Disruptive events can trigger societal transformations with beneficial outcomes (Walker et al., 2020). For scientific professions, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a comprehensive shift from in-person workshops, seminars, and conferences to the use of virtual formats for research and knowledge dissemination (e.g., Viglione, 2020). Despite the merits of virtual conferencing being advocated since the development of the internet (e.g., Reay, 2003; Gichora et al., 2010; Blackman et al., 2020), ecological and environmental sciences have historically relied on in-person events, and adoption of virtual conferencing for knowledge sharing and networking during so-called lockdowns and travel restrictions represented a radical change. Compelled by COVID-19, many conferences rapidly shifted to virtual formats. However, the combination of professional and personal attachment to in-person conferences, hopes of the effectiveness of vaccines against COVID-19, and organizations planning to host solely in-person events as soon as possible suggests we risk missing an unparalleled opportunity to permanently reimagine scientific conferences to benefit the practice and culture of conservation research.