With a growing number of administrative
assistants getting involved in organizing meetings and events, it
is likely that most planners will have occasion to work alongside
Too often, these working relationships get off on the wrong
foot: There is some residual resentment on both sides from the late
’90s, when scores of planners were cut from companies and
administrative assistants were expected to fill the planner role on
top of their already overloaded schedules.
Today, it’s a good idea for planners to establish a mutually
respectful and functional partnership with their planning
Meet in person. Establishing trust with an assistant is
essential and cannot be done solely via e-mail or telephone. If
possible, meet in person at least once, more often if budget and
Be open. Enter the relationship with a
positive attitude for learning, fostering and embracing each
Find common ground. If you both work for the
same company, you have a built-in topic to discuss. In other cases,
you will need to dig deeper to establish a connection perhaps in
regard to family, pets, etc. with your planning partner.
Communicate goals and personal stakes. Don’t
assume you’re both on the same page. Does the assistant agree and
understand the goals and objectives for the project? What are his
personal goals for this event? Does he plan to attend the event?
Have you both agreed upon and clarified your individual roles and
What special considerations should planners have when working on
meetings and events with administrative assistants?
Avoid jargon. Be conscious of the terms and
words you use. While “RFP” or “BEO” might be part of your everyday
vocabulary, most people outside the meetings and hospitality
industry haven’t a clue as to what they mean.
Respect time. Keep in mind that administrative
assistants have another full-time job that must take priority. Be
respectful of their time and you will be rewarded with a devoted
Welcome expertise. You might pride yourself on
your savvy negotiating skills, but don’t assume an assistant has no
skills in that arena or in other areas relevant to meetings. Says
one senior administrative assistant at a Fortune 500 firm in
Seattle, “It kills me when the planners at our company don’t
acknowledge my accounting experience. I could help them ensure
their projections are accurate.” Point taken.
There are a number of ways working with administrative assistants
actually can boost your position in a company. Among them:
Impress higher-ups. This point cannot be
understated. Administrative assistants have the ears of senior
management. In fact, this power perk can make or break your own
success in the company. By impressing the assistant with your skill
and ability to work well with a team, you’ll have a far better
chance of impressing the top brass. Likewise, if you insult an
administrative assistant, you can be sure their bosses will hear
about your lack of interpersonal skills.
Insider information. Similarly, administrative
assistants have access to proprietary information. This is not to
imply that they would divulge company secrets, but they can be a
great source for obtaining information on the management team’s
expectations, as well as their peeves. They also can help you sway
management’s opinions, increase budgets and get their buy-in on
more unconventional ideas.