So after many months of planning and organising the Assist Conference finally took place on Friday 27th February.
I can honestly say I have never felt more apprehensive (and I am literally about to give birth) about anything I have done before. Walking into the Proud Archivist at 7am on Friday morning I felt very far away from my comfort zone. Organising the event was a big challenging but one that I am very glad I took on.
With the help of William and Gallus Events I knew we had created something different. Looking around our cool and funky venue (which had been used the day before by Russell Brand – how much more of a venue endorsement can you get?!) I felt like we had picked a good spot, the sun was shining and the water from the canal was reflecting through the bright windows. The events team were laying out our unusual badges and our personalised mugs were ready to be handed to our arriving superstar assistants.
Everyone started arriving around 8.30am for registration and a fantastic selection of fruits, pastries and healthy granola (not to mention the super strong coffee!).
By 9.20am everyone was settled in their seats patiently waiting for me to open the conference. I decided to start the Assist Conference with a quick look at a few inspirational assistants who I felt our attendees could learn from. My examples embodied the Assist Conference objectives:
- The need to change other people’s behaviours and your own.
- The need to be proactive.
- The importance of having your career goals, always, at the front of your mind.
In fact our theme ‘ Moving on up!’ and our objectives were discussed by all of our speakers during the course of the day. I wanted to have a mixture of speakers and sessions which would keep our attendees engaged and motivated. The keynote speakers – Penny, Richard and Jennifer went down an absolute storm, this was due to the fact that they knew their audience and they made the content relevant for assistants. At one point Richard literally had the delegates jumping up and down!
The round table sessions with our networking gurus were a great chance for everyone to discuss the different types of networking opportunities that assistants can get involved with. As the chairwoman it was difficult to get everyone to stop talking and start the next session – I had to use my very best Bridget Jones ‘oi! OI!!!’
We had a good hour break for lunch and because of the lovely weather a lot of our attendees were able to get outside and have a breath of fresh air and a walk along the canal. Did I mention the food? It was tasty, particularly the two portions of banoffee pie that I managed to scoff down!
I was really looking forward to our panel sessions, which took place in the afternoon. I knew we had a fantastic line-up and I couldn’t wait to pick their brains. We had a few rounds of applause for our inspirational assistants who had moved out of the profession and we had a potential bonfire on our hands when we agreed that the ‘just an assistant’ phrase should be thrown into the nearest fire!
As the day drew to a close I noticed that everyone was happily chatting away with each other. Everyone had moved around the room and were comfortable asking our speakers and panelist questions. The atmosphere was relaxed and I felt that everyone was having fun while learning some very practical tips that they could take back to their offices. The Twitter #assistconf feed was constantly in use and we had lots of assistants following the days activities via social media.
Opening and closing the Assist Conference was, for me, the highlight of the day. From an idea back in October 2014 to the realisation I had achieved what I set out to do was a fantastic feeling and a big relief – I had also managed not go into labour which was another big relief!
From the feedback I have received so far I think it is safe to say that I will be organising the Assist Conference 2016. So do watch this space, I will be back with details in a few months time! I just wanted to say a quick thank you to all of the amazing speakers, panelists and networking gurus – the content you provided was amazing. Bethany Fovargue for tweeting on behalf of the Assist Conference, Rebecca-Monique Williams for the beautiful photos and the Gallus Events team for being super event organisers. Lastly I want to thank everyone who attended the Assist Conference, your willingness to get involved with the content really made the conference special!
For now, I am heading off on my maternity leave. Practically Perfect PA will still publish a few blog posts every week and there will be someone behind the scenes answering emails and comments on my behalf.
See you in a few months! Nicky x
All photographs are copyright of Rebecca-Monique Williams.