On January 27, 2018 approximately 150 assistants from all over Germany attended the 7th Assistenztag at the Paperworld trade show on the Frankfurt fairgrounds. IMA was represented by more than 10 members and a booth where many conversations were held with interested parties during the course of the event. Following brief welcomes by Stephan Kurzawski, Messe Frankfurt, and Annette Rompel, Editor-in-chief of working@office magazine, host Simone Pfundstein announced the first presentation. In her lively presentation Anja Förster wanted to motivate the audience to strive for more personal responsibility. This also includes saying "No" occasionally. Particularly assistants often have problems to say "No", when the boss comes to the desk with an urgent task right before the workday is scheduled to end. By purposefully saying "No", one is able to break through traditional behavioral patterns and to open up new horizons for oneself and one's environment - even if the other person does not necessarily welcomes the "No". Saying "No" takes courage, but those who always say "Yes" in self-denial, even when they mean "No" will lose their energy and courage over time. In his compelling presentation Daniel Hammer of Microsoft Deutschland reported on the trends regarding the digitization in the office. By comparing photos of Barack Obama's inaugurations in 2009 and 2013 and the papal elections in 2005 and 2013, he illustrated how much smartphones have changed our lives within just a few years. The increasing digitization results in a dramatic transformation of the working environment. This results in a new way we perceive the world and because of the interconnectedness new options for action. The interaction between man and machine will change drastically. This also affects the role of the assistant. Siri, Cortana and Alexa, but also bots will take over many tasks and assistants will be required to create their very own role within the company. In light of these developments, it is important to created guardrails within which one moves, because not everything that is possible should also be done. In conclusion, Mr. Hammer advised the audience to actively initiate change at their workplace and thus shape the future. A networking break was followed by Michael Rossiés entertaining presentation on "How to win without fighting". In many conflicts the true message is found in the undertone of the words that are said. Therefore, it is important to listen carefully and to consider the other person's feelings when responding. He provided valuable tips to parry attacks and to handle controversial issues, generalizations, assumptions and emotional problems. In addition to the undertone, body language plays an important role. It is more important than the spoken word and should be taken into account by an attentive listener to decode the true meaning of what is said and to respond appropriately. The event ended with networking. Interested participants had the opportunity to take a guided tour of the trade show.
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 IMAs 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.
In perfect weather almost 40 participants from allover Germany and Austria made their way to pre-Christmas Salzburg on Friday, November 24, 2017. The topic of this year’s IMA-fall training was „The 1x2 for a confident appearance“. Upon their arrival at the Seminarhotel Heffterhof the guests were greeted by members of the Salzburg regional chapter and could try their first Mozartkugel or take the opportunity to visit the Christmas market in the historic old town which had been opened the day before. In the evening the participants met for the welcome reception in the bistro of the Heffterhof Hotel. From there the group moved to the Gaisbergstube for the „Reindlessen“ a traditional dinner, where they were officially welcomed by Manuela Spießberger and Vera Berndt. During the evening Lucy Brazier, editor of Executive Secretary Magazine, and her husband Duncan joined the group and it became a fun and entertaining evening.
The next morning Vera Berndt greeted the participants as well as the two trainers Christine Güdden and Robert Gisshammer. Then two groups were formed which moved to their meeting rooms with their respective trainers. Robert Gisshammer, language and communications trainer from Salzburg, guided the participants in groups through exercises to the goal „Pitch Perfect – how to convince in 2 minutes!“ It is important to come up with a good idea for the pitch and to create emotions. It is less important to present lots of data rather than to show the essentials with just a few words and to win over the other party with emotions and a good story. The participants learned how to create the perfect pitch with the help of AIDA and enjoyed the practice. At the end tips and tricks on how to strengthen one’s voice were given, because a good and clear voice as well as a relaxed tone considerably contribute to a successful “perfect pitch”. Christine Güdden, color and style consultant from Cologne, talked about the „polished appearance in business“. She discussed the importance of the first impression, differences between self-perception and how one is perceived by others, playing with colors (contrasts and harmony) and how one’s body proportions may be presented in a flattering way. When using a color, it is important to consider the desired effect ahead of time: if a harmonious impression is to be created, similar shades should be chosen. If, however, one wants to make a clear statement, the clothes should reflect this i. e. in this case contrasting colors should be combined. The participants were particularly excited to see examples of how body parts can be emphasized or camouflaged by colors and styles, which effects warm or cold colors could have, which types of styles there are and which materials should be preferred for the classic business style.
At the end of this inspiring training day the participants and the trainers beamed at the camera motivated and filled with new impressions. In the evening there was a dinner at the Stiftskeller St. Peter in the historic old town, one of the oldest restaurants in Europe, where Austrian culture, history and modern age meet. A separate room with Christmas decorations had been reserved for the IMA-guests. Lucy Brazier, editor of Executive Secretary Magazines, gave an impressive speech on the changing role of assistants in recent years and shared her experiences from trips around the world. This dinner was the perfect ending to a highly successful event.
A big thank you to Manuela Spießberger, chairman of the regional chapter in Salzburg, who took over the organization of the training as well as Angelika Geisemeyer and Gudrun Lahr, members of the regional chapter in Salzburg.