Many Virtual Assistants wonder if attending a conference can help their business.
Recently on an IVAA Peer Discussion Group call, this question came up from a new Virtual Assistant. We’ve all been there in our business and money is tight at the beginning so it can be hard to justify spending up to $1500 to go to a conference. When you total up registration, travel / airfare and accommodations it can cost that much in the end.
I could make a long list of reasons (networking, learning, gaining valuable knowledge, making contacts, and finding potential partners or clients / subcontractors) but I think the best way is to share my experience and let you decide for yourself if it’s worth it.
In May of 2009, there was a Virtual Assistant Conference called FoVA (Forum on Virtual Assistance) being held in Niagara Falls and I decided to go. It was a year into my business, and with really only a small handful of clients / work under my belt, I was still searching out my real niche and how to make it all work successfully.
I networked a lot ahead of the conference on all avenues. I joined online forum discussions, talked on Facebook and Twitter and got to know who was coming to the conference and they got to know me.
Before I left, one VA I was ‘acquaintances’ with from the online world, asked if at the conference we could talk about me working for her as a Subcontractor We met at FoVA, talked and she hired me for my 2nd subcontracting gig which I kept until I got too busy to do sub work and had to leave (and we have now moved this relationship to that of “in my circle of best friends”). I also connected with another Multi-VA Business Owner and landed my 3rd subcontracting position. These contracts, when added to my own clients put me in a great business position. Plus I got to learn from these experienced ladies as time went on.
I got to meet several other VAs who I knew from online and more and more friendships developed – again the 5 or so that came from this one conference are not simple friends who know each other but several are close friendships.
Saving money was big for me, so I reached out to another VA online who had been looking for a roommate. We connected – never really ever having talked together a lot. I know she was a little concerned at first because I asked out of the blue! We shared the hotel room at the conference and during that week discovered we were “long lost sisters from another mother” – and to this day have a very close relationship as friends, mentors, accountability partners and the person we call when having a bad day! Because we are in the same line of business we ‘get’ each other’s problems. This is something I can’t do with my older friendships or non-VA friends – they don’t understand what I do, let alone how to commiserate with me or offer advice!
The training at the conference was fabulous! Top notch and from several leaders in the VA industry – you know the Rock Star VAs who have been around for years paving the way for the newbies. Those sessions helped me solidify my business and my niche, and I knew how and when and what I wanted to do in order to keep moving forward as a Virtual Assistant.
So, when someone asks me “Is it Worthwhile to Attend a Conference like the IVAA Live Summit?”
My answer is simply “You can’t afford to NOT go” and neither can your business.
Industry conferences like IVAA Live Summit are meant to help their members / attendees grow and learn – we are not there to sell you a product or program. Our #1 Goal is to Develop You! We are there to teach you, to connect you to others, to help you see how it works for other VAs – good and bad – to learn what you can to take back to your own life and business and make a change! To discover new things and ideas and people that can change your business, and your personal life, forever.
That FoVA Conference (which is no longer around but is very on par to IVAA Live) changed my entire life and knowing now what occurred because of it – I am so glad I racked up a credit card to get there. If I had not taken the step I would not be where I am today in business. Not even close, I am sure.
Was it Worthwhile?
I came back with 3 close friends, and about 5 more that are friends but not on the same level (no offense anyone!), 2 subcontracting jobs that brought me about $15,000 income over a couple years as a sub and led to more than $30,000 + in income from other clients created from those relationships – income that continues to this day. I also gained skills to help me focus and build my own Multi VA business with a very targeted niche that has developed into one with a team of 8 Virtual Associates.
So, you make the choice – What does “Worthwhile” look like to you?
Have you had Conference Success as well? Please share what happened to you and your business in the comments below.
PS. I hope to see you at the Conference in Philly!
Kathy Colaiacovo is a member of IVAA and has been working virtually since 2008. She operates two businesses, a multi-VA firm called Time on Task Virtual Assistant Services and Social 4 Business. She is located in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and specializes in Online Marketing and Social Media Strategy for Small Business owners.