On June 8 and 9, 2013, I attended the “Be the Ultimate Assistant” workshop hosted by Bonnie Low-Kramen and Vickie Sokol Evans at the Ritz-Carlton in Dallas, Texas. (See below for their full credentials.) The weekend workshop drew about 20 people from diverse locations, such as California, Colorado and Washington State. Attendees varied from Executive Assistants, Personal Assistants and professionals who bridged the gap between the two roles.
It is important to note that Bonnie does contact each one of the students prior to the workshop to gauge not only their experience, but also their desired learning goals. In this way, each workshop is tailored to meet the needs of the audience. For this class, many of the students indicated that they struggle with the soft skills that make successful business relationships with their employers or principals.
When working closely with an employer, building a mutually beneficial professional relationship is critical. Throughout the weekend, Bonnie shared many tools on how to build this type of trust and respect, while addressing such issues as conflict, communication and boundaries. Other assistants shared their experiences as well, which added to the conversation. In future workshops, I hope that some role playing scenarios will be included to really practice this vital aspect of any top Assistant.
One of the underlying themes of the weekend was the importance of team work, especially in office environments. From pulling out the talents of other team members to mentoring junior employees, the sharing of information is what makes each individual stronger, and creates a team that is more than the sum of its parts. For solo Personal Assistants, resources such as professional organizations were encouraged to make up for the lack of team environments.
As for tactical tools, The Accomplished Traveler provided a presentation on luxury travel. For many of the students, this was eye-opening about the options, possibilities and unique problem-solving required for many High Net Worth (HNW) individuals. Touring the Ritz-Carlton provided additional insight.
Personally, one of the things I look for in any workshop is the technical tools I gain. Vickie Sokol-Evan’s “Tips in Minutes” for Microsoft Office was extremely impressive and helpful. Considering most of the students were already pretty advanced in these programs, even they learned tons of short cuts, formatting options and ways to streamline their productivity with better results. The portion on social media privacy combined with MS Outlook was eye-opening; I consider myself pretty adept at the privacy issues, but I learned a lot of tactics and uncomfortable truths that I never suspected.
Bonnie provided tools for managing schedules, itineraries, inventories and other critical information that all top assistants should strive to maintain. Additional materials provided made sure that the attendees would have more resources beyond the classroom. The only real problem was that we ran out of time on Sunday to cover absolutely everything on the syllabus.
Overall, the “Be the Ultimate Assistant” workshop provided a solid launching point for anyone striving to be either a Personal Assistant or Executive Personal Assistant. As Bonnie Low-Kramen and Vickie Sokol Evans continue to teach their classes, I am sure the content will continue to improve and evolve.
ABOUT THE INSTRUCTORS:
Bonnie Low-Kramen spent 25 years as the Personal Assistant to celebrity couple and Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis and Louis Zorich. Motivated by the lack of resources for assistants, she co-founded New York Celebrity Assistants (NYCA), a professional networking organization for assistants. Bonnie wrote the book on the subject – Be the Ultimate Assistant, A celebrity assistant’s secrets to working with any high-powered employer which is now a best-seller and her articles have been published around the world. Bonnie’s work with actress Olympia Dukakis included the Academy Award win for the film Moonstruck, the 1988 presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis, and travel around the world to places such as Sydney, London, Alaska and Prague. Because she has rarely chosen to do anything the easy way in her career, Bonnie is now passionately committed to effecting positive change in the American workplace – one assistant and one employer at a time. Visit her website: http://www.bonnielowkramen.com/
Vickie Sokol Evans is the founder and President of RedCape, a highly-regarded technology training company focused on real world technology skills needed for small businesses, executives and their assistants, as well as any business user who wants to maximize the technology at their fingertips. Bestselling author of the series for both PC & Mac, Vickie is a Microsoft Certified Trainer and a Microsoft Office Master Instructor with over 15 years of classroom training experience, specializing in the productivity platform, such as Microsoft Office, OneNote, SharePoint, and Lync and includes Microsoft’s latest cloud offering, Office 365. Formerly a business/data analyst with Microsoft, she travels the globe delivering live Jerry Maguire-inspired “Tips in Minutes” keynote presentations to a variety of audiences; teaching engaging instructor-led courses; and facilitating Microsoft Experience Center events for many of Microsoft’s largest customers. Visit her website: http://www.redcapeco.com