It has been a busy few months here at Practically Perfect PA. I have just finished the regional events and we are just adding the final details to Assist Travel. The first Practically Perfect PA eBook is available for everyone to download and I am just about to launch this year’s Industry Snapshot survey… So busy, busy! On top of all of that, we have opened up bookings for next year’s Assist Conference. I wanted to spend a little bit of time today talking to you guys about the theme of next year’s conference. We have a different theme every year and in 2017 it will be The Assistant Tool Kit. Here is a brief overview of what I mean when I say Assistant tool kit…

What is the Assistant tool kit? It is the bag of skills, competencies, qualifications and hard earned knowledge that you carry with you every day. It is your unlimited pool of resources, it is your never ending Mary Poppin’s bag of tricks. Every assistant has their own unique tool kit.

Your tool kit is at the centre of what you do. It is the thing that defines who you are professionally, what you bring to the role as an assistant and what will propel you forward in your career. Your tool kit needs constant attention, it needs to be maintained, restocked and updated. Within your tool kit are the skills you need to successfully carry out your duties as an assistant.

Hopefully you are catching my drift… Your tool kit is bloody important! That is why we are dedicating a whole conference to skills, resources and tools that you need to stay on top of your everyday tasks.

It can be really easy for assistants to neglect their tool kit. We have so much to do and juggle over the course of one day that you don’t even think about the skills you use for all of the different tasks. A lot of what we do just becomes second nature and before you know it years have passed without any of us taking some time to attend training events or read some books that are specifically designed to enhance our skill sets. Often we are asked to work on projects or take on new tasks that require additional skills and again we find a way of completing the work and adding to our toolkit without any formal training. How assistants manage this I don’t know… But we do!

Let’s take a minute and look at what is inside an assistant tool kit. Here is a selection of skills and competencies I had during my time as an assistant (and still do hopefully!):


  • Advanced IT skills including Microsoft Office
  • Email and Diary Management
  • Meeting Management including Board and Committee Meetings
  • Minute Taking
  • Social Media Management
  • Events Management
  • Arranging complex business travel
  • Managing staff
  • Managing Administrative systems across large departments


  • Proactive
  • Discreet
  • Confident
  • Able to prioritise own workload and juggle multiple tasks
  • Attention to detail
  • Calm under pressure

All of the elements that make up my tool kit require attention. Let’s take for example the obvious one – IT Skills. We probably all have this in our tool kit, but how often do we take the time to update our IT skills? When do we look online to see what the latest product is that will help with presentation design, or a few shortcuts that will make it easier to produce reports? It is rare isn’t it! Let’s take a slightly less obvious one – diary management. This skill is essential to every assistant – we all have to look after our Executive’s diaries. What tools are required to make us succeed with this task? Well, we need to have the IT skills in place to use the relevant software, we need to have the confidence to make changes to the diary on behalf of our Executive. We need to have good communication skills to work with our Executives and we need to be proactive to understand their requirements. That is a lot of tools for one fundamental task!

I like to think of my tool kit as being slightly similar to my handbag… Unless I spend a little time every once in a while sorting it out, it suddenly becomes full of old receipts, loose change, chocolate bar wrappers and used wet wipes (I have a one year old!). When I spend the time sorting it out I feel so much better and much more organised. It is the same with my tool kit. Spending time updating my skills, looking at new ways of working and maintaining the competencies I already have (although a little rusty) will and does make me better at what I do.

So this in a nutshell, is why next year’s conference is all about your tool kits. All of the sessions at The Assist Conference will be based around four important key themes that I think are really important:

  • Identify your strengths and weaknesses: Your tool kit is packed full of unique skills and competencies. During Assist we will help you identify your strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Adding value within your organisation: How does your tool kit support your Executive and your organisation? We will show you the areas that you can add value.
  • What is in the tool kit of the future?: We will look at the fundamental skills assistants will require in the next five years.
  • Sharing best practice for assistants: Through best practice assistants can learn, grow and add new skills to their tool kits. We will share best practice throughout the day.

Keeping your tool kit up to date is vital and I would love to see you at next year’s conference. Check out the conference website for details on the programme, speakers, venue and of course to book your place with the early booking discount of £250+VAT. In the mean time we will ensure that we keep you up to date with all the latest tools at your disposal!

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  • Emmanuelle Fournier July 28, 2016   Reply →

    I wish this conference was sooner like next month.

  • Diane Scott August 2, 2016   Reply →

    Would it be possible to get a copy of the Assistant Toolkit as I am in Australia and not able to attend the conference

    • Practically Perfect PA August 8, 2016   Reply →

      We are planning to live stream the conference, so hope you can join us. Details announced at the end of the year.

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