Monday, September 13, 2010

What a Virtual Assistant Do

Virtual Assistants can help you in many ways. The Upwardly Mobile shares some of these.

1. Industry Research - If the facts are there, your virtual assistant can find them much cheaper than anybody else can. Do the math.
2. Product Research - Like number 1, but for products. Have your virtual assistant find and rate products based on whatever criteria are most important to you: price, features, quality, design, popularity, or anything else.
3. Search Engine Optimization - Great for a Website or a Blog.
4. Your Taxes - April 15th is on its way, and many virtual assistants specialize in the tax field.
5. Calendar Management - “Have your people call my people.”
6. Idea Creation for Your Blog or Newsletter - My virtual assistant came up with 7 of the items of this list.
7. Reminders - Don’t forget something important.
8. Bill Pay - If you hate doing it, why not outsource it?
9. Bill Audit - Have your VA review your statements before paying them to make sure you don’t overpay!
10. Grocery Shopping - Combine a virtual assistant with Peapod and you’ve saved yourself an hour a week or more.
11. Other Shopping - Ask Your VA to find you the top 3 books on a given subject and then choose between the three.
12. Event Planning - Want to meet a big group of friends for dinner? Have your virtual assistant find a location, send out invites, answer people’s questions, and generally take care of logistics.
13. Trip Planning - Same as above; your VA can book your flight or train, make your reservation, and plan your itinerary.
14. Internet Marketing - Have an AdSense or other internet marketing campaign? Let your virtual assistant run it for you.
15. News Digests - Feed readers are a good way to keep on top of the news, but sometimes there’s just too much information for you to handle. Have your virtual assistant prepare a daily or weekly digest of the top news that matters to you.
16. Backlink Building - Have your VA help drive traffic to your site.
17. Web Design - Many virtual assistants specialize in web design; revamp your blog or website.
18. Contractor/Vendor Research - Thinking about purchasing a service for yourself or your startup? Have your VA check out potential companies first.
19. Hire Screening - If you’re hiring, have your virtual assistant screen potential candidates first and only forward the top candidates’ resumes on to you.
20. Call Answering and Forwarding - Skype and a VA with good speaking skills can go a long way to making a small business seem more professional to current and potential clients. You usually don’t have to pay virtual assistants to man the phones except for the time they actually spend talking because they can work on tasks for other clients while they wait.
21. Comment Management - Avoid dealing with the spam and have your virtual assistant manage comments on your blog or forum.
22. Comment Response - Take a cue from Tim Ferriss and have your virtual assistant actually respond to your comments, too.
23. Email Response - Same as number 22; if an email asks a common question, have your virtual assistant answer it for you.
24. Email Sorting - Building on 23; have your VA read your email for you and seperate out those emails that require your personal response; if it works for CEOs and heads of state, it can work for you, too.
25. Networking Research - Networking is important, but there are a lot of networking events that waste time and don’t add value. Have your virtual assistant sort through the invites you get and find the ones that will best serve your agenda.
26. Keeping You in Touch - Create a list of important people in your life who you don’t see regularly, and have your VA schedule a call with one or two of them every week.
27. Making You Hard to Reach - The opposite of number 26; have your virtual assistant screen your calls and filter out the people who waste your time. Works great with a Google Voice Account.
28. Tracking Things Down - If you need to find anything–an expert in a given field, Barack Obama’s BlackBerry number, or the best Pizza in New York City–have your virtual assistant search for it.
29. Managing Voicemail - The same principle as managing email.
30. Following Up - Have your virtual assistant follow up on outstanding items for you. If you do a weekly review, have your VA follow up on all the outstanding items in your Waiting For context.
31. Meal Planning - After your virtual assistant organizes your party, have her plan the meal, too. You can even have her order your groceries for you, per number 10.
32. Diet Planning - Need to lose a few pounds? Set a goal and have your virtual assistant organize a diet and exercise plan for you that fits your lifestyle.
33. Wedding Planning - A glorified version of number 12. I now know someone who’s having their virtual assistant help plan their wedding. Let your virtual assistant find the top 5 vendors (for flowers, the cake, the reception venue, the band, etc.) that meet your criteria, and then choose from those 5. This will save hours.
34. Cost Management - If you’re running a project, use your VA to help you manage costs. Many virtual assistants are trained accountants and can manage the budget and provide audit services.
35. Data Entry - If it’s time-consuming and repetitive, you can get excellent rates.
36. Data Review - Same as above; if you don’t control the data input but need to validate it anyway, a good VA will lower costs considerably.
37. Fact Checking - Great for journalists and business people alike; let your virtual assistant help you do your due diligence by checking your notes, some one else’s facts, or anything else the might be subject to mistakes, typos, or bias.
38. Fact Finding - Need a specific statistic on global warming or everything there is to know about Abe Lincoln’s childhood? Put your virtual assistant to work on finding the facts.
39. Interface Testing - Need someone to click buttons until your software breaks? Virtual assistants are perfect for the task, especially when you’ve written good test scripts.
40. Interface Design - Need a trained designer on a budget? A good virtual assistant will work wonders.
41. Record Management - Have a large data set that needs to be updated manually? Have your virtual assistant scour the internet and work the phones for those hard-to-find phone numbers, addresses, and any other data you might gather yourself.
42. Grant Writing - Some virtual assistants specialize in grant writing. If your startup is of the social or non-profit variety, a good virtual assistant could be invaluable.
43. Subject Matter Briefs - If you’ve ever been scheduled for a meeting on a topic about which you know very little, a virtual assistant can be a great help. Have them find or write a short, five-page summary of the topic, major concerns and implications for you, and recent news.
44. Finding What Works - We’ve already talked about doing what works several times on The Upwardly Mobile. Have your virtual assistant find the people, companies, or organizations that already know and practice what works in your field.
45. Avoiding What Doesn’t Work - The inverse of number 43. Sometimes knowing where people made mistakes is just as valuable as knowing how the succeeded; have your virtual assistant find out both.
46. Finding New Clients - Having a fresh perspective has never been cheaper; have your virtual assistant look for clients for a given product or service without specifying an industry or giving too much detail. You may be surprised to find that you can adapt what you’re already doing to someone else that needs it.
47. Teaching You Something New - VAs have many different skill sets. Whether you want to learn chess, value analytics, or tai chi, chances are there’s a virtual assistant who can teach you.
48. Network Administration - Many virtual assistants are trained network administrators, and the vast majority of network administration tasks can be done remotely.
49. Situation Monitoring - Have a situation and can’t afford Wolf Blitzer? Have your virtual assistant keep an eye on things.
50. Motivation - Need somebody to keep you accountable for that goal that everyone says can’t be done? Have your virtual assistant take you to task.
51. Discovering New Opportunities - Want to save time and money in more ways than you can count? Challenge your virtual assistant to come up with new ways to save you or your organization time or money.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Drakensberg Boy’s Choir


Frequent travelers and musically-inclined individuals are all most likely to have heard of The Drakensberg Boy’s Choir - a world class choir group from Cape Town, South Africa - that has made numerous performances in a large number of countries.

The Drakensberg Boys’ Choir features musically-gifted boys from the multi-faceted cultures of South Africa and is primarily known for its ability to render music in a unique style. This group of singers is usually clad in classic choir costumes and is internationally acclaimed for its unique African repertoire. Its most popular renditions include ‘Shosholoza’ and “Night Sounds’ which feature perfect imitations of the sounds of the African Bush. The Drakensberg Boys’ Choir also renders the ‘Gumboot Dance’ which originated on the South African Mines.

Choral performances of The Drakensberg Boy’s Choir feature singers in various choir apparel and authentic African instruments as well as body percussions that are used as musical accompaniments. The group provides excellent rendition of Handel’s “Messiah”, Mozart’s “Requiem”. Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” and Bach’s “Magnificat” among others.

The Drakensberg Boys’ Choir is actually a product of the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir School, the only Choir School in Africa and one of the very few institutes across the world that offers musical/ educational combination system.

Students from this school go through rigid examinations prior to their acceptance to the world-class musical school. Once admitted, the boys are encouraged to engage not only in rigid musical practices but also on various sports such as rugby, cricket, tennis, swimming, athletics, cross-country and volleyball. The boys also get to enjoy activities such as rapids tubing, abseiling and berg hiking.

The most popular and most exciting part of being The Drakensberg Boys’ Choir member is perhaps the given opportunity to travel to other countries and represent South Africa. To date, the choir group has practically toured every continent and has in fact garnered citations for its excellent performances.

Among the countries it has toured include the United States, Canada and a large part of Europe including Hungary, Switzerland, Italy, France, Portugal, Germany, England, Poland and Greece. The group was also invited to perform at the Vatican City before a crown of 25,000 people. It has also been to Asian countries such as Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan. The Drakensberg Boys’ Choir also appeared and performed in complete choir costumes in Turkey, Finland, Australia, and Scandinavia.

Typical concerts of The Drakensberg Boys’ Choir usually kick off with Catholic music renditions. Around this time, choir members are usually dressed in their choir apparel which includes grey pants, white shirt and blue vest. The concert eventually progresses with pop songs and African songs that usually feature choir members in either traditional African attires or African style clothing.