Academic conferences play an important role in the scientific community by providing an opportunity for researchers to discuss their work and to network. However, drawbacks of traditional face-to-face (F2F) conferences, such as the ostensible exclusion of non-scientists, the substantial environmental footprint, and the large costs in terms of both time and money are increasingly being recognized. As a result, alternative and complementary formats are being explored. One of these is the Twitter conference (TC), in which research is presented and discussed on the social media platform Twitter. Here, we use hashtag and presenter data from several ornithology and ecology conferences (both TCs and F2F events) to explore the potential reach of the tweets and the magnitude of the difference in greenhouse gas emissions between the two conference types. We found that TCs generated greater engagement than F2F events, have the potential to reach a very large audience and result in a substantial reduction in emissions. Further, we argue that the format promotes presenter and audience diversity due to participation being flexible and virtually cost-free. While we recognize some disadvantages of this format compared to F2F events, especially in relation to the social and networking aspects of conferences, we envision that virtual events, such as TCs, will play an important role in the future of science dissemination and outreach. By embracing such opportunities, academic conferences can move towards a more inclusive and sustainable future.