Executive PA Forum 2020 - delivered seamlessly with themes addressing past, present and future...

The first ever fully-virtual Executive PA Forum took place last week on the 3rd and 4th of November. This year was particularly special, as we were celebrating ten years of this event.

Due to the current pandemic and ensuing social distancing restrictions, we faced a number of challenges in bringing the event to fruition this year. While we weren’t able to hold the event in person, we’re thrilled that we were still able to provide an interactive, fulfilling, and motivational online learning experience to our growing EA, PA and Administrative Professional community.

The event was hosted and broadcast from Fuel’s stunning Dublin city centre studios. Fuel acted as our hybrid events partner for the event and provided a fully immersive interactive virtual platform on which our delegation attended the event remotely.

Through this platform, we had virtual expo booths with our sponsors, whereby our guests could speak to representatives from our sponsors and partners. We also had a number of networking sessions throughout the two days, in which attendees chose to link up with a specific person, or were matched up randomly.

Over 2 days, we were joined by a host of talented speakers, who covered a range of topics related to all aspects of the EA/PA role, we looked at the job market and industry trends, the benefits of ups-killing and developing new core strengths, as well as ways we can better manage our resilience and cope with stress, avoiding anxiety and burnout. We played a number of bespoke meditations during Forum Day which were delivered at key times throughout by friend of the Forum, Elizabeth Whelan of Zestivo.

To open the event, we heard from Roseanne Connolly, who is a chartered company secretary and chair of the APAI. Roseanne gave an honest and relatable talk about her career journey, how she has managed to deal with her perfectionism streak and subsequent procrastination.

Roseanne also gave invaluable advice on setting boundaries, and how to pull through a confidence crisis, and she talked through the benefits she has gained from her membership of the APAI and involvement in steering the Association in the right direction.

Next up was Rebecca Garvey, communications coach with our Communications Training Partner, Own the Room. Rebecca’s highly interactive provided us with some useful guidelines for how to communicate effectively virtually. Using a number of tried and tested exercises which everyone had the opportunity to practise, Rebecca guided us through a number of key techniques to employ, which we then got to out into practise during the networking breaks.

Elysia Hegarty from Cpl’s Future of Work Institute joined us after our morning break, delivering insights on the current jobs market and trends; the importance of embracing technology and artificial intelligence and using it to your advantage in your career. She also spoke about how the role of the assistant is evolving, the key ‘in-demand’ skills and competencies that employers are now looking for and will be holding in high regard in the future.

Next, our long-time friend of the Forum Adam Fidler took to the main virtual stage. In his engaging presentation, Adam addressed the topic of building new and future-proofed EA capabilities. He emphasised his belief that true executive assistants are not simply ‘admins’ who provide mechanistic support, but who provides intellectual and thinking support, and how EA’s can develop new competencies to add wider organisational value. Adam’s session finished off with a Q&A session hosted by Fiona and covering questions submitted by our attendees.

With a bio reading like the plot of an action adventure film script, Janet Barrett – Executive Assistant at Facebook – took us on her inspiring life journey, recounting her diverse career and the adversity she has faced throughout. Janet offered her advice for keeping calm under pressure and stressed the importance of adaptability and interpersonal communication skills for anyone in an Executive Support role. 

As we broke for lunch, delegates were reminded of all the fabulous prizes that were up for grabs with thanks to all our loyal Sponsors & Partners, via the individual Expo Booths.

Trish Butera, founder of the Global Assistant Online joined us live from Sydney with a request for us to rethink how we view the role of an EA. Trish is a cultural competency executive coach and founder of The Global Assistant Online, and in her compelling talk, she gave us further insights into in-demand competencies, and how the traditional framework of the EA has evolved. At the end of the presentation, Fiona conducted an interactive Q&A session and poll with Trish.

In a fascinating presentation, clinical psychologist Elzaan Marnane then spoke about the neuroscience behind impostor syndrome, how and why this condition affects people (particularly women – as a minority – but also male PAs/EAs as a ‘minority within a minority’) and she gave us some fantastic advice on the ways that we can escape our cage and banish impostor syndrome for good.

Joining us as our wonderful co-host for the day, Will Matthews – Head of Business Development at Fuel – then spoke with Ciara Conlon – having worked together before, it was fitting for Will to discuss his own application of the principles that Ciara advocates and had coached him on previously. Ciara spoke about overcoming her own limiting beliefs to enable her to achieve a high-performance mindset, maximising her productivity. The accomplished high-performance leadership coach detailed how we can create positive conscious habits ourselves to impact our behaviours and thoughts by changing our mindset and, among other techniques, starting each day with a ‘game-plan’, so no matter which way you get pulled or how many distractions you have, you can come back to your original game-plan.

We then heard from two of our sponsors: our loyal venue partner, the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Dublin, and our branded promotions partner, Connect Promotions. Madeline and Michelle from the Radisson gave us a virtual tour of their facilities, showcased their all-new Velvaere spa, and ran a competition with some fabulous prizes for our delegates. Bob Gee from Connect Promotions also gave us a rundown of their offering, highlighting their no.1 for customer service accolade, before giving away a very useful and innovative gift to one lucky winner.

Speaking of innovation, creativity and innovation specialist Gillian Roddie next invited us to rethink how we define what creativity is in her thought-provoking presentation. She also revealed why administrative professionals and assistants are some of the most creative people, as well as giving guidance on incorporating creativity into our roles. The talk was a fantastic base for anyone on Gillian’s workshop on day 2.

Jackie Erskine rounded off Day 1 of the Forum, recounting her experience of finding her tribe of peers and establishing the Belfast PA Network, of which she is the chairperson. She imparted her knowledge on how to effectively maintain a professional network and emphasised the importance of continuous learning and self-development, being the CEO of your own life and embracing your throne.

We finished Day 1 with a recap on the day, and an interview with Aisling and Will from Fuel about the fantastic array of services Fuel provide and their offerings around Christmas, Conferences and Events, hybrid or virtual. We HIGHLY recommend them if you need a robust and reliable virtual platform and a high calibre team of professionals to help you execute your event seamlessly.

Day 2 of the Forum saw a series of interactive workshops from our speakers, some of whom had also joined us the previous day.

Elzaan Marnane facilitated a session which demonstrated how to manage stress response, recognise the difference between being overwhelmed and being incompetent, and creating a system that allows you to set boundaries effectively.

Ciara Conlon also returned on workshop day to delve deeper into mastering productivity by creating daily habits and rituals for sustained high performance. Participants took part in a number of exercises which enabled them to reflect and explore their behaviours and habits, and where improvements could be made for greater efficiencies.

-Health and wellness expert Elizabeth Whelan’s timely session was about identifying the causes of burnout, recognising the symptoms, and recovering from this ailment. 

Elysia Hegarty from Cpl returned with an interactive workshop about exploring one’s top values, leaning into one’s strengths, and setting goals that align with them. 

Gillian Roddie also joined us once again, and got the creative juices flowing in an interactive workshop about fostering creativity and tools we can use to adopt creative frameworks that help in pragmatic and practical ways.

-Finally, Corporate and executive coach Aoife Mollin explored the relevant topic of managing change in a positive way. She provided participants with practical tools to help deal with change and took them through the nature and stages of change, with steps to manage change in the future.

One of the pivotal aspects of the Executive PA Forum is the opportunity for our attendees to connect with each other and share their experiences and contacts. Therefore, it was only fitting to finish off the event with a virtual networking session.

We would like to thank everyone who came together to make the 2020 Executive PA Forum a memorable experience for all involved. Each year we are touched  to see how motivated, inspired and fulfilled our delegates are after attending the event.

We are so grateful to our sponsors and speakers for their hard work and commitment to the Forum, especially during such a challenging year, and we ask you to keep them in mind for your requirements over the coming months and year.

Be sure to keep an eye on our e-mails and social media  for further training and development through our Centre of Excellence for 2021, as well as announcements on key dates for Forum 2021!

How to be a PA Productivity Pro with Cpl Office Support

How to be a PA Productivity Pro, by Kristin Keogh, Cpl Office Support

BPFJ -Office Support NEW transparent

Within our Office Support recruitment team, I specialise in recruiting for PA/EA’s and know these roles inside out. Having worked as a personal assistant myself in the past, it makes my job a little to know what skills are needed and spot a good EA during the hiring process.

One of the main skills a good PA or EA needs is excellent time management and productivity, in order to get the job done. Although ideally, most roles are 9-5, a personal assistant often requires flexibility and to go above and beyond to get the work done. 

If you manage your time wisely and be more productive will help you obtain a much better work life balance and enjoy your role.

Some tips below that may help you with this.



Business woman writing on post-it notesAs a PA you will often be juggling multiple Executives and responsibilities at a time, this can make it difficult to prioritise. What you need is to have a good understanding of what is important in your company. 

Being aware of this will help guide you on the urgency of each task given. For example, things that will need to be completed asap to avoid any repercussions or that may have a negative impact on any Executive. 

Sometimes you may need to make that judgement call but if the important duties are building up and this is becoming different don’t be afraid to let your Executive know. Not everything will be as urgent as they maybe have initially implied.

Plan ahead

If you have a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly meeting or event, a lot of the time the content or structure will be the same. If this applies to your role, planning ahead will limit the time that will be required for the following meeting.

This may sound like common sense, but you would be surprised at how being extremely organised in advance will take some of the pressure off when the next event occurs.

Business woman pointing at white board in office

Communication is key

This is a huge part of being productive. If you don’t speak up when things are beginning to get on top of you, no one will be any wiser and everything will be expected to go smoothly. We all know that when you are stressed and overwhelmed this is when disasters can happen.

While mistakes can happen, they can also be avoided if you just communicate with your Executive or team if assistance is required or if you need guidance on urgent tasks to ensure everything is done correctly and efficiently.


Business woman at office meeting discussion

Taking control of your day & being ahead of the game

Obviously, as a PA your role and tasks will differ from day to day based on your Executives requirements, but you will also likely have a lot of things carrying over from the previous day. At the beginning of each day ensure you write up a to-do list and tick off your tasks as you go along. 

Print of a copy of your Executives calendar so you have to hand and are aware of what he has coming up ahead of the game. This will help to keep you on track and ensure that you are not missing anything. Being proactive can also ensure that you are working on the right things and completing tasks that are increasing your Executive’s productivity.


Person writing to-do list in notebook

Be assertive

As a PA you are likely to be inundated with tasks from your team as well as the Executive(s) that you are supporting. Don’t be afraid to push back a little. You are only one person and if you feel that your day is filling up fast with ‘urgent’ tasks from different people make them aware of this. 

Taking on too much will add to your stress and its likely that you won’t complete every task if this is the case. Being a little assertive will help you manage what is most important in your day.

It’s the nature of the role to be busy and for each day to bring its own unique challenges, but a good PA will be prepared and plan their time so that urgent requests can be met. If you’re struggling in your current role or would like to chat about opportunities get in touch – I’d be happy to advise.



Rebecca Garvey


Rebecca believes that as a Coach, be it public speaking with Own The Room, coaching people on the gym floor or giving one to one consultations as a trained nutritionist, it is an honour to be involved in someone’s shift in mindset, to see their self belief grow and their confidence soar. 

In 2015, Rebecca received a Masters from Oxford Brookes in Applied Human Nutrition and became a Certified Strength and Conditioning Trainer. Since then, she’s worked as a health coach with Google and Spectrum Health, regularly leading 200+ person workshops at companies like Vodafone, Microsoft, Azzure and Siemens.  

From starting her own health pop up café, while living in Australia, becoming a trained phlebotomist (that’s right she can legally draw blood) to leading a global wellness programme in Dominica, Rebecca demonstrates her passion for wellness in everything she does. Although a New York City marathon veteran, Rebecca spends most of her free time power lifting, enjoying rugby and training for adventures such as climbing Kilimanjaro.    

Trish Butera

Patricia (Trish) Butera is an intercultural business advisor, executive coach and cultural competence trainer based in Sydney, Australia. She is the founder of 60ZONE Pty Ltd, a consultancy established in 2014 which brings together subject-matter experts to assist organizations in leveraging cultural intelligence for global strategic engagement.

Before 60ZONE, Trish was an international executive assistant to a HNWI. She has leveraged her extensive knowledge of the role and its stakeholders to develop cutting-edge global skills training programs for administrative support professionals. This content is now available through The Global Assistant Online an e-learning platform exclusive for executive support professionals in multinational organizations.

Trish has developed training programs for diverse organizations across industry sectors including banking, academia, finance, pharmaceutical and hospitality. She has partnered with HR specialists to provide customized L&D content and facilitated over 1000 hours of onsite and online training events in the areas of cultural awareness, cross-cultural communication, event protocol and intercultural protocol.

She consults to global mobility organizations in the US and EU, providing intercultural training and coaching for senior executives from Forbes Global 500 companies.

Trish holds an Executive Diploma in Soft Diplomacy & Cross-Cultural Communications from the International School of Protocol & Diplomacy, Belgium, Diplomatic and International Protocol credentials from Geneva, USA and UK institutions. She is a Certified Intercultural Consultant with Aperian Global and BGRS.

APAI February Networking Event

APAI February Networking Event

The first gathering in 2020 of the APAI was in Dylan Hotel, Dublin.

Members were treated to delicious canapés, both savoury and sweet as well as tailor made cocktails and mocktails – all made for a fantastic event courtesy of Dylan Hotel, and looked after especially well by the hotel’s remarkable staff. Special thanks to Vedrana (Event Sales Manager), Jennifer McKenna (Group Sales Manager) and Conor Dillon (GM).

The Association AGM took place where we saw the election of 4 new members, making the Executive Committee number a total of nine. The Chair gave a report the 2019 activities and the activities planned in 2020. Speakers on the night include Vicky Shilling and Lauren Healy from The Reset who focused on the art of a vision board and how it can help us all to re-focus our goals and aspirations.

APAI February Networking Event

Attendees also got to see all the special features of this beautiful hotel, not before we had a raffle and everyone left with a lovely goody bag courtesy of the Dylan Hotel!!

The mission of the APAI is to promote the success of career-minded administrative professionals by providing opportunities for growth through education, community building and highlighting the important work of administration professionals in Ireland. “We recognise excellence, set standards and provide educational, networking and professional development opportunities for those pursuing careers in the office administration field.”

If you would like to learn more about the Association, or join, please visit https://www.theapai.com or contact theapai2016@gmail.com.


The Recent EPIC APAI Networking Event

Another fantastic evening was had at the APAI‘s Autumn networking event at the spectacular EPIC Museum.

We were taken on a journey through time with a tour from the fabulous and knowledgeable staff at EPIC, and experienced a tour like no other in this state-of-the-art award winning museum. We were then treated to delicious savoury and sweet canapes from the team at The Butler’s Pantry,  as well as the irresistible wine and drinks from Ely Wine Bar.


Roseanne Connolly (APAI Committee member) addressed the attendees before Gillian Horan of The Pudding Brand gave a hugely engaging talk on defining your brand, designing your brand and then how to showcase it both online and offline.

We finished off the evening with a fun scavenger hunt, and the team with the best time won!

The mission of the APAI is to promote the success of career-minded administrative professionals by providing opportunities for growth through education, community building and highlighting the important work of administration professionals in Ireland. They recognise excellence, set standards and provide educational, networking and professional development opportunities for those pursuing careers in the office administration field. If you would like to know more, or to become a member click HERE.