A Small Step with Big Impact

A Small Step with Big Impact

“When Sophia asked me to join [as co-founder of] myEAcoach, I jumped on board immediately, but I had one requirement: to never speak in front of an audience,” which is what I said while standing on stage in front of an audience. Though it was only Day 1 of myEAcoach, I learned the valuable and necessary lesson of becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable to drive success.

However, the days leading up to the launch tell a story of doubt, anxiety, and an opportunity almost missed.

HIDING BEHIND FEAR

I had drafted a speech – my safety blanket – that was quickly pulled from my shaking hands.

“What do you mean I can’t read from a prepared speech?” My words cracked.

“It has to be a conversation,” I was told. “Don’t worry, you’ll be great!”

A wave of anxiety came over my body before becoming a mass in my throat. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak, and then I couldn’t think.

Days of encouragement from Sophia and others failed to ease the constant worrying and sleepless nights until it turned for the worse on the eve of the big event. At rehearsal, I looked out to an imaginary crowd and decided to start by saying, “I’m quite nervous.” The words alone scared me stiff. I drew a deep blank – into a void I barely escaped.

THE TURNING POINT

HOW did I manage to overcome a paralyzing fear of public speaking?

Strength in Numbers

The game-changer is the moment you realize that everyone in the room is there because they WANT to be there and they are genuinely interested in what YOU have to say.

Fortunately, that moment for me occurred early in the event as we hosted a networking session that allowed me to engage with our network of EAs before the presentation. Their excitement and support made me realize that when we come together, there isn`t anything we can`t do!

The Right Support

Reach out to someone who has been in the same situation as you, but has already taken the leap. If they have been doing it long enough, they will be able to share with you both their wins and losses, which will inspire and prepare you for the journey forward. 

I would have never stepped so far out of my comfort zone without a business partner and friend in my corner every step of the way – an inspiring force that made me want to face my fears and achieve greatness.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Practicing your speech is essential so that you are comfortable with your material and confident in your delivery.

I learned early on that failing to memorize a speech added to the anxiety. Instead, we constructed key messages, and each had three bullets we had to hit. As a result, our delivery was in the form of a conversation, but we still had to practice. We practiced to fine-tune our messaging, to time ourselves and even videotaped ourselves to gauge awkward pauses and gestures. We also requested early access to the event space so we could familiarize ourselves with the stage and spacing. Once I felt the urge to get up on stage and own the moment, it was the time we invested in practicing that gave me the confidence to deliver.

ONE STEP AT A TIME

In my moments consumed by anxiety, I dismissed my husband when he said, “You and Sophia will look back and laugh at how nervous you were to speak in front of a group of people because, in 10 years, you two will be speaking in front of thousands!” Though I am elated by my small step in big shoes, I am not ready for a larger audience, but I can tell you now that I won’t be so quick to dismiss the thought.

By Jennifer Puckett

Pay It Forward. Think Mentorship!

Pay It Forward. Think Mentorship!

By Sophia Denton

“They won’t hire me. I don’t have enough experience.” Have you ever uttered these words? A colleague once told me that it’s not always about having experience in the field you are applying to; instead, employers are more likely to focus on someone’s list of accomplishments because it provides a picture as to whether this person is the right fit for the job.

The insights gained from colleagues and friends is what gives you the confidence needed to overcome challenges and propel you forward – which is why I make mentoring an integral part of what I do.

When one of my mentees finished the Executive Administration Program at her college, she had a tough time getting interviews and thought it was due to her lack of experience as an EA. After looking at her résumé, I advised her to outline her duties from previous roles, and then highlight and quantify her accomplishments in a way that would complement the competencies required.

I shared with her an accomplishment from my own résumé:

Reduced firm`s travel expenses by 25% through negotiations with vendors on hotel and hired car service rates

I quantified my achievement by figuring out the percentage that I saved the company, which tells the employer the following:

I understand that high travel expenses negatively affect the bottom line

I have strong negotiation skills; and,

I have the required problem-solving and budgeting skills required for the role.

Then in an interview, I would explain why I felt there was a need to negotiate rates and the process I used to get to the end result.

The information I passed along helped my mentee land her first EA position and I’m so proud of her!

Remember, the success of our profession relies heavily on the success of each and every one of us. Share knowledge, mentor, and empower your EA peers!

Launch Event: myEAcoach is Here!

Launch Event: myEAcoach is Here!

By Jennifer Puckett

To celebrate our launch, we invited our network of top EAs in the city to enjoy a memorable evening of pampering, elegance and luxury. Held in the stunning Sovereign Ballroom at the Omni King Edward Hotel, the event featured everything you would expect from a premium Toronto event: unparalleled service and catering from Toronto’s historic King Street hotel; exceptional swag from r4 branding co.; exclusive table drops from Baskits; superior AV services and support from Freeman Audio Visual; beautifully captured moments from George Matthew Photography; and professional interviews conducted by weDSTLL.

As we celebrated our role and the many opportunities that lay ahead of us, the evening was also a reminder of how quickly we can overcome the challenges and isolation we experience when given the space to empower one another. Our community understands that we are more than just EAs. We celebrate who we are as individuals, because who we are and our individuality shapes what we deliver to our executive and company.

Our launch event was a testament to the diversity and strength of our network and to the incredible things that happen when we come together:

1) We inspire and empower each other. Sharing pain points, encouraging stories of both wins and losses, and providing reliable support builds our confidence and reminds us of our worth.

2) We maximize our drive to innovate. myEAcoach is building a professional development platform with the help of our network. Together, we will create new ideas, tools, and strategies to encourage positive change and design successful futures.

3) We benefit from shared resources. Sharing honest advice and information is important. It creates awareness by keeping us current and improves efficiency by saving us valuable time.

A heartfelt thank you to our partners, attendees, and supporters for making Day 1 such a huge success! We are thrilled to launch our future together and are excited about what’s to come!

A Peek Inside: The Omni King Edward Hotel

A Peek Inside: The Omni King Edward Hotel

By Jennifer Puckett

I haven’t even made it past the first floor before I stop wide-eyed in admiration of the Sovereign Ballroom. The regal space paints the exact picture of where Richard Burton proposed to Elizabeth Taylor and the room’s impressive beauty has me wanting to see more.

As a guest, I stand in awe; but as an executive assistant, I see a preferred venue.

The ballrooms are architectural gems and can be transformed into beautiful and energetic spaces, including the 17th floor Crystal Ballroom, which is truly fit for royalty. “It’s not your typical four walls,” says a catering sales manager for the hotel as she smiles broadly. As an extension of the hotel’s renovations, $6.5 million was spent to bring the space to fire code, restore the ballroom to its previous opulence, and underline it as one of the most spectacular venues in the city.

Many factors come into play when booking a space for meetings and events, which often requires creative thinking. The hotel provides flexible function space and strives to accommodate all requests. Suites can even be shifted to hold private meetings and the Royal Suite seats 12 at its dining table and is equipped with a butler’s kitchen.

The meeting rooms are soundproof and can host private meetings, executive dining, receptions, socials, roadshows, and interviews – to name a few. Tables and seating, in most rooms, can also be adjusted to allow for creative floor plans that maximize the space in a comfortable way.

To deliver consistent, high-quality service, all event catering is done in-house and the hotel partners with Freeman for outstanding audio-visual and internet support.

All of the hotel’s rooms and suites have been renovated, providing guests with lavish accommodation and modern touches. Grand arm chairs complement the high ceilings, rooms are spacious with large closets, and each room is equipped with a workspace, Keurig coffee machine, laptop-sized safe, and mini fridge (left empty for conveniences such as storing medication or personal beverages).

For a nominal fee, guests can enjoy the Royal Club Lounge on the 11th floor. The upgrade provides morning car service within 3 km, deluxe continental breakfast, evening hors d’oeuvres with complimentary domestic beer and house wine, snacks throughout the day, as well as access to a computer, printer, and two meeting rooms that can be blocked for three hours at a time on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The King Street hotel was originally built in 1903 to provide luxury accommodation to business travellers and an exclusive destination for the elite. Over a century later, the landmark property preserves its history and charm through its grand spaces and elegant detailing and, with the recent renovations, moves forward to attract the next generation of travellers.

The hotel is one of over 50 Omni Hotel and Resorts across North America and a sales manager at the King Edward tells me how the owner of Omni stresses the importance of customer service across all properties. The company takes pride in their exceptional service and “no messages program” to ensure that the customer always gets a hotel staff member on the other end of a call and, during weekdays between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., a sales representative is always available to assist.

When a venue and its staff understand luxury, it comes with a paralleled quality of prestigious hospitality and customer service that saves time for both executive assistants and their executives – as everyone knows, “time is a luxury.”

Checklist: For the Travel Arranger

Checklist: For the Travel Arranger

By Jennifer Puckett

One of the many hats an executive assistant (EA) is required to wear is one of a travel arranger. In this role, you spend a lot of time planning, booking, and managing your executive’s travel, but keeping this checklist on hand will ensure every booking experience is a success.

BEFORE BOOKING A TRIP

  • PERSONAL INFORMATION – Make a photocopy of your executive’s driver’s licence, passport, travel visas and cards, and corporate credit cards. Also document dietary restrictions, an emergency contact, and loyalty program membership numbers. Keep all photocopies and personal information secure.
  • PREFERENCES – Note your executive’s travel preferences, as well as the preferred method of communication while travelling.
  • TRAVEL CONTACTS – Keep on hand all contact information (including after hour numbers) for your internal travel department, corporate travel agencies, and for all preferred hotels, airlines, and ground transportation companies.
  • CORPORATE POLICY – Familiarize yourself with your company’s corporate policy.

WHEN PLANNING A TRIP

  • TRAVEL ADVISORY – Check if there are travel advisories for the intended destination and, if so, alert your executive.
  • ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS – If travelling to a different country, review the entry requirements and confirm that your executive has the correct documentation. Also, advise your executive if a departure tax is enforced.
  • TIME DIFFERENCE – Is your executive travelling to a different time zone? If so, record the time difference and consider it when scheduling all aspects of the trip.
  • TRAVEL OPTIONS – Determine all necessary air, water, and ground transportation, including: airplane, helicopter, bus, train, ferry, taxi, limo, and rental car.
  • BAGGAGE – Will the trip require your executive to travel with special items and/or equipment? If so, check the baggage policies for the intended method(s) of transportation.
  • ACCOMMODATION – If available, choose a property from your company’s list of preferred hotels or one that offers a discounted corporate or conference rate. In addition to finding the best rate, also consider the hotel’s location, amenities, cancellation policy, and whether a deposit is required.
  • CORPORATE POLICY – Ensure the intended method(s) of travel, level of fares, and accommodation are compliant with your corporate policy.
  • INTERNAL APPROVAL – Obtain internal approval, if required.
  • TRIP COLLABORATION – Are there other executives required on the same trip? If so, work with their EAs to synchronize travel arrangements.

AFTER BOOKING A TRIP

  • CONFIRMATIONS – Ensure you receive ticket numbers and confirmations for all bookings.
  • RUN THROUGH ALL DETAILS – Walk yourself through the trip to ensure there aren’t any mistakes or missing details.
  • UPDATE CALENDAR – Note as much information about the trip in your executive’s calendar, but clearly and cleanly.
  • ANTICIPATE ISSUES – Prepare yourself for changes. Record all cancellation policies, alternative airports and airlines, and the locations of the nearest train station and car rental office. If travelling outside of Canada, also note the country’s emergency services number and the contact information for the nearest Canadian embassy/consulate.

PRIOR TO DEPARTURE

  • UPDATE CALENDAR – Keep your executive’s calendar up-to-date with any travel changes.
  • CASH – Remind your executive to withdraw (or, if you have access to your executive’s bank account, ask for permission to withdraw) local currency to have cash-on-hand while travelling.
  • PHONE PLAN – If travelling outside of the country, make sure your executive’s phone is set-up with an international calling and data plan.
  • INSURANCE – Is business travel insurance and car rental insurance covered by your company? If not, arrange all required insurance for your executive’s trip.

24 HOURS BEFORE DEPARTURE

  • RE-CONFIRM ALL DETAILS – Review the full itinerary to ensure accuracy and re-confirm all details.
  • CHECK-IN – Check-in online for your executive’s flight and either print the boarding pass or have it sent electronically.
  • NOTIFICATIONS – Sign-up to receive all flight notifications.
  • MAPS – Provide your executive with printed maps and directions for any unfamiliar routes.
  • RENTAL CAR – If your executive is renting a car, include a map and directions indicating the last gas station to fill-up at before dropping off the vehicle.
  • TRAVEL DOCUMENTS – Provide your executive with printed copies of the full itinerary, tickets, confirmations, maps, on-site contact numbers, and insurance policy details.

WHILE YOUR EXECUTIVE IS TRAVELLING

  • ALERTS – Keep an eye on local weather, news, and airport alerts in case issues arise that could potentially disrupt travel.
  • ADDITIONAL FLIGHTS – Check-in your executive up to 24 hours in advance of all flights.
  • LIMOS – For limo transfers throughout the trip, always send a reminder to the company the day before the scheduled service.

WHEN YOUR EXECUTIVE RETURNS

  • RECEIPTS – Collect all receipts to assist with expenses.
  • MATERIAL – Review all printed documents that returned with your executive to either file, forward, or shred.
  • TAKEAWAYS – Ask your executive if there are any takeaways from the trip.

Checklists are key to ensure consistent and successful execution of tasks as you continue to show your VALUE and earn the RECOGNITION and RESPECT you deserve.