Events & “Meddlesome EAs” – Seriously?

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Just before I left the office on Friday evening to enjoy my weekend, I was forwarded an interesting and provoking article from a niche meetings industry online publisher.

The author of the article, attributed as an accredited incentive practitioner, commenced with the observation that “these days” personal assistants increasingly aspire to be event managers, with some media outlets even encouraging EAs and providing advice on how to take control of their own organisations’ events. (guilty as charged)

The author explained that the relationship between a PA and an external professional conference organiser (PCO) works well when the PCO, once briefed and provided a with a budget by the client, is free and otherwise unencumbered to take full control of the event. In other words suggesting that the EA minds their own business and leaves things to the professionals (wait, there’s more to come).

The author pointed out that most EAs are time poor (correct), so to suggest they could additionally manage events for their organisations was unrealistic – either they must be under-employed (incorrect) or underpaid (possibly). Indeed, the only the only thing worse than a “meddlesome PA” (their words not mine) was a client who thinks regulations and cancellation policies don’t apply to them.

Very provoking stuff, especially to busy executive assistants regularly managing events on behalf of their businesses. Before we go any further I should point that the views in the article are not consistent with the vast majority of professional conference organisers I talk with and have met at numerous events, who understand the importance of executive assistants in organising business events and are keen to find out more about how you work.

The author made a few decent observations – event organising by committee is not always the easiest project to manage, run sheets are important and event management is not an exercise in democracy – apart from that not much else and nothing that a competent EA corporate event organiser doesn’t already know.

If you are an executive assistant reading this I can understand that by this point that you may be ready to offer your own colourful response to these outdated viewpoints. Far easier and less energy consuming though, to use fact and logical argument.

EAs have always been involved in business events, but developments in technology and straight forward economic factors over the past ten years, have combined to encourage and facilitate organisations to take more control over their business events.

“The GFC got us all looking for cost savings where we could and apps that make organising events simpler, are becoming easier for non-event industry professionals to use”

Attention to detail and good organisational skills are key to successful business events and are in the DNA of all good EAs. These attributes together with their trusted and unique position within their organisations, make EAs the perfect candidates to manage events.

“Research”

Recent research with input from respected meetings industry professional bodies shows that executive assistants regularly organise all sizes and types of events, not just small ones and that in 94% of all cases the EA’s primary recommended supplier and venue is most likely to be the final choice for their organisation’s event.

Further research shows that 73% of executive level assistants organise interstate events with 30% having organised overseas events

Independent research in 2016 suggested the average annual business travel & events budget for an EA is substantial (US$263,716k). Executive level assistants are clearly professional business event organisers in all but name.

“The PA IS the client”

The author of the article stated that “over the years” they had worked with many clients’ PAs and this sentence goes to the heart of the matter. The PA IS the client – they have control and may handle all aspects of their event, or decide to work with a PCO by handing over some, most or full control of an event depending on its nature and their own circumstances.

It’s completely understandable that once tasked with achieving an objective, any external supplier should want to be left to get on with the job. There is a distinction though, between being empowered to achieve the desired results and attempting to dictate all terms to a fee paying client, which is not acceptable.

Most professional event organisers understand this distinction and they are more likely to have an enjoyable working partnership with their EA client, add value and retain their business, than one who treats their client as potentially “meddlesome”.

Originally published by Russell Peacock, Chairman of Executive PA Media on LinkedIn 28th August 2017.

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