointment was that – just like at a live event – a virtual conference did not prevent me from eating all day. The food, however, was not as good.By the way, you can already register for the Fall 2009 Digital Marketing World Virtual Conference! Click here for more information.