We believe in virtual conferences! It’s been a month since the 4th Annual Atlantic Conference for Administrative Professionals (ACAP) went online for the first time on July 29th, after many months of careful preparation.

Our Delegates and The Decision to Go Virtual:

When back in March, due to the ongoing pandemic, meeting restrictions were put in place, we postponed the conference to July, thinking that for sure things will be much better during the summer. But reality sunk in soon after that, we knew we had to decide to deliver the event virtually or to postpone our conference maybe indefinitely.

This event has always been important to us in providing educational opportunities for administrative professionals in a fun and meaningful way. The idea of turning the interactive, in-person, fun annual meeting into something virtual in a couple of months seemed rather impossible for a moment.  It was not an easy feat to make sure the spirit of the conference stays intact and people will join us online for the educational program as well as the opportunity to share and network with peers, which was the main focus of our planning from the get-go.

The event was always popular and we had a base of interested registrants back in March for the original in-person conference scheduled for April. It was a tradition to host the event during the week of Administrative Professionals’ Day in April to celebrate the amazing work of dedicated administrative staff in offices across Atlantic Canada and beyond.

We gave notice to our delegates and speakers, early enough for everyone to change plans accordingly and choose the best option for themselves and waited for the feedback. Unfortunately, the virtual conference is not everyone’s cup of tea. People can be resistant to change for different reasons. Some need more time to embrace a new reality. For others, it was just too much to deal with at the moment amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic.  Making the online event appealing to all in a short time was a challenge and we had to face some losses in attendance numbers. It was a valuable learning experience. In the end, enough delegates showed their willingness to give it a try and that is all we needed to know to get started. Administrative professionals are a resilient group!

We forged ahead with planning for a new virtual 4th Annual ACAP.

Technology:

The technology is a very important component of a successful virtual event. After studying many platforms, we decided to keep things simple and use Zoom. So, we had to make sure we understood how to operate Zoom with large events and how to create something more than a webinar presentation for delegates.

We embraced the challenge. We studied and became experts not only in Zoom but also in on-line engagement techniques. In the process, we acquired new tools and strategies to deliver an exciting program online. It enabled us to keep the program agenda with breakout sessions mostly intact from the original version.

The Speakers:

Although the majority of our speakers confirmed their ability and willingness to change plans, not all were able to join us online. We had to adjust the program.  We selected the sessions that could be transitioned to virtual format making sure they do not lose their educational value. It was not an easy process looking for new online presenters on such a short-term notice. Nevertheless, it was a very valuable learning experience for all involved. Our willingness to think outside of the box paid off.

We repurposed the pre-conference get together this time around to be a meet and greet online with a musical performance by Dave Carroll. It worked out perfectly because it gave people a chance to also feel more comfortable with checking in for Zoom sessions and be ready for their selected program the next day.

Because the live interaction of speakers and delegates is a crucial part of this event, we made sure to replace it as much as possible with virtual Q&As at the end of each session and during breaks.

Practice makes perfect. All staff and speakers worked tirelessly to make it all this happen. Deborah Lorehnz believes “preparation takes time and practice” as she tested her presentation over and over again and made necessary changes to show onscreen her most authentic self. Friends and family members were very much involved in planning and preparing many presentations to say the least. Being open to new experiences comes with overcoming fears, Claudine Lowry thinks having “a moderator and a technical person available for support and direction during the presentation” made her “more at ease and able to enjoy the connection with her audience”. Embracing the technology is as big for us event planners as it is for presenters who are used the live audience. Susan Stewart, as a comedian, is an actual performer, and changing to a virtual world came with its set of challenges for her as well. She changed her outlook from her: “stand up comedy to sit down comedy” act and focused on making the connection with the audience as real as possible to make us laugh out loud (mostly muted😊). “I have learned to think of myself as a TV host. I’m now on everyone’s screens so focusing on voice intonation and facial expressions are key. Stare down that camera lens and make those viewers feel like you see them😊” Whatever the approach we were all astounded by the results.

Yet, the overwhelming impact of this conference was how much WORKED. The content was useful and engaging, like always. Delegates still attended sessions presented by experts on the key issues important to the administrative professional field including well-deserved wellness-focused yoga and meditation options. And one major theme that keeps on coming up, to sum up, the overall experience is maybe a bit of surprise for all participating, is how we can still connect virtually and make it meaningful. “There was a lot of laughter and much more feedback” than donalee Moulton, and others anticipated from the online event. Dr.Wendy Caroll put it clearly: “One always has that moment of worry before an online session – Will my internet connection be stable? and Will my audio equipment work? But once both of these tech items are a check then these online session offers a wonderful venue.”

Exactly! A welcomed opportunity to stay connected, expect the unexpected, and be flexible!

Despite huge obstacles (the world changed by pandemic), we made sure we lived up to our promise again this year, against all odds. Going virtual with this year’s 4th Annual ACAP was our chance to seize that opportunity and live our mission like never before in delivering the best event for administrative professionals year after year. We saw this as an opportunity to create a meaningful connection in a new yet still welcoming environment.

Sum Up:

So, yes, we do believe in a virtual conference success story, because the 4th Annual ACAP made us so!

Thank you to all who participated for believing in us!

Spark Conferences Team

 

In less than four weeks, the Atlantic Conference for Administrative Professionals will take place yet again! We are super excited to host this event for the fourth consecutive year, especially in 2020.

Living with the pandemic made us all face many professional and personal challenges. That is why it makes it so much more satisfying to be able to invite you to this conference this year.

We are very proud of our engaging program, amazing speakers, awesome networking opportunities and yes, as promised a few surprises, to make this virtual experience unforgettable to all.

 

Someone said that the future is virtual. Little did we all know how fast we will have to face it. The health and safety of all attending our event have always been our priority and the pandemic enhanced certain rules and brought additional regulations into focus. We all hear and live by #physicaldistancing these days.  Our team at Spark Conferences faced the challenge, embraced the change and moved forward to make the ACAP happen. We decided to produce the best online content and to make it appealing to all administrative professionals, whether still working from home or those who are back in the office. In fact, online events will make it possible for us to reach out to all of you who may not otherwise be able to travel and meet in-person. Let’s look at the bright side of things. It is not about ignoring difficulties, but a willingness to shift the focus just a bit. When faced with the new reality, in our case, it made us work harder on a customized agenda for all to be able to attend the conference online. We want you to join us VIRTUALLY on July 29th to learn, to network with peers, to share, and to celebrate together, all the hard-working, resilient administrative professionals. It’s all about making lemonade with lemons life gave us in this July heat! Sounds refreshing right!

 

We know that we can hardly wait for the event to happen. How about you? We want to share our excitement with you. Thinking about attending the virtual ACAP?

 

Here are our top 6 reasons to attend:

 

  1. An impressive line up of experts, who will present on leadership skills, professional growth, work-life balance and performance. All breakout sessions are made into small meeting spaces to give you an opportunity to interact with the speaker. Pick and choose who you want to listen to and participate in Q&A in each session.
  • Understand of what it means to be a leader with Claudine Lowry
  • Learn how to say no by setting right boundaries and Embrace the change while you’re at it, with Deborah Lohrenz
  • We struggle with prioritizing our workload, especially now with more work from home situations, get the tips from Mel Champagne
  • How about getting a bit of self-confidence boost to empower yourself with Kim Bourgeois 
  • Wendy R. Carroll is presenting on what the future may hold for the profession and how to prepare for it.

And these are just some of the choices available for you. For many more sessions and details on each, please check our program agenda. Oh! and let’s not forget that all essential sessions will be highlighted and offered on-demand!

 

  1. You may think a virtual event is just another Zoom session or webinar, but we are here to prove you wrong! The interactive features of advanced virtual events allow for amazing networking possibilities among delegates. There will be a Q&A, chat rooms, and breaks for all to engage in a conversation and exploration of key issues valid for administrative professionals. Do you have questions and comments? Please do share them with your peers! We definitely live in rather “interesting” times and all sectors of the economy are being challenged by pandemic, here is your opportunity to talk, interact, ask your peers – how are they managing their jobs and careers?

 

  1. Laughter is the best medicine, right! The comedian and author, Susan Stewart, is our closing keynote speaker. She uses comedy to help people deal with everyday stress. And who’s better than her to give us all a little lift these days by showing us a lighter side of life. She’s been busy these days too. Working on her podcast Still a Hot Mess, along with her co-host Kelly Fanson. And let’s not forget that we want you to keep this good, happy feeling, after the conference! So, Susan’s book “You Gotta Laugh” will be gifted to all delegates. Hope we made you smile!
  1. Let’s continue with give away goodies. We want you all to own Sheila Kelly’s new book “The Power of UN (A Spiritual Seeker’s Guide to Peace, Love, and Happiness)”.
    A leadership coaching pioneer in Nova Scotia, Sheila has coached hundreds of middle and senior managers over thousands of hours, helping them transform how they show up at work. She’s also developed and delivered workshops on everything from difficult conversations and developing coaching skills to mindfulness and the law of attraction. As Sheila in her own words describes the book that it “chronicles my journey through… and out of… the chaos and unhappiness of my own workplace disengagement”. The ACAP conference offers two sessions with Sheila Kelly: Coach Yourself to Leadership Success and Work-Life Balance. Is it Lie?

 

  1. Self-improvement comes through education, as much as through self-care. During the conference, we will offer sessions with Ketonah Yoga instructor Lesly Seto as well as Meditation hour with Autumn Grant. Pull out your yoga mats at home and join our experts on learning new relaxation methods to enhance your coping mechanism with stress.

 

  1. After sharing all the exciting news and surprises for July 29th, how about our promised BIG SURPRISE? For the pre-conference online networking session on July 28th, we are inviting you to join us for a LIVE performance by Dave Carroll who will rock the house during this live streaming Zoom session just for you administrative professionals! Grab a drink, get the speakers on loud, and listen to this Nova Scotia native master storytelling singer-songwriter.

 

Will it be different this year? We still at different phases of reopening across Canada. Public health officials, from all government levels, stress out the importance of being responsible and adhere to physical distancing rules. It’s about being mindful and not to spread the virus We also need to protect the vulnerable. So yes, this virtual event will be different in form but not in its SPIRIT.

We are ready to host you true to this year’s theme Olympic Performance in the Workplace. Our keynote speaker and Olympic Gold Medalist: Katie Weatherston will talk all about the importance of what the past few months have shown and proved yet again, your incredible perseverance and resilience as professionals.  You are performing like true Olympians. Administrative professionals have to hold their workplaces organized and functional amidst the “new normal”.

As we all need to adjust in our daily lives lest not forget what is at the core of keeping ourselves healthy and happy. Sustaining human connection is super important. That is why we love to produce the conference in the first place. A conference is a perfect space for delegates to meet and network with their peers while getting educated to enhance their careers, expand their skills, and set their personal goals. We believe virtual ACAP offers great learning opportunities and more. Technology allows us to connect in a good and even fun way. (Our 6 reasons, out of many, to make you excited about your event!)  It creates new possibilities to extend your networks, giving you more opportunities to grow. During a time of social isolation, it’s a great way to stay connected with your peers. We all need support and may receive a bit of good advice in return.

 

That’s what we believe is the best giveaway!

Have you made up your mind yet?

See you online on July 29th!

Spark Conferences Team

 

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“Well trained administrative professionals are key to any successful organization. They are the original multi-taskers, helping organizations to run more efficiently and turn better profits,” says Oana Matei, Operations Manager with Spark Conferences, which is presenting the 4th Atlantic Conference for Administrative Professionals (ACAP) at the Westin Nova Scotian in Halifax on July 29, 2020.

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The Atlantic Conference for Administrative Professionals ended on Friday, April 27, 2018 with a fantastic party for all attendees and speakers. After such an eventful day, many were glad to indulge in some free drinks and appetizers (courtesy of conference sponsor, Corporate Traveller) while celebrating with their peers who came to Halifax in order to learn helpful tips and skills pertaining to all sorts of administrative assistant careers.

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More than two decades ago Sheila Kelly was stuck in a toxic workplace environment doing a job she dreaded every day. But, after hitting a breaking-point in her situation, she came to a realization that ignited a change within her. Now, as the Director of The Big Yes Centre for Enlightened Leadership, Sheila devotes her efforts towards sharing the enlightenment she found through her own struggles. She has helped hundreds of clients achieve happiness and motivation in their workplace and is striving to lower the rates of emotional disengagement in Canadian workforces.

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