I just got back from the MSPA’s Third Annual Educational Conference for Shoppers in Naperville, IL. All I can say is WOW! This was three days of learning, networking and having fun with a great bunch of shoppers, mystery shopping companies and others.
Although many of the shoppers were from Illinois and neighboring states, I met shoppers from Texas, Massachusetts, Utah, California, Florida and all over the country. There were lots of first-timers there, but many had been to at least one previous conference.
I led a Gold Certification workshop on Friday, and many shoppers came up to me over the weekend to tell me that they had successfully passed their tests and become Gold Certified. Congratulations to all of you! If you are not yet Gold Certified, be sure to come to one of the upcoming MSPA Gold Certification workshops.
The Friday night reception allowed all of us to mix and mingle. Sponsor companies, including Beyond Hello, KSS International (Kern Scheduling), Ann Michaels and Associates, Sassie, and many others had booths staffed by company representatives. It was a great opportunity for shoppers to learn more about the companies and the shops they offer, as well as to build relationships with schedulers and others that they may have known only through email or phone calls.
Saturday was jam packed with lots of great workshops. There were great ideas for improving mystery shopping skills, and many of the sessions focused on ways to be more successful as a mystery shopper. Business building sessions provided information on branding yourself, tax issues, supplementing mystery shopper income, and making mystery shopping more profitable.
The Saturday night awards dinner was lots of fun. Magician Bob Higa had all of us wondering, “How did he do that?” Awards were presented to 2006 Shopper of the Year Joseph Ludwig, 2006 “Go To” Shopper Catherine Flynn, and 2006 Rookie Shopper of the Year Rochelle Ward. Congratulations to the winners!
Sunday started out with a panel on technology (always of interest to mystery shoppers), followed by panels of schedulers, editors and company owners. It was a great chance to get the inside scoop and ask the questions everyone had on their minds about the mystery shopping industry.
Although the weekend was busy, it was rewarding. Everyone I talked to was enthusiastic about what they learned and the people they met. We can’t wait to see what next year’s conference is like!
Cathy Stucker is the author of The Mystery Shopper’s Manual.