On November 10, and 11, 2017, approx. 150 assistants from 11 countries flocked to the famous Watergate Hotel in Washington, D. C. for the first ever Executive Secretary Live in the US. IMA’s media partner Lucy Brazier and her team had worked hard to put together an impressive line-up of international speakers and trainers for this inaugural event.
On the first day of the conference, the participants were brought to their feet by Justin Timberlake’s song “Can’t stop this Feeling” before host Lucy Brazier officially welcomed them and asked them to pose for the traditional waving photo.
Lucy then introduced the first trainer, Bonnie Low-Kramen, former personal assistant of Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis. In her workshop “Be the Ultimate Assistant” Bonnie spoke about the changing roles of assistants who are increasingly becoming active parts of executive or leadership teams. To illustrate the new role, she quoted Simon Sinek: “Leadership is neither a rank nor a title. It is a choice. The choice to provide care and protection for those for whom we are responsible.” She then went on to share her ten leadership secrets and illustrated each of them with her own experiences and examples.
Your most powerful secret weapon could be sitting right next to you … but we do not always see them.
You achieve more than you think.
Follow your instincts. They are correct.
Assistants often know better.
When not if. Expect the unexpected.
Find your voice. Speak up.
Lean in … & reach back.
Make yourself a priority.
Career management: life-long learning.
Embrace your power and influence.
After lunch, Lisa Olsen shared her famous 30 sentiments in 30 minutes before Julie Perrine started with the afternoon workshop on the importance of establishing office systems and procedures. Everyday work is documented through systems and procedures so it can be shared with colleagues, repeated with consistent results and providing business continuity, particularly during emergencies. Julie provided a step-by-step roadmap for establishing systems and procedures as well templates to work with. She recommended maintaining identical soft and hard copies of the documentation and to regularly update the procedures. OneNote is a good way to make the documentation easily accessible to the entire team.
To cap off the first day, the participants enjoyed a wonderful Brazilian meal and an evening of networking.
The next morning, early risers had the opportunity to watch Bonnie Low-Kramen and Vickie Sokol Evans tape their latest podcast during breakfast.
Following Lucy Brazier’s opening remarks, the second day continued with Heather Baker who talked about “The Art of Communication”. Communication is far more than words: Body language and the tone of voice often tell a different story than the actual words. Since communication comes before anything else, it is important to create rapport with the person for example by using similar words.
Florence Katono, the first-ever African winner of the prestigious Pitman Super Achiever Award Personal Assistant of the Year Award, moved the audience with her description from her humble beginnings in rural Uganda, an early separation from her parents in order to attend school to her current position as Principal Administrative Assistant with the Bank of Uganda. She vividly illustrated how determination and an education that includes a master’s degree helped her along the way and how she now supports and inspires her peers in Uganda and beyond.
Joan Burge then spoke about setting healthy boundaries in the work place. Assertive people see to it that their needs are met so they are able care about others. She stated that “We teach people by our actions how we will and will not be treated; and how we think, feel and behave. When someone violates our rights and we do not say anything, we teach them that it is okay to dominate and manipulate us. The best way to assert ourselves is early in the relationship.” Joan provided several strategies to assert oneself and stressed the importance of a clear communication.
Following a networking break, Eth Lloyd chronicled her life from a child with little interest in education who earned a certificate in secretarial studies, married and had children. Only when she was in her forties her then-boss encouraged her to become involved in a professional association for assistants. Her active involvement in the association eventually resulted in her going back to school and earning a master’s degree in education on “Administrative professionals in New Zealand; their professional development opportunities and career pathways” when she was 60. She encouraged the audience to become involved in professional associations and invited them to sign up as delegates to the World Administrators Summit in Frankfurt in 2018 to discuss the future the development of the administrative profession around the world.
Next up was Anel Martin who talked about building a powerful brand. She pointed out that when building any type of brand, it is important to highlight its special features, namely its strengths. Today, branding does not only take place in the workplace, but also through one’s social media profiles which should always be current. Consistency is another important factor for successful branding as illustrated by the example that each can of Coke tastes like the next and people choose the product, because they know what to expect.
Then it was time for Vickie Sokol Evans to take the audience on a whirlwind tour of the various Microsoft Office programs demonstrating time-saving tips and tricks.
Laura Schwartz, White House Director of Events during the Clinton administration, was the last speaker of the conference and told the audience about the importance of networking and how to get the most networking opportunities out of events. She explained how chance meetings at events resulted in the establishment of the Dreamworks movie studio or Mark Zuckerberg’s multi-million dollar donation to the Newark, NJ, school system.
The event ended with a gala dinner at the ballroom of the new Intercontinental Hotel overlooking the water. Helen Rees from the UK led a choir of assistants in their performance of the Labi Siffre song “Something inside me so strong”, before the participants danced the night away.
IMA was represented by Executive Chairman Else-Britt Lundgren, Jannie Osthoff, National Chairman IMA Netherlands, IMA Germany’s Acting National PRO Diana Brandl, and IMA Germany member Angela Parker. During the conference breaks and at the various networking activities accompanying the event all four were busy informing the other participants of IMA. Along with board members from IVAA and IAAP, Else-Britt Lundgren was invited to tell the audience about IMA. The presence of the enthusiastic IMA-team sparked a lot of interest and has already resulted in one membership application from the US.