By Sharon Williams
Virtual Assistants are working from an office in their homes, somewhat situated away from other humans, connected only by a computer, the Internet, a telephone, a fax and maybe “colleagues” in forums or mastermind groups.
Circumstances like these are surely enough reason for encouraging an online entrepreneur to seek out and to attend conventions and conferences regularly in order to shore up their skills and to keep up with the ever-changing trends in today’s online climate.
Thus enter the Online International Virtual Assistants Convention (OIVAC) and all its opportunities; it’s just a click away from helping any VA renew passion and remember why you became a VA in the first place.
Improved professional knowledge and skills will be repaid many times over when you are energized and inspired, having had an opportunity to compare notes with colleagues who may have faced - or are facing - similar circumstances to those you face in your business.
Before we present reasons why participating in conventions and conferences are important, let’s identify the three types of conference attendees:
- Ultimate class attendees – individuals who are regularly invited to present or attend and participate.
- Moderate or “middle-of-the-road” attenders – attend one or two favorites a year.
- Rare attendees – never attend or if they do, very infrequently (once every two years or more).
Actually, there is a fourth category; for those that can’t see any real benefit to attending a professional convention/conference. They can’t identify any benefit or advantage to trekking off to or logging online for a multi-day event. However, the easiest and probably only way to discover “the value” is by simply diving into the experience.
John Kennerly, library director at Erskine College and Theological Seminary, outlines several important benefits to attending conferences.
- Learn from others in your profession–and perhaps in your particular area of expertise (What works? What doesn’t work?). This is real, practical, professional development in action.
- Share with others your thoughts, experiences, etc. Conventions/conferences are not just for taking. They are also excellent opportunities for giving.
- Take a break from the daily routine and tasks, which can be refreshing and re-energizing. (It is simply amazing how much a handful of days focused on your profession yet removed from the daily grind and countless business interruptions can encourage and invigorate your calling to the profession.)
- Have a real opportunity to step back and reflect on the bigger picture of your business. (Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. Conferences allow you to pull away from the daily mechanics and be more philosophic about your profession.)
- Network, network, network. (I would argue that one of the greatest benefits of conference attendance is simply meeting other folks who do what you do.)
Let’s face it! We are in tough economic times – in some areas even desperate times, and looking for ways to cut spending. Traditionally, one of the first areas to see cut or completely eliminated is professional development. There is also the struggle of being away from your business or providing client support for an extended period of time (on average 3 to 5 days). Then there is turmoil you can expect when you return or rev up your computer to face tons of emails from demanding clients.
You wonder – is the benefit lost in consideration of the needs to focus my attention on daily client requests and in-house operations? What about “catching up”, “having to put out fires” or even thinking “will my clients hire another VA if I’m not readily available for their needs?”
Been there, done that!
At some point you have to consider…am I moving forward with my business? Am I achieving my goals, making the monies I desire, working with clients I love? Can I afford to participate?
I realize I need to participate but can I afford to participate?
Sometimes there is a tipping point that makes a conference affordable and even worth attending. Do you know a professional colleague who plans to attend, or is at least contemplating, a conference that you are considering? Maybe you can share the travel and lodging expenses. Even split an expensive meal or two. It can make for a memorable experience that is easy on the wallet and you can pull it off.
Since Virtual Assistants “work virtually”, OIVAC is the ideal conference for industry professionals that push interaction and content via today’s online communication channels. It provides slides, handouts, video and audio from its presentations, workshops and networking events, that are easily accessible and downloadable after the event.
Here are just a few more benefits to attending the Online International Virtual Assistants Convention (OIVAC):
- Re-charge your passion for the profession. You are the most important asset of your business. If you are re-charged, you will pass along that energy and enthusiasm to those with whom you work and do business with. This will create a better experience for everyone!
- Find the newest trends, innovations, technologies, and best practices available to assist in the day-to-day operation as well as client support. You will also fine-tune your skills, be exposed to new techniques, network with peers, and learn about issues affecting the industry and clients you serve. Attendees discover how to enhance personal interactions; and become up-to-date with social media networks and platforms, software and technologies, as well as ways to develop new approaches to client contacts, or other trends affecting your niche, specialty and the overall industry.
- Meet the best and the brightest in the profession. With more than 35+ educational and networking sessions, spanning 48 hours, you and your business will reap the benefits of best practices, success stories, tools, and practical solutions. You will also have the opportunity to turn your biggest challenges into your greatest accomplishments when you learn from the experts, leaders in the field and fellow attendees.
- Be the force for positive change in your business and the industry. Everyone associated with your business can benefit from your attendance. Learn successful methods and best practices from leaders in your niche and the industry, and become skilled at applying these methods when you share them with your team, colleagues and clients.
Attending events online and off is essential for productive networking that can result in a variety of valuable outcomes including:
- Collecting competitive intelligence
- Vendor and consultant sourcing
- Partner sourcing
- Prospecting for new joint venture opportunities
When you attend the convention, set goals for the kinds of contacts you want to make. Go so far as to make a list of people you want to meet, if they’re particularly important to your goals. Initiate new connections with potential marketing partners or seat buddies. At the same time, reinforce existing connections with contacts in your social networking pipeline. Follow attendees on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn. Share useful tips, links and info that are relevant to your interactions with them. Give to get, but have a purpose and a goal for the connection.
Get smarter. Repeat.
There are numerous benefits to attending sessions. The obvious is to hear smart speakers give presentations on important topics with useful tips. Think of how many sessions you will attend “live”, and whether all the sessions are recorded and downloadable. However, sometimes speakers deliver on that promise and sometimes they don’t. Compare notes and discuss the sessions with other attendees. It’s a great way to network and to get other opinions.
Think about how you can leverage your conference experience to create new content for your company blog, articles, or process documentation. Set goals for how many content objects (blog posts, articles, videos, tweets, images) you’ll create each day. Organize what you will capture. Plan where you’ll publish this content and when as well.
One final word.
Let me encourage you–if you have never attended a professional Virtual Assistant Industry conference or OIVAC, give it a shot.
All industries offer “professional development and training”, and individuals interested in participating and see the benefit, “find ways” to attend. They plan their budget in advance. They also inform clients that they will not be available because they are attending business conferences. I’ve been told that when VAs notify clients they will not be available during convention days, clients note it on their calendars and offer encouragement and accolades for the VA’s participation in professional development.
They see the value!
Besides, by attending the convention from the comfort of your home office, you might discover ways to grow professionally, and perhaps when you shut down your computer you will return to your business with a renewed spirit. And, who knows, you may find that you simply enjoy it.
Online International Virtual Assistants Convention
Dates: Thursday, May 16, 2013 to Saturday, May 18, 2013
Time: 8:00 a.m. to 12 midnight EST (New York) (daily)