Tips for attending a virtual conference

Conferences are incredibly useful for all sorts of reasons – you can promote yourself, network and make new contacts, and find out about the latest developments in your industry. And although lockdown has put an end to most in-person conferences this year, many important events are still happening online.

If you’re planning to attend a virtual conference, it’s a good idea to be prepared, because it’s going to be different than you’re used to! The events might be pretty much the same, but you may find it tricky to get into the ‘conference mindset’ at home, so to help you out, here are our top tips for attending a virtual conference.

1. Remove distractions

There are all sorts of distractions at home that you wouldn’t have to deal with at a conference, including children, partners, pets, the ringing phone and the pile of washing up in the corner. Get yourself into conference mode by minimising these distractions as much as possible. Move to a quiet room, preferably with a door you can close, and silence or turn off your mobile phone. Giving the event your full attention will help you to get the most out of it.

2. Schedule your time

Treat this conference the same as you would an in-person one, by sitting down ahead of time and planning out your day. Choose a few can’t-miss events and some others you’d like to attend, and then build your day around them, including tea and lunch breaks. Having a few solid appointments in your calendar will help you to prioritise the most important events, and also make sure you definitely attend!

3. Learn how it works

It’s a good idea to get familiar with the technology beforehand so you don’t have to struggle with technical issues on the day. Most organisers will send pre-conference information, telling you how you can access the events and where you can find the materials/slides for each talk. Take time to read this information and have a practice with whatever conferencing software they’re using, so when the time comes you’ll be ready to go.

4. Go with a friend

Conferences are usually more fun with someone you know, so why not invite a friend along – perhaps a work colleague or a fellow business owner in your field? You can attend the events together, or just meet up for a virtual coffee break and a debrief to energise you for the rest of the day. Attending with a friend will also keep you accountable and help you avoid all those pesky distractions!

Virtual conferences could well become more prevalent in the future, so now is a great time to try a couple out and see what works best for you as an attendee.


Need someone to take care of the day-to-day jobs while you attend your conference? Get Ahead VA’s team of virtual assistants can cover your admin and telephone answering for the day, so you can concentrate on the events you really want to see. To find out more about how we can help, please give Get Ahead VA a call on 01483 332220 or email us at office@getaheadva.com. We pride ourselves on being the staff you don’t see, but the difference you do.

How to do CPD from home

Keeping up with your continuing professional development (CPD) can be tricky at the best of times, and chances are that the stresses of lockdown have not made this easier over the past few months. But if you’re feeling up to it, you might find that doing some CPD from home could be beneficial for you and your business.

Of course, you shouldn’t put any pressure on yourself to be productive during this time. Lockdown is hugely stressful for all sorts of reasons, and there’s no need to add to your mental load unnecessarily. It’s essential that you take care of yourself first and give yourself a break if you need it!

However, if you do feel up to the challenge, you may find working on your CPD really valuable. Perhaps you don’t have as much to do right now and you’re in need of a distraction or something to give structure to your days. Or maybe you’re keen to feel that you’re still making progress with your business, even if your normal workload has changed. Whatever inspires you, here is our guide to doing CPD from home.

Make a plan

The most effective way to carry out CPD is first to make a plan – this will keep you on track and ensure you’re focusing on the areas that will make the most difference to you. Here are a few questions to ask when building your plan:

  • What do you currently do? List your current jobs and note down what you’re best at and what you’re worst at. Are there any skills you need to improve?
  • What are your short-term goals? If there are things you want to achieve in the next year or two, think about what training you can start now to help you get there.
  • What are your long-term goals? Consider your biggest dreams for the future of your business, and then break them down into the steps you will need to take to achieve them. If there are lots of steps, don’t be daunted – just focus on what you need to do first; the rest will come later.

Use online training

There are countless online resources you can use for training and CPD. Here are a few good places to start your search:

  • OpenLearn: This is a hub for free online training provided by the Open University. It covers a wide range of subjects, but the courses in money and business will probably be most useful for business owners. The website tells you the number of hours and the level of difficulty for each course, so you can easily pick one that fits your needs.
  • Skillshare: This is another platform for online courses, but it does require a paid subscription. Again, there are plenty of business and entrepreneurship courses to choose from, and there is also Skillshare for Teams, which will let you build custom training programmes for your employees.
  • Subject-specific training: To find subject-specific training for your area of business, start by looking at the official organisations or leading companies in your field – do they offer online courses that will fill a gap in your knowledge? A quick internet search should bring up even more training options, and you can check out the course descriptions and reviews to find the best one for you.

Attend online conferences

Although most professional conferences have been cancelled, a number of ambitious organisers have taken their events online, so if there’s an event you usually attend in person, look it up to see whether it’s holding an online alternative this year. You could also sign up for conferences that you’re never been able to go to before, either because they’re too far away or because they have a limited number of tickets, so take your search global and see which conferences you can attend from the comfort of your own home!

Keep records

Whatever you decide to do, you should keep a record of it so you will be able to look back and see what you achieved during this time. Not only is this very satisfying, it will also help you to continue to plan your CPD in the future. Make a note of what you did and when, how many hours it took, who the organiser was and the key things you learned.


If you would like someone to help with the day-to-day running of your business while you focus on your CPD, Get Ahead VA can help. We offer services including telephone answering, administration and email management to keep your business running smoothly. To find out how we can help, please give Get Ahead VA a call on 01483 332220 or email us at office@getaheadva.com. We pride ourselves on being the staff you don’t see, but the difference you do.

Protect your back health while working at home

Lockdown has forced thousands of people to start working from home, and for many of us this has meant swapping the desk and office chair for a corner of the kitchen table or a spot on the sofa. But if you’re finding that your new working situation is taking its toll on your back, you’re not alone – a poor home office setup can cause all kinds of discomfort and back pain.

Since it looks like we’ll be in lockdown for some time to come, it’s important to start looking after your back now, to prevent bigger problems down the line. So, here are 4 key ways you can protect your back health while working from home!

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What I’ve learnt from starting a business… in the midst of a global pandemic!

So, it’s October of 2019, when I realise the dawn of a new decade is approaching – and 2020 would mark the 10-year anniversary of working for the same company. It really got me thinking; do I want to be here, doing this for another 10 years?   The answer was no, so I did something about it.  For me, this was a huge leap of faith.  I’ve worked in the media industry for my whole career since I was 18.  It’s all I’ve ever known and those 20 years (OMG!) – as clichéd as it sounds- have gone by in a flash.

I started to build the foundations for Get Ahead VA – West Surrey in Jan 2020. Things were really starting to pick up and I was excited about where things were going when…BAM!  The covid-19 pandemic hit, business shut down and the world felt like it was stopping. 

Now, we’re five weeks (I think!) into the lockdown and although times are undeniably tough for a lot of people, I feel much more positive and am still glad I made the leap to work for myself.  This is what I’ve learnt…

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How to onboard a new VA

Amanda Johnson, business coach, mentor and trainer, is bringing us her advice about how to onboard a new virtual assistant in your business. Her award-winning VA business, VACT, was established in 2003, and she has been in the industry since 2012, so she has plenty of great advice to share!

I love helping business owners find virtual assistants (VAs), and people often ask me how to onboard new VAs as smoothly and effectively as possible. In this blog I’ll look at the onboarding process from the business owner’s perspective and share my advice with you.

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Nurture your mental health at home

The best thing we can all do right now, to stay safe and slow the spread of coronavirus, is to stay indoors as much as possible. However, this can have an effect on our mental health – being unable to go outside, being isolated from friends and family, and feeling uncertain about what the next few months will hold. Indeed, a number of mental health charities have already reported that this crisis has led to an increase in cases of anxiety.*

Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to protect and nurture your mental health during this time. Here are 5 key things you can do to stay happy and mentally healthy during lockdown – all without leaving the house!

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Continuity, reassurance and value for money – why savvy business owners repurpose their content

A little while ago, we were invited to a celebration lunch with one of our clients. During the lunch, the company’s marketing manager told us she had been approached by the Sunday Telegraph who wanted to do a piece about them. The marketing manager was delighted that the VAs had created such a wealth of blogs and factsheets for her to draw on – all she had to do was copy and paste the right paragraphs and send them off to the journalist. We were delighted too – it’s this kind of repurposing that makes content marketing great value for money, as well as empowering our clients to take their own action.

Even if you haven’t been approached by a Sunday paper (!) it’s still a great idea to repurpose your blogs, factsheets, ebooks and social media posts.

Here are some of our favourite ideas:

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How to avoid distractions when working from home

If you’re new to working from home, you might be finding it tricky to switch into ‘work mode’ when there are a thousand things to distract you – the kids, the washing up, the hoovering, the cat that just has to sit on your keyboard.

Here at Get Ahead VA, we know all about the challenges (and the joys!) of working from home, and we’ve got plenty of tips to help you minimise distractions and stay productive. So if you’re struggling with this new style of working, here are 7 top tips to help you adjust.

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Sharing space during self-isolation

We are now in our second week of lockdown in the UK, and everybody is still adjusting to the ‘new normal’. Because schools and many workplaces are now closed, a major part of life in lockdown is learning how to share space with the other people in your house, for longer than you would on a typical day. This can be tricky at the best of times, let alone at a time of major disruption and uncertainty, so we have some advice to help you and your family through. Here are our 5 top tips for sharing space during self-isolation.

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Mindful marketing during the coronavirus pandemic

A lot has changed in a week, and this continues to be a very strange time for the world. The UK government has now ordered all pubs, restaurants, cafes, libraries and gyms to close, as well as shops selling non-essential items.* Many businesses are feeling the impact of these new protective measures, especially small businesses and independents, and many business owners now find themselves in the position of trying to keep things running while also heeding expert advice.

If you are one of the many people trying to come to terms with this new reality, we’re here to help, with some advice about how to market your business, mindfully and sensitively, during this difficult time.

1. Acknowledge it

The first thing to do is acknowledge to your customers what is happening, and what your business is doing to respond to the crisis. This might include closing brick-and-mortar stores, having your staff work from home or – if your business is part of a key industry – introducing new safety and hygiene measures. Whatever field you are in, it’s important that you talk to your customers, rather than just continuing with business as usual.

2. Reassess your marketing

Chances are you’ve already planned your marketing for the next few weeks or months – perhaps you’ve drafted email newsletters, scheduled Twitter or Instagram posts, or written blogs. If that’s the case, now is the time to go back over all your content and marketing plans and rethink them. Are they still relevant, given what is happening? Can you replace them with something more appropriate? It is much better to put in extra work to do this now, rather than ploughing ahead with content or campaigns that no longer strike the right tone.

3. Be agile

Typically, we advise business owners to plan ahead and be prepared – this is still important, but the next few months will likely require you to be more agile and responsive in your marketing efforts. This is an unpredictable, fast-changing situation, so any content you prepare could become redundant after a few days or weeks. Instead, try to be more flexible, and be prepared to change your marketing quickly if required.

4. Keep up your presence

It may feel like the best option right now is to stop marketing altogether. But if you feel able to keep doing it, and it is appropriate to do so, then you can continue to promote your business. Perhaps you could adapt your offering to suit the latest advice (e.g. focussing on online work, or selling vouchers that can be redeemed later), but even if you have to close, you can at least stay present with your audience as things progress. Despite the current atmosphere of uncertainty, this is temporary, and your customers and clients will want to return to you once this has passed, so let them know that you will be ready to welcome them back.

If you need extra support for your business during this tricky time, please give Get Ahead VA a call on 01483 332220 or email us at office@getaheadva.com. Our team of virtual assistants is happy to help with whatever business and marketing services you need. In the meantime, we hope you and your loved ones stay safe and well.

* https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-52010707