As 2016 comes to an end, I hope you are working on your goals for your 2017 development. The challenge may come when you realize there are a plethora of training programs, conferences, webinars and other learning events for administrative assistants and executive assistants. So how do you determine what is best for you? After all, you will have to invest time for your development and in many instances, your company will have to make a financial investment.
It’s best to start with your end in mind. For example, when assistants ask me which training would be best for them between our Annual Conference For Administrative Excellence and World Class Assistant Certification live course, I ask them “What are your goals?” “What are you trying to accomplish?” Our conference and World Class Assistant™ our very different learning events. At our conference we have numerous speakers, it’s a much larger event and shorter sessions. Our World Class Assistant™ Certificate course is limited to 20 attendees. I am the only person teaching, we go very deep into the material and there is ample time for skill practice. Do you see the difference?
I thought I would give you a quick overview of the various training platforms for assistants and a few words of wisdom.
Conferences for Administrative Professionals
There are conferences and then there are conferences. They are not all created equal. I am amazed at how many assistants (and even training companies) intertwine verbiage when talking about training or conferences. For those of us in the training/adult learning industry, there is a difference. Even within conferences, there are differences. I see some offer a one-day workshop with no frills and title it a conference.
A conference usually has the following elements:
- A Welcome Reception or some type of gathering the night before the main learning event.
- Multiple speakers and I don’t mean 2 people. At our administrative conference, we usually have about 11 – 13 speakers. Really big conferences have 40 or more speakers.
- Often have concurrent sessions. However, we do not offer concurrent sessions every year because we like it when attendees are in the same room hearing the same great presentation. Our past attendees have really liked this feature.
- Exhibitors ranging from big exhibit halls to small tables. Again, this is where we differ a bit. Historically we have only allowed our speakers to set up tables and sell their books. Last year, we had several companies interested in setting up a display in our Success Store and it was great. We will be doing this in the future.
- Conferences usually have 50 or more people.
- Presentations usually last 60 – 90 minutes. There may be some half-day workshops, but not too many.
- Last several days.
- Low-level engagement from attendees.
- Usually, have some sort of special event one night for attendees.
- Sometimes the day before the conference actually starts, the hosting organization may offer full-day certification training.
Conferences are great if you want to network with a lot of different people, and hear many different speakers.
Live Training Event (such as a workshop, seminar, or certification course)
Elements of a Live Training Event or Administrative Workshop include:
- Usually, only 1 or 2 individuals are presenting and facilitating.
- A limited number of attendees. We limit our on-site training classes to 25. We limit our WCA certification and designation course to 20 so that each attendee gets personal attention from me.
- Focused content.
- Skill practice for attendees.
- High-level engagement from attendees.
- A variety of learning activities such as mind-mapping, brainstorming, role playing, and creative exercises.
- Accountability after the class by the attendee.
Webinars for Administrative Professionals
Paid or Free? As you know there are paid and free webinars. One is not better than the other. Of course, free webinars sound enticing because they are free. Again, not all free webinars are created equal. It depends on the presenter and their ability to keep you engaged.
Also, the topic is important. Will the topic being covered help you achieve your goals? What are the learning objectives of the webinar? Do they align with the skills you need to develop or enhance?
Live or Replay? For me, attending the live webinar is great. I can almost feel the energy through the technology of the presenter or attendees. A replay is useful in case you can’t attend the live event or you want to hear the information more than once. Often I am taking notes during a webinar so I might miss the way something was said. I encourage you to at least sign up for the webinar so you will get the replay link in the event you miss it.
Video or PowerPoint Presentation? I have watched many webinars where I only see a still picture of the presenter and hear their voice as they go through all their slides. Personally, I want to see the presenter’s face. It’s just my personal preference. I am less apt to be distracted by something else in my office when I see their face as they present. I also feel a connection with the person.
At Office Dynamics, we have been offering free monthly webinars since January 2015. Most often it is a video presentation where you see me or me and my guest presenter. (And Jasmine, too.) It’s great! What works best for you?
Before participating or watching a replay of a webinar, write some specific goals related to the topic being covered. Be sure to take good notes as you watch the webinar because it’s hard to remember everything afterward. Try to immediately identify which action steps you are going to take from what you learned while the information is fresh in your mind.
Online Learning vs. On Demand
These formats are often interchanged. They are basically the same. At Office Dynamics, when we say “online learning,” we are referring to actual training courses.
Then we refer to the videotaped sessions from our conference as Conference On Demand. It is an online learning program but it only focuses on our conference for that particular year.
Virtual Instructor-Led Training [VILT]
I bet you never heard of this. VILT is Virtual Instructor-Led Training. That is where I would be present a live workshop from Las Vegas to a group of assistants in a company in another location. It is as if we were in one room together. I can see the participants and they can see me. It is live. Participants can ask me questions and I can ask them questions.
VILT is a cost effective way to present training. There are no travel expenses involved. A company can even have assistants from multiple locations/offices attend the program.
What’s Next for You?
Of course, you want to take advantage of free training. Then you should supplement that with formal training. I highly recommend live conferences, workshops, retreats and boot camps because you gain so much from talking to people face to face. You have opportunities to talk to the speakers after they have presented; can ask your personal questions in private with the presenter.
Plus 99% of assistants say the one thing they love about attending live classes or conferences is the networking! By far, assistants love sharing with their peers, hearing about challenges other assistants face and learning best practices.
You might also consider how you best learn. I learn best by seeing what someone is explaining to me or seeing it in writing or seeing the person presenting. I learn best in a live event or if someone works with me one-on-one.
I am an avid reader and especially like to read hard copy information because I flag important pages, highlight important tips and techniques, and underline information that I want to revisit.
Steps toward planning your administrative development in 2017.
- Write your goals for 2017 in terms of skills you need to develop; skills you want to take to the next level; and gap areas where you have little to no knowledge.
- Prioritize your learning goals. What do you need to tackle first, second, third and fourth?
- What does your manager think you should focus on? You should always get your manager’s perspective, especially because you want them to support you with your training and development?
- create a spreadsheet that lists your areas for development and then crosswise lists the platforms you will use to develop that skill. You can even make a column to list resources as you find them.
- You can really make this fun. Don’t feel overwhelmed. Take one bite at a time. Of course, you can’t do everything at once.
- Research. Really read a website. I can’t tell you how many assistants and executives don’t know all the education programs and products Office Dynamics offers because they don’t take the time to look around our website. Even clients who have worked with us for years don’t know I offer private coaching or that we offer a full-day workshop for managers and assistants.
- Read bios. Who is teaching? What is their level of expertise?
- What do you hope to get out of the time you spend?
- Track your progress throughout the year. Give yourself a star or reward when you accomplish a goal. If you get off track, get back on track.
Something we did to make it easier for assistants to determine what is best for them with all the options Office Dynamics offers was to create a page on our website listing all the training options based on an assistants’ or managers’ goals. You might want to check it out here.