Management assistants should be like magpies and keep every contact they pick up because you never know when you might need them again. This was just some of the advice that Ann Dunford, a PA at Garbutt and Elliot LLP, gave during her educational session at the Meetings Show, held recently at London’s Olympia.
Ann’s presentation started with the story of her experience of organising conferences and an opera performance abroad, with the lesson being that PAs should always research differences in culture and try to have a local contact who can help in emergency situations.
Throughout her career, Ann has found herself in the unfortunate position of taking over projects in which next to nothing had been done. One stipulation of a job offer was that she planned a party within six weeks, while a seminar went wrong because the mailing list for invites had been mixed up. She advised PAs to remember that preparing for mistakes is key.
She also made reference to Donna Coulling’s idea of a “little black book” to which you can refer if you’re ever in need of a specific supplier. That way, if your boss asks if you can do something specific for an event, you can say yes with confidence.
According to Ann, it’s important to make friends with everybody at your chosen venue – right down to the sound technician and the servers. She also said it’s vital to remember all the small details, such as leaving information about the event with the receptionist at your own office, as well as at the front desk of the venue, so delegates can get directions from either contact.
As her closing remarks, Ann listed the reasons why she thinks PAs are so good at event management. She said: “We’re all logical and always think about what we can do if something goes wrong before it does.” Plus, she noted that assistants manage senior members of staff, so they’re used to focusing on details and multitasking.