Part of being a travel advisor usually includes attending in-person events. From small local conferences to distant FAM trips, and everything in between, agents grow their knowledge by making connections with others in the travel industry face to face.
Last spring, that changed. All industry events were either canceled, postponed or transformed into a virtual format. Although you may not have been jumping for joy at the thought of sitting in front of your computer even more, a virtual event can actually be extremely beneficial-as long as you're making the most out of it.
Claire Schoeder of Elevations Travel was not initially excited about attending virtual events but soon realized the benefits that came from this format.
"I quickly found out that I enjoyed and really benefited from virtual conferences," Schoeder explained. "I enjoyed my meetings with no distractions-such as people at the next table or booth talking a bit too loudly making it difficult to concentrate on my own appointment. (Not a frequent occurrence but it has happened to me several times.) I also enjoyed the conversations-there was much less reliance on prepared presentations so it felt more personal to me."
It's important to stay in touch with the various industry contacts in order to stay relevant. If in-person connections aren't possible right now, virtual events are the next best thing. There are a few key ways to get the most out of conferences held in this type of setting.
Prior to the start time, Schoeder suggests making sure you know and understand the technology being used. She's attended multiple conferences recently, and each one has used different technology. If you're familiar with it in advance, you'll be all set to go at the start time without feeling stressed.
In addition to being prepared, she says to make sure you have a comfortable set up. "Preparation is key to make these events a success for agents. Comfort is important as you will be on video for several hours with a small break here and there," Schoeder explained.
It's also important to make sure you're available to provide your full attention to the vendor if it's a presentation, and especially if it is a one on one meeting. This may mean altering your schedule to deal with clients earlier or later in the day and shutting off your phone and other distractions during the conference time.
Schoeder has found herself enjoying the virtual option: "I have been able to ask specific questions that I might not have been able to do in a group format. I read a bit about each vendor-hotels, tour operators and DMCs before each conference so I was able to focus on the aspects that are important to my clients. I met vendors that I already work with to get updates and met new ones that I think will enhance sales."
At this point in the year, months into the pandemic, nothing really feels "normal" anymore, but maybe instead of waiting for things to go back to normal, we need to embrace the new way of doing things. Yes, this includes making things work virtually for the time being.
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