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!