2021 Executive PA Forum highlights key success traits for the role of Executive Support professionals.

The 2021 Executive PA Forum was once again streamed live from Fuel Studios on Camden St, Dublin, with Aisling hosting from the vibrant studios and Fiona joining live from London, as well as a number of other international speakers joining across 5 time zones, from Sydney all the way over to Denver!

We streamed the Forum this year via VStage – a bespoke custom-designed virtual platform. VStage is a Dublin technology start-up, founded by the team at Fuel – and which was designed beautifully in our branding.



The 3 key themes throughout the course of the 2 day Executive PA Forum were confidence, communications and transformation.

Trish Butera opened Forum day with a stellar insight on the Rise of the Global Assistant – she introduced the talk by defining the crucial skill of Cultural Competence and reminded us that we need to be culturally competent and global-minded in the way we approach our work to be a truly global assistant.

In her usual interactive style, Trish asked everyone a number of questions for the audience to consider, and said we need to understand that cultural competence is more than cultural background, or employee engagement or company culture and goes far beyond that.



Trish demonstrated that although we share similar values, individually we each have so many different perspectives and when you consider that in the context of an organisation that brings together groups of different people with varying backgrounds and views, those Assistants with highly developed interpersonal skills, self-awareness and other awareness, as well as a growth mindset  – are the ones who will succeed in the future of work.



Angie McQuillin then joined us to deliver a presentation on Confidence – Angie’s passion in helping people overcome confidence blocks was apparent throughout the presentation. Angie’s unique approach around the core of where confidence issues come i.e a place of honesty – being honest with yourself, how that affects your behaviours and attitudes, and how you project that truth in any given moment or situation- is at the core of building your confidence.

If you don’t set boundaries or behave in an honest way on a daily basis then you are sending ‘messages of shame’ to your brain that are actually taking a chip out of your confidence. i.e ‘What other people think and feel is much more valuable and important than what I think and feel’ which in turn can make you feel ‘less than’. These are stumbling blocks to our own growth and affect our confidence levels on a daily basis.

Angie took us through a number of exercises and diagrams and led us onto the topic of bravery which is what really enables us to have inner confidence.

Angie explained that to be brave in overcoming challenges, we have to feel uncomfortable taking action. Bravery happens when you share something or do something that triggers anxiety within you – everyone’s level of bravery is different – but if anxiety was not induced then that does not equate to bravery.

It all comes down to our personal growth and where our confidence lies and what that journey looks like for each of us as individuals and this led Angie to sharing with us her ‘Stretch Zone’ model. She challenged us to stretch ourselves to take action in any area of our life where we are procrastinating and remember that:

‘the win comes from taking action and not coming from what other people think and feel as that comes from external rather than internal.’


After our morning break Siobhan Kelly, Mosaic Consultancy – our Platinum Recruitment Partner  – joined us for an update on the industry and to talk about the frustration she knows that EAs and PAs have with outdated practices of HR and recruiters. She often see jobs advertised that:

-Don’t understand the role

-Are unrealistic in their expectations and what they think will attract talent

-Have a lack of awareness around what you do and what you have the capacity to do

Siobhan believes that EAs and PAs should feel empowered to change the direction of not just the office of the executive, but of the whole business.

Working across the US and Ireland, Siobhan highlighted how differently the role is viewed across the 2 geographic locations.

She spoke about the rise of the power role of the Executive Assistant – with an EA salary of $100,000+, bonuses and travel allowance on offer for many roles in the US. Before everyone ran to pack their suitcase, she did reassure us that what happens in the US – in particular across MNCs  – does slowly filter in to Europe!

Siobhan then shared with us a sample person specification and noted that

’employers are not just looking for what you can do…

they are looking at how you can do it’

Siobhan gave us her advice on interview techniques and some investigative questions you should ask at interview to help you decide if a role or organisation is the right choice for you. She encouraged everyone to look for feedback from their interviews and pointed out that many people do not realise – that due to GDPR – your notes from your interview must be shared if you request them. Siobhan also shared an insight to her own learnings throughout her own career journey and challenges she has faced in a very honest and motivational account. Our favourite takeaway from her to bear in mind for our careers and life in general was:

‘Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will’

We really got to see how amazing the Fuel studios looked throughout the presentation with Siobhan joining Aisling in studio.

Siobhan’s objective with Mosaic Consultancy is to work from a candidate-centric approach where she partners with each candidate and works with them in a holistic way to help match them with their most suitable employer. If you would like to get in touch with Siobhan for help you can contact: siobhan@mosaicconsultancy.ie


Next up joining us for his keynote on the new paradigm in Executive Support, the Transformational Assistant, Adam Fidler talked us through the changes he has seen in the role over the past 18 months to 2 years and what he believes Assistants need to do to prepare themselves for the future of work.

Adam’s main points focused on the areas of what you need to do to become a Transformational Assistant, to be transformational in your thinking and your appproach, in your behaviours, habits and attitudes. He advised that to do so you need to maintain performance beyond expectations in times of uncertainty and instability.


This was a truly ground-breaking insight into Adam’s newest model in Executive Support and we look forward to bringing you further training opportunities with Adam next year where you can learn more about this model as well as the Strategic EA.


After our lunch break we had Rebecca Garvey joining us once again from Own the Room.

This year, Rebecca highlighted that to learn the skills to build authentic connections with your audience, whether you’re communicating to a manager, executive board, or colleagues, you need to get feedback from those around you to ask quality questions to get quality answers. Two such questions should be:

Q1. ‘What went well?’

Q2. What’s one thing I can do to improve?

Rebecca also talked us through some excellent advice to ensure listeners retain more of our message with efficient communication that captures the audience’s attention and respect.

She gave us some ‘homework for the rest of our lives’! She advised that anytime someone gives a compliment first say thank you and then count to 5 and don’t undo the thank you – waiting 5 seconds consciously stops you from deflecting from the compliment or downplaying your strengths. Own your worth and build your confidence!

Secondly write down the feedback, keep track on an app on your phone or on your desktop or a notebook – essentially a ‘book of evidence’ that reminds you of what you have done that has worked out well. Rebecca finished by reminding us to use mirror neurons when we communicate – use the same language and body language to connect with others and another great tip – if we want people to feel passionate about what we are talking about, we have to feel it ourselves first if we want others to feel it!


We were honoured to have Monique Helstrom joining us live from Denver Colorado to deliver her signature talk. She gave us a great insight into how she navigated her career managing one of the busiest and most inspirational speaker and in-demand authorities – Simon Sinek.

She reminded us all of something a client once said to her which is something that every Assistant needs to remember:

Thank goodness he has you to get things done, otherwise he would just be some great person with great ideas!

Visionaries need detailed people to get things done – the EA/Executive partnership is a symbiotic relationship and all you need to do is change the narrative on what you tell yourself. If you treat like yourself like you are second best then you will find others treat you that way.

Monique encouraged everyone to identify, accept and use your own natural strengths to stand out and rise. She advised on a number of personality tests she rates to help to understand what makes you unique and where your strengths are, so you can embrace what makes you YOU and work in an career and organisation where you can thrive.

We finished the presentation with a Q&A where Monique generously answered all our questions.

We are thrilled to now offer Monique’s Introduction to Communications Course through our Centre of Excellence, so grab it now at a special price if you book through the booking LINK on our website.


We were delighted to be joined by Brian McDermott and Nikki Tunney, our hosts and partners at Fuel & VStage.

Brian talked through the development of VStage and how they can customise their virtual events platform for your requirements and event objectives.

He highlighted what sets it apart from the rest:

-Customisation – incorporating the look and feel, branding, type of event, matching your production style with what the deliverables are

-Higher level of creativity and input than you would have with other virtual platforms

-Complex security features that can be in line with each organisations’ own IT policies

-Flexible, adaptable and slick

VStage has a number of functionalities including a nifty bespoke photo gallery where you can fully brand the Photobooth area, as demonstrated by Fiona below!

Nikki talked us through what Fuel are up to for Christmas events and what ideas and options that organisations are going for this year.

As many organisations are conscious of ‘Zoom fatigue, Fuel have been extremely busy with virtual events and have been squeezing their creative juices to making their Christmas party nights interactive and engaging for employees.

They are also offering a unique corporate gifting experience as a thank you for staff and they have a great expertise when it comes to bespoke idea generation that will reward and show gratitude to employees. We will share the full talk in next week’s newsletter but for anyone who would like further information and last-minute ideas coming up to Christmas, contact nikki@fuelhq.ie. 


Our last speaker of the day was Lisa Mitten, a former EA and friend of the Forum who is now a Vision & Leadership Mentor.

Lisa spoke to us about creating a powerful vision for yourself and the life and career you want to have.

She shared with us her secrets to becoming an empowered EA and she motivated us all through a unique series of exercises. Lisa advised once we have a strong mindset, a great self-image, and positive self-perception, we can then create clear vision for ourselves:

-Ask ‘what do I want’?

-What do I see possible in my role?

-How can this role flourish?

– How can I best serve my Executive and make this relationship the best it can be?

Then you can land your communication effectively and with determination. This also means you can communicate well without emotional attachment.

Lisa advised to not allow others to affect our thinking, we are in control of our own thoughts, how we react to the world around us, we can only control our own attitude, behaviours and habits.

It was a great session to finish the day on and left everyone motivated for the next chapter in their career.


We had great interaction in the chat all day and some of the comments we received included:

‘Ladies, your best Forum yet, really interesting, captivating, informative and thought provoking,  thanks to you all’

‘Thanks Aisling, Fiona and everyone involved in pulling the Forum together.  Another valuable day of learning!’

‘Thanks so much for another fantastic Forum Day!’

‘Thank you Aisling and Fiona especially as it cant happen without all your amazing hard work’


We have to say a massive THANK YOU to all our sponsors and partners for their support – the event simply could not happen without them:

FUEL, VStage, Mosaic Consultancy, One4All, Ireland’s Blue Book, Connect Pro, Own the Room and the EA Network Ireland.


If you were unable to make the Forum this year, but would like access to a limited number of the recorded sessions from Forum Day, then please do get in touch with Aisling – aisling@executivepaforum.com

We can’t wait to see you all at the next one!