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#PApower packs the aisles at office* 2015

Sir Richard Branson voted most ‘inspirational person’ in office* show poll

London’s Olympia was at the epicentre of all things office* earlier this month, with the award-winning event for executive office support professionals welcoming over four thousand attendees through its doors on 13-14 October.
Boasting a fresh new look for 2015, office* provided the perfect backdrop for the nation’s PAs, EAs, VAs, and office managers to network and share best practices, top up on vital training, research new products and services from 150 exhibitors, and get inspired by over 50 expert speakers.


This year’s show certainly gave the Twittersphere plenty to talk about and thousands of comments using the #office15, #NationalPAday and #PApower hashtags helped share the office* experience to followers at the show and beyond.  ‘Busy’, ‘fantastic’, ‘insightful’, ‘motivating’, and ‘fun’ – are just some of the words attendees have used to describe office* 2015 so far, with nearly 90% of surveyed visitors already planning to return in May 2016, when the show moves to ExCeL London.  

“Still processing all the great things I've learnt today from some very inspirational speakers.  Thank you for a great show,” tweeted Julie Mann, portfolio support manager & PA at UBM.  

“Excellent, inspirational and informative event: good networking, fantastic keynote speakers and seminars, and a good opportunity to meet new suppliers,” says Jacqueline Kershaw, ‎assistant to commercial director and commercial team support officer at ‎HS2 Limited.  

“I absolutely love coming to office*.  I've attended three times now, and enjoyed it every time.  It’s a fabulous one stop shop for all the things that PAs really need to have, and have access to,” says Teely Webb, EA to Professor Judith Petts, pro vice-chancellor (R&E) at University of Southampton.  

“If you've never been to office* then you're missing out.  It’s the perfect opportunity to network and meet likeminded EAs and PAs.  The seminars were inspirational and motivational – I left feeling empowered!  It was definitely worth the visit,” says Sarah Pratt, PA to CEO at Lexia Solutions Group.  

PAs, EAs, VAs, secretaries and administrators (68%) are by far the show’s biggest audience, with just over half working at companies which employ 250 staff or more.  Attending seminars topped their list of reasons for attending, together with researching products/services, sourcing new suppliers, networking, and attending Keynotes.  

“The energy from this year’s office* was electric, with 4,020 visitors of the highest calibre converging for two days to develop their business networks and expertise,” comments Sarah Cooper, office*’s event manager.  “Thanks to the dynamic mix of engaging and relevant exhibitors, and renowned world-class education programme, office* 2015 has been cited our best edition yet – so we really couldn’t ask for a better result!”  

Inspiring content draws in the crowds
One of the show’s key draws has always been its exceptional educational content.  Nearly 80% of all visitors took in one or more of the show’s ten free Keynotes, eight free office* Experts Theatre sessions, eight hot topic group discussions, and 32 seminars on offer across the two days.  

Notable highlights for 2015 included standing-room only Keynotes by Zelda La Grange, former PA to Nelson Mandela, and Judith Croasdell, former PA to Professor Stephen Hawking.  The comprehensive free content in office* Expert Theatre, which included sessions dedicated to office managers and virtual assistants, also proved popular with the crowds.  

“Collectively, universally, I can’t think of one executive professional that can succeed without support,” commented Melba J. Duncan, a former executive assistant and president of the Duncan Group, who flew in from New York to host the final session of Executive Secretary Magazine Day in the office* Theatre 3 on 14 October.  

“It’s a great profession and it takes great people to do this profession,” she said, calling for assistants to stand up and “acknowledge how great they are in doing what they do.”  

National PA Survey 2015
Aside from the wealth of new business products, services and venues being unveiled by exhibiting companies at office* 2015, visitors to the show were also the first to see the results of the 5th annual National PA Survey (released on this year’s National PA Day).  

Whilst there never could or will be such a thing as an average PA, the results do provide something of a snapshot.  The majority of survey respondents, for example, have been working in their current job for around 6 years, support two or more managers, are highly motivated, and, very evidently, enjoy the responsibility and variety of the important work that they do.  

Illustrating the uniqueness of their role in the work place, today’s PAs feel more loyal to their boss (62%) than either their company or colleagues.  While a ‘great boss’ also tops the list of the things that most motivate them about their work.  On the flipside, lack of career opportunities, pay, and lack of recognition top the list of PA bugbears.

PA Contributor of the Year
The winner of office*’s prestigious PA Contributor of the Year Award was also announced on National PA Day.  Launched to reward the significant business contributions made by the UK’s PA professionals, Lucy Brazier, CEO of Marcham Publishing and founder of Executive Secretary Magazine, was a popular winner of the coveted top spot.  

Runners-up for the 2015 award included Debbie Grimshaw from Brother, Victoria Darragh from Hays, Marion Lowrence, founder of The PA Hub, Elizabeth Wakeling, chairman of European Management Assistants (EUMA), and Catherine Thomas from Public Health Wales (last year’s winner).  

Which public figure inspires you in your career?
That’s the question office*’s organiser, Diversified Communications UK, asked its visitors (nearly 500 in total) in a ‘show floor’ poll on National PA Day.  

Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson scooped the top spot with 26% of the votes, top businesswomen Karren Brady CBE came in second (15%), followed by HM Queen Elizabeth II (12%).  

The eclectic shortlist, compiled from results from this year’s National PA Survey, included Katie Piper, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Margaret Thatcher, Angelina Jolie, Deborah Meaden, Kofi Annan, and Nicola Sturgeon.  

Save the date for office* 2016
The next edition of office* will take place at ExCeL London, on 11-12 May 2016.  

“The move to ExCeL London is a direct result of feedback received from our visitors and exhibitors and it has generated a lot of interest and enthusiasm within the office professional community,” explains event manager Sarah Cooper.  

“Not only does it give us a fantastic opportunity to grow and develop the show, by positioning it at a key buying period within the financial year, but it’s also now within easy reach of the thousands of executive support professionals that work in and around Canary Wharf.  

“These are exciting new developments for office* and we can’t wait to show you what we’ve got planned for 2016,” she says.  

“I love office*!  Of course I’ll be back in 2016 – it’s my favourite show of the year,” says Chantelle Jones, office manager, Just Hospitality.  

“Not only will I be back in May, I plan to bring as many of my colleagues along as I can!” agrees Tanya De Aguiar, PA to the chief of staff and the MD transformation, community banking at Barclays.

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