Is There a Need for Professionals to Become “Virtual Certified” in Your Industry?

Everyone in the association community has watched one particular profession get dramatically disrupted by the pandemic: the event planner. In a matter of weeks—or days—the event planner’s job completely changed as associations cancelled in-person events and scheduled virtual ones instead.

Event planners had to quickly:

•    Understand technology options and make wise selection decisions.
•    Figure out how to use these new platforms.
•    Learn how to provide new and effective virtual learning and networking experiences—and how to price those experiences.
•    Rethink sponsorship and exhibitor packages.
•    Prepare to vet, work with, and coach virtual presenters and speakers.

Talk about a steep learning curve. No wonder we saw hundreds of webinars about these topics being offered this spring.

Getting up to speed on virtual events was even more imperative for independent event planners. Unless they had these new skills, clients wouldn’t retain or hire them.

Become virtual certified to prove your competency in a digital world

Soon enough, on LinkedIn, I saw many event planners becoming “virtual certified.” Smart move. Credentials prove you have the necessary chops in a profession or industry. Maybe you’ve seen some of these credentials too:

•    PCMA’s Digital Event Strategist (DES) certification
•    MPI and Event Leadership Institute’s Virtual Event & Meeting Management certificate and digital badge
•    Meeting Without Walls’ Certified Virtual Event Planner (CVEP) certificate

Event planners weren’t the only ones worried about future work. As associations canceled conferences and planned new virtual events, they had fewer speaking slots to fill. Professional speakers suddenly found themselves without gigs.

If they wanted to keep the revenue flowing, speakers had to find a way to differentiate themselves and prove they could engage a virtual audience. Many of them quickly became virtual certified by earning their Certified Virtual Presenter (CVP) certification.

virtual certified

Our new virtual life is not going away anytime soon

Back in March, associations kept their summer and fall events on the calendar. Most of us hadn’t yet cancelled our flights to Vegas for ASAE Annual next month. But now, in-person events are cancelled for the rest of the year.

Even when conferences and other in-person events return, many associations plan to offer a hybrid experience because they know attendees (and staff) may not be able, willing, or permitted to return to in-person events for quite some time.

Although in-person events are missed, associations are discovering the advantages of virtual events:

•    Extended reach to a larger audience
•    Wider selection of speakers and presenters
•    New approach to event and year-round revenue opportunities
•    Better event data

Is there a need for virtual certified professionals in your industry?

Association professionals who plan and speak at events are developing new virtual skills and will continue to rely upon those skills in the future.

What about your members’ industry? What knowledge and skills have your members and others in your market had to develop to continue working remotely and operating in this new environment?

How are they learning these new skills? How are employers hiring for these skills? How can they tell if a person has them?

Who’s offering training in these new skills? Is this an opportunity for your association to develop and deliver certification or certificate programs?

virtual certified

Would members benefit from becoming virtual certified in remote worker management?

In mid-March, nearly everyone in the association industry started working from home. Hardly anyone was trained to work remotely or manage a remote workforce. You had to figure it out as you went along.

If remote working is here to stay in your members’ industry, one way for professionals to distinguish themselves from others in the talent marketplace is by becoming virtual certified in remote staff management.

For example, your association could offer industry-specific training on:

•    Compliance and other HR issues
•    Developing and fostering a remote workplace culture
•    Diversity, equity and inclusion in a remote context
•    Creating a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE)
•    Data security
•    Operational processes and procedures
•    Teambuilding and facilitation
•    Communication and feedback
•    Interviewing and hiring

You could even offer programs for remote certified professionals—people who have taken short online courses in the essential elements of effective remote working:

•    Self-awareness
•    Self-motivation
•    Communication
•    Collaboration
•    Technical savvy
•    Resilience
•    Empathy
•    Life/work balance

Early career professionals especially need this type of education—perhaps as part of an adulting program. Let them earn digital badges that prove they know how to succeed as a remote worker.

Is “virtual certified” the right direction for your association?

Like any new program, you have lots of questions to answer before making the decision to get started.

•    What do you want this new program to accomplish?
•    Is this the only way to accomplish that goal?
•    Does it align with your organization’s mission and goals?
•    Is there a market need for this program?
•    Will employers get behind it? Will they value it when hiring and promoting? Will they support their employees pursuing it?

Which is the better option for each program?

•    A certificate program to address a knowledge or skills gap?
•    Or, a certification program to identify and recognize professionals who have the competencies required in your industry?

Here’s a refresher on the difference between certification and certificate programs.

Certification validates and recognizes a person’s existing experience, competency, knowledge, and skills. The certification requirements usually include experience and education components.

A certificate program is linked to a specific learning program or series of learning programs. Unlike certification, a certificate program provides instruction and/or training to acquire specific competencies, knowledge, and/or skills.

Credentialing consultant Mickie Rops has posted several articles about credentialing that can help you work out whether a certificate or certification program is the right choice for your association.

Life as we knew it will never be quite the same even when or if things go back to “normal.” Disruptions caused by the pandemic revealed a need for new virtual skills and knowledge. If members and others in your industry will continue to rely upon these new skills, they will need your association’s help developing them and proving their mastery of them.

Certificate programs
Digital Badges
digital credentials
remote work
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