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Canary Wharf: How The PA Show Canary Wharf aims to bring a community together

Mash Media’s boutique event is set to be held at the East Wintergarden on Wednesday, November 2

The event will be hosted at Canary Wharf’s East Wintergarden

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“Community” is the word on the lips of Lisa Farnfield.

As Mash Media sales director, she’s responsible for organising the first PA Show Canary Wharf, which is set to take place on November 2 at the East Wintergarden in Bank Street – and she’s determined to make it a place of connection as well as business. 

Mash runs The PA Show at Excel – a nationwide gathering of those working as personal, executive and virtual assistants or office managers – which is gearing up for its 12th edition when it returns to Royal Docks in March.

Building on the success of this year’s show, the company decided to try something new in the interim.

“The PA Show Canary Wharf will be an intimate event for those working in the sector in London, that we’re holding due to popular demand,” said Lisa.

“It’s boutique – a way for people to come and meet suppliers, connect with like-minded people and learn from the great content we’ll be putting on.

“The East Wintergarden is a great venue, exactly the right size, and it has great facilities at the heart of Canary Wharf.

“There will be two theatres on the day, one focused on tech and the other on personal development.

“Speakers include Abigail Jones, an EA at Instagram, Lauren Bradley, founder and lead trainer at The Officials, Abigail Barnes founder and CEO at Success By Design Training and Sarah Howson and Marianne Whitlock – co-founders of Strategic PA Recruitment.

“It’s a chance for people to brush up on their skills and to come together – especially as being a PA, EA or VA can be an isolated position.

“The show is just in the run-up to Christmas and it will have a really special feel to it.

“We’ve got corporates and companies coming along – venues, restaurants, bars, hotels – a lovely selection of high quality businesses.

“Our focus will be the PA community and we’ll be running some great activities during the show, such as speed networking and a prize draw. 

“We’ll also be inviting everyone who attends to after-show drinks so that our visitors and exhibitors can wind down together and connect.

“That’s what people want and it’s our job as an organiser to tune into that – to make sure we have the right content and the right suppliers.

“Our experience with this new style of event will also feed into the main flagship show in March – our all-singing, all-dancing gathering of the sector nationally.”

Mash Media’s Lisa Farnfield – image by Matt Grayson

Visitors to the East Wintergarden will get access to The PA Show Passport allowing them to get stamps from exhibitors to qualify for a goody bag and entry into a prize draw. 

Prizes include a £500 gift card from passport sponsor Harrods Corporate Services and Eastbourne Tennis corporate hospitality tickets for four from Keith Prowse.

Exhibitor slots at the show have nearly sold out, with only a couple remaining.

Lisa, who used to live and work in Docklands, said: “I think that’s about location – being in Canary Wharf has drawn people’s attention.

“Live events are back and people want to go to them. It’s not just about putting on a show, it’s about putting on an experience.

“There’s so much change in this area, it’s important for people to know what’s coming up. 

“We want people to say: ‘Wow, that was a great experience’ – that’s our main aim with this more intimate show, a very select group of exhibitors and a layout that allows people to stay connected throughout the event.

“On a personal level, I’m thrilled to be back in Canary Wharf.

“There’s a real community here, not just for those who work here, but among those who live locally.

“It’s really meaningful to come back and deliver something like this here.”

Lisa said planning for this event had also informed how Mash will evolve the main PA Show when it returns to Excel from March 1-2.

“Because it takes place in spring it will have a different feel, but it will be a more intimate experience,” she said.

“We’ll be having five theatres but also more activities to attract a wider, larger audience.

“It’s about what we can do to make sure there’s a real buzz on the show floor. 

“Throughout there will be exhibitors that really pull people in and we’ll have the PA Passport and speed networking – some of the things we’ve developed for this smaller show.

“We’re always striving to ensure the layout and ingredients that go into the show are both as good as they can be so we deliver something that people want to return to again and again.”

  • PAs, EAs, VAs, office managers and those in similar roles can attend The PA Show Canary Wharf – sponsored by South Western Railway – for free.
  • Registration is essential for entry. Theatre sessions cost £42 including VAT. Visitors can get 10% off through Wharf Life with code 1009.

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com

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Royal Docks: How The PA Show trains and serves executive support professionals

We catch up with organiser Mash Media to understand the Excel event’s highlights

The PA Show takes place at Excel from March 8-9, 2022
The PA Show takes place at Excel from March 8-9, 2022

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Executive support is what Liz Agostini is here to talk about.

The portfolio director at Mash Media, which is set to host The PA Show at Excel in Royal Docks on March 8 and 9, is quick to point out that the event is a larger umbrella than its name might suggest.

“It’s for personal assistants, executive assistants, virtual assistants and office managers – it has really broad appeal,” she said.

If anything, that’s a bit of an understatement. Spread over the two days, thousands of visitors will be able to attend dozens of seminar sessions, listen to dozens of speakers and interact with more than 100 exhibitors.

In addition to a theatre for keynote speeches the show will feature a Key Skills Theatre, a Personal Development Theatre and a Tech Theatre with a packed programme of trainers and industry experts.

It will also host the Office Management Conference with discussions on topics such as project managing office moves, supporting a positive culture in the workplace and engaging staff in sustainability.

“Whether you’re working as a PA, EA, VA or office manager, or considering a career in an executive support role, this show is definitely the place to be,” said Liz.

“There are several ways to attend, with a free visitor pass granting access to the Keynote Theatre and the exhibition floor.

“As a business, we’re real advocates for live events – with exhibitions, it’s about touching, feeling and experiencing products and meeting people.

“We’ve all attended webinars and virtual events, but there’s nothing like being in the room with others – humans are social beings, that’s how we’re hard-wired.

“Events like The PA Show also allow for those serendipitous conversations with people you bump into – a chance to build and expand your network.

“Those who don’t want to take part in the paid programme are absolutely welcome to come along.”

Mash Media's Liz Agostini
Mash Media’s Liz Agostini – image Matt Grayson

Delegate passes – £149 for one day or £169 for both (get 10% off with code PA2216) – not only include entry to the office management conference and all of the theatres, they also unlock Planet PA post-show video content, access to premium suppliers and the option to use The PA Show networking app.

Liz said: “One of the key things about the event is that the educational aspect is absolutely stand-out.

“The whole programme is CPD accredited and the other thing that makes it outstanding is that, within the paid-for programmes, all the people delivering the training are seriously qualified in the area of executive support.

“To go on a day of training with any of these people would normally cost hundreds of pounds on its own.

“At the show what you get is a substantial taster of what they offer. That means you can attend lots of different sessions, see what they are doing and know what you’re in for if you were to book a course with them.

“We cover all sorts of different areas, so it’s a buffet of education – people can choose what they want to attend at the theatres over the two days.”

The PA Show features a number of expert speakers and trainers
The PA Show features a number of expert speakers and trainers

The roster of speakers and trainers includes Lauren Bradley of The Officials, Shelley Fischel of Tomorrow’s VA, Joanna Gaudoin of Inside Out Image, Paula Harding of The Meee Partnership, Kay Lundy of The Expert Admin Coach, Rosemary Parr of the Global PA Association And Training Academy, Paul Pennant of Today’s PA and Lindsay Taylor of Your Excellency.

Liz said: “We’re working with people who are at the absolute top of their game in terms of the PA world – the cornerstones of the training market.

“Outsiders often greatly underestimate the importance of executive support roles.

“But when you sit down with people working in this field and really take time to understand what their jobs entail, it’s absolutely mind-blowing.

“The roles are so varied and strategic – these people are partners for the executives they support. 

“They often have to participate in all aspects of an organisation whether that’s finance, marketing, employment, corporate governance, human resources and sustainability issues. Their remit is absolutely massive.

“I spoke to one PA who answers 90% of her boss’ email as him. Her understanding of the business has to be as good as his.

“That’s why a lot of EAs and PAs move into critical roles within organisations – because of their knowledge of the business they work for.

“I know PAs who have gone into underwriting, stockbroking and mergers and acquisitions. 

“At the top level you need to know how the business works and that’s about a million miles away from the stereotype of getting an executive’s clothes dry-cleaned for them.”

The event is now in its 11th year
The event is now in its 11th year

New for its 11th year is the collaboration with the Office Management Group, bringing the conference into the show’s stable.

“That’s an entirely new stream of content that we’re putting out,” said Liz.

“It covers areas such as facilities and office management and, what’s particularly relevant about that right now, is that so many businesses are focused on bringing their staff back into the office, doing that safely and establishing how they create the right office environment in 2022 and beyond.

“Regardless of how many staff they have in the office in person, businesses are conducting both internal and external meetings virtually, so what kind of facilities do you need to have in place? If people are working remotely, how do you keep everyone connected?

“That might cover questions around scheduling if people are working more flexibly – for example, how do you make sure project teams are running efficiently if participants are only in on certain days?

“Because the whole subject of technology in business is so important we’ve introduced the Tech Theatre to The PA Show this year too and that’s focusing on a whole raft of tools that are now available, not just the Microsoft and Google toolkits.”

PAs, EAs, VAs and office managers are welcome to attend for free
PAs, EAs, VAs and office managers are welcome to attend for free

Liz said for businesses wanting to reach the spending power of executive support professionals, exhibiting at the show was a “no-brainer”.

She said: “Nothing beats the personal touch and the budgets people in these roles have access to are significant.

“Our campaign for the show this year focused on PAs and EAs as the power behind the throne – exhibitors need to come along to make sure they are aware of your products, otherwise you’re just leaving them to search the internet, where it’s much harder to stand out.”

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