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Royal Berkshire Conference Centre hosts a night of team-building

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Club members took on ‘The Cube’ as the Royal Berkshire Conference Centre and Goto Events held an evening of team-building activities and networking.

The Madejski Stadium is an impressive venue in its own right – capable of holding up to 24,000 guests, the view from the boxes and conference rooms above is unparalleled.

Inside it plays host to the Royal Berkshire Conference Centre and I was so grateful that some PA Life Club members and I got the opportunity to experience what the venue has to offer corporate clients, and boy do they know how to put on a show.

Located along the M4 corridor in Reading, I was pleasantly surprised at how simple it was to find the venue; with options to travel by train and car, it is ideal for group bookings and away days.

We arrived for an evening of networking for 6pm, where we were greeted with a round of bubbles inside the Royal Suite and some beautifully-crafted bowl food, which we were told had all been taken from the catering menu. The dishes included tandoori chicken, sea bass and purple mash and a lemon curd for dessert with homemade shortbread. It was fantastic to see first-hand what the venue can do in terms of its menu, and it didn’t disappoint.

With full tummies, we ventured on a tour of the grounds and its facilitates. Due to the structure of the stadium – it’s a bit of an oval shape – I didn’t expect there to be such a huge variety of conference and meetings rooms, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Inside guests can select from the Premier Suite, Director’s Lounge, Kennet Room & Loddon Room, 1871 Suite and many more, all capable of hosting a range of events, such as exhibitions, private gala dinners, panel discussions, conferences and board meetings.

The Princess Suite & Windsor Lounge was a space I was particularly fond of – the largest room at 517m square – it is fantastic for exhibitions or Christmas parties. Plus, with a five-meter ceiling height, a goods lift, dedicated wi-fi and AV, it has everything anyone could need when booking.

Plus, the venue also boasts a restaurant dubbed Cilantro, where guests can make the most of the private dining five-course menus. If anything is to go by the food we had on the evening, guests can expect exquisite dishes here.

And if that wasn’t enough, through a connecting hallway, users of the stadium can reach the Millennium Madejski Hotel. Guests don’t even have to venture outside to travel in between the two venues – it’s a seamless transition.

After a packed tour it was back to the Royal Suite to get creative and take part in some team-building activities, courtesy of Goto Events. Styled out the same as ITV’s TV show The Cube, we all got the chance to take on challenges as a team.  As difficult as they were, I’m pleased to say my team won the most, including one where four of us had to balance on a beam using one leg for 30 seconds – not as easy as it sounds let me tell you!

It really was a fantastic way to round off the evening and we all thoroughly enjoyed getting up close and personal with this fabulous venue – I’ll definitely be returning in the future.

PA Life Club: Penelope Alice heads to the seaside with The Grand, Eastbourne

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The amount of conference, meeting and dining space is endless at The Grand, while the numerous bedroom choices including suites, executive and sea view rooms offer plenty of variety.

Having never visited the seaside town of Eastbourne, I was more then eager to see what this location can offer. Myself and a group of PA Life Club members were lucky enough to join the latest Club FAM trip, where we got to enjoy a night’s stay in The Grand Hotel.

I was surprised at how simple the journey was to Eastbourne – I travelled down from London Victoria via train, which only took an hour and a half, while a quick five-minute cab journey ensured we arrived outside The Grand.

This is a hotel which certainly does live up to its name; the entrance hall alone is enough to make a lasting impression, while the high ceilings create the illusion of heaps of space in each room, from The Garden Restaurant, Eastbourne Room and Boardroom.

After we checked in, we were given the opportunity to freshen up after our travels, before heading into the Eastbourne for afternoon tea and Champagne. A delicious selection of savoury and sweet treats greeted us, plus we were informed that everything was made on-site in the kitchen, including the intricate lemon meringue pie and quiche.

Refreshed and with full tummies, we were given a tour of the hotel and its facilities in groups. I was in awe at just how huge The Grand is. The amount of conference, meeting and dining space is endless, while the numerous bedroom choices including suites, executive and sea view rooms offer plenty of variety. My favourite was some of the more modern bedrooms, and we were told that the hotel was undergoing a complete refurb of the rooms to give the hotel a more contemporary feel.

During the tour, we also got to see the Mirabelle – a restaurant that is considered one of the finest in the town, having received numerous accolades and awards. This room was a particular hit with me thanks to its stunning blue and grey colour tones and intimate tables, making it perfect for business lunches or private dining.

Retiring back to our rooms, we all prepared for the evening dinner which was to be hosted in the Princes room. A superb room with ample space, I couldn’t wait to sample the hotel’s food and experience its five-star service. We were treated to a starter course of seared scallops, followed by a main of teriyaki glazed beef fillet. This was polished off with the ‘Grand’ dessert trio consisting of pecan pie, a pear and salted caramel shot and honey and ginger ice cream. It was a banquet I won’t forget thanks to its fantastic flavours and the impeccable service we were given.

Once dinner was finished, we were guided into the hotel’s bar for a cocktail before we all headed up to our rooms for a well-earned rest. I opted for the Negroni – one of my favourite’s and the hotel didn’t disappoint.

The next morning, we were all provided with breakfast in The Garden Restaurant, which included a feast of continental options, fresh fruit and cooked dishes. After digesting and checking out it was time to take a tour of the seafront and the surrounding area including Beachy Head and the Birling Gap. It was great to see the town in the flesh and its opportunities for team-building and away days. For example, at Beachy Head visitors can take part in paragliding – a thrilling way to treat clients or team members to an adrenaline-filled activity.

This hotel is in a prime location for corporate clients, especially if you are seeking a spot that is outside of London but without the long distance to travel. Thank you to The Grand for showcasing all it can offer – I for one will certainly be considering it for our next away day.

Hi-de-hi campers! Penelope Alice takes a visit to Butlin’s in Bognor Regis

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I must admit, it has been quite a few years since I was last lucky enough to visit the Butlin’s in Bognor Regis and how things have changed.

Bognor Regis is easily accessible for those that drive, it’s also just an hour from London on the fast train.

As we arrived at Butlin’s, we were greeted by a charming security guard, checking our names were on the list at the gate. It was all very high-end making it perfect for a corporate event. As we went through the gate, we saw the newest hotel on site. It looked magnificent and large, a real talking point, away from the chalets of yester-year.

After parking in one of the many car parks around the site, we were directed to the conference centre. Still on the lookout for a red coat, we entered a stylish and modern building with all the tech needs of any current business.

The conference centre has a large bar reception, which had a neon pink glow, rivalling any bar I’ve seen in London recently. The conference rooms varied in size but all came equipped with comfortable desk seating, tables and good natural light.

Within moments of being in the centre, we were treated to a lovely cup of tea and talked through all of the available options regarding room space and sizes. As you can imagine, it’s difficult to book events during the school holidays but there was no need to panic, the rest of the conference team are more than happy to help out with any event needs you may have.

Once the talk had finished, we were escorted through the grounds of the resort to one of the many restaurants. It was all very grand and looked like such fun.

The restaurant was comfortable and again felt very modern, keeping with the theme of the rest of the resort. As we sat down, I must admit I was rather dreading what could have been served, with thoughts of nostalgia running through my mind but quickly my mind was changed. With a promising gin menu and exquisite food and staff that catered for our every need it was all rather nice.

After the last of us had finished eating, we were shown round the resort spaces, which included some excellent hosting rooms and large stage event space. Making it great for larger events and gatherings.

Upon completing the tour, we were all ready for some fun, between the numerous shops and activities, I can safely say I was spoilt for choice.

We ended up, however, at the on-site funfair filled with all your usual fun needs, from the waltzers and bumper cars to the hall of mirrors and go-kart track. Many of us decided to give everything ago and after a lot of fun, we deduced that it would be a very entertaining place to head to after a conference or meeting.

We were ready for a sleep after the fun fair so we decided it was about time to be shown around one of the three hotels on site, it was comfortable, quiet and had excellent Wi-Fi coverage. You could feel comfortable and professional without ever realising that there might be a family with three children in the room next door.

The day ended with us taking afternoon tea in the conference centre. It was a beautifully British with fresh scones, profiteroles and fresh strawberries.

As we departed, we were given a rather trendy re-useable bag containing: a pen, contact information, a large chocolate bar and my favourite item, a Billy teddy bear.

P.S. For those of you interested, I finally saw a red coat on the way out of the resort. They had been putting on a play all afternoon and were too busy for my silly game of hide and seek.

Rooms and spaced at Butlin’s Bognor Regis:

Venues

Conference Centre
Boardroom ( up to 8 delegates)
Kent Suite
York Suite
Windsor ( Kent and York combined)
Princes Suite
Regency Suite
Grosvenor Suite ( Princes and Regency combined)

Reds
Centre stage
Skyline Pavilion
2 Theatres ( approx. 200 delegates in each venue – Discovery Studio and Character Theatre)

Capacities

Accommodation

Hotels

Shoreline – 160 rooms
Ocean – 200 rooms
Wave – 244 rooms ( of which, 29 apartments)

Villages

Atlantic Bay and Oyster Bay – approx. self-catering 530 apartments

Hard to book a space during…

When the schools are out ( February half term, Easter, May half term, Summer Holidays, October half term)
Adult music weekend ( approx. 21 weekend)

Easy to book a space during…

Our opportunity midweeks (usually the first part of January, February excluded half term, the first part of March, November)

Please follow the link below to find out more with details descriptions and further information:

https://www.butlins.com/events/our-locations/bognor-regis/

Naturally beautifying

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Natural beauty products have come a long way in the past few years. The market is developing rapidly, as people become more aware of what they are putting on their skin.

What with September being the time of year when many of us are increasingly conscious of detoxing our make-up bags and beauty cabinets, let us introduce, Seascape – the next generation of natural products that are luxurious, bathroom-shelf-worthy and effective.

As good for the planet as they are your skin, their natural bath and body products all feature ingredients sourced from products on the beautiful island of Jersey in the Channel Islands, promoting a healthier approach to beauty.

If natural beauty is your bag, make sure you’ve got these favourites in your collection:

100ml SOOTHE BODY MIST

A pure beauty awards finalist from the maternity – safe Soothe range, Seascape’s refreshing new Body Mist has been named by the Pure Beauty Awards panel as a finalist for best new natural product of the year. You can vote for Seascape’s Body Mist at: http://goo.gl/jOcoqq

THE TRAVEL ESSENTIALS TRIO

This new gift set is the perfect gift for those who travel and are ‘on-the-go’. Containing a 75ml Refresh Hand & Nail Cream, a 10ml Peppermint Lip Balm and Seascape’s award – winning 8ml Soothe Sleep Oil – it provides the essentials that one needs for long trips.

Both are available at www.seascapeuk.com

*Take advantage of your 25% PA Life discount. Simply enter PALIFE25 under Discount Codes when checking out.

Why mothers benefit from home working

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Becoming a VA and working from home is the ideal solution for women with young children who want to continue their employment, according to a study by the Office for National Statistics. The report also suggests that hiring remote staff is cost-effective for businesses, making it an all-round good choice for both parties.

The study also reveals that mothers are more likely to be employed than women with no young children. Those with childcare responsibilities have an employment rate of 69.6%, while those without come in at 67.5%. This is the first time this has ever been the case in the UK.

Modern technology, such as fast broadband, email and free video-conferencing software, is likely to have caused this shift, as companies around the country are hiring more remote workers in order to reduce the cost of running a business. Virtual assistants also play a major part, with many PAs making the decision to continue working after having a baby.

VA Fátima Malagueira says it was the flexibility that drew her to the job. She claims she used to be in the office 15 hours a day, but setting up her home business has allowed her to work around her young daughter’s schedule.

Read the original article at tinyurl.com/lxb353b

This system will revolutionise the way you work

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Swamped with paperwork and struggling to stay on top of all those document requests? If you’re nodding in agreement, then you absolutely have to take part in the Five Folder System seminar at the next PA Life Training Day.

PA trainer practitioner Adam Fidler will take delegates through workflow management for admin professionals, looking at why old time management systems no longer work and discovering ways of implementing the five key categories for managing office documents, namely: Boss, Current Activities, Bring Forward, Pending and Filing. He will show you how to use the system effectively to promote a good working relationship with your manager.

Adam has worked as a board level PA, is a secretarial tutor and runs the best-selling course, From good to outstanding in both London and South Africa, as well as being a regular speaker at events for management assistants.

The training day takes place on Monday, 15 June at the ILEC Conference Centre at the Ibis London Earls Court and features 12 compelling courses, each individually tailored for the PA community. Delegates can choose to come for the full day for £249, or for just a half day at £125.

The full-day option includes a networking lunch where attendees get the chance to mingle and chat with administrative professionals from a whole range of different backgrounds.

To book your place, or for further information, visit palife.co.uk/trainingday, email trainingcourses@palife.co.uk, or call Jack Risley on 01992 374100.

Learn from both success and failure, says Bill Gates’ PA

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PAs need to work hard to be the very best at what they do and should carry out their role with wholehearted effort, earnestness, honesty, rigour and humility. This is the advice of Lauren Jiloty, (pictured) who previously worked for Senator Hillary Clinton and who is now the senior executive assistant to iconic entrepreneur and philanthropist Bill Gates.

Lauren points out that as no two bosses are alike, so no two roles are either. “It is important to learn lessons from both success and failure and develop an appetite for learning new ways of doing things,” she comments. She highlights the fact that it’s not just a line manager who can teach you important lessons: “I have learned that the things I learn from colleagues and subordinates can be every bit as valuable as [those] from high-ranking managers.”

She also notes that her career so far has taught her how to think on her feet and stay a few steps ahead. “This is a continuous effort. Some days, I am four, five steps ahead of the curve. Some days two steps is as good as it gets.”

Asked what in her opinion are the three hallmarks of any good PA, Lauren singles out a positive attitude, responsiveness and talent, along with being “reliably reachable… I enjoy working with people who are always driven to improve.”

Lauren also comments on how the perception of the PA’s role has changed in the US since she started out, noting that management assistants are “no longer secretaries in a typing pool”. She goes on to say that today’s administrative professionals are “gatekeepers, accountants, auditors, spokespersons, publicists, counsellors, stylists, writers, negotiators and listeners.

“But most importantly, we are business partners,” continues Lauren. “There is so much trust between principal and EA, it’s understandable that many employers entrust their most confidential needs to them.”

Lauren explains how she began in the business: she started out in an entry-level position in a regional US Senate office and after two years was promoted to the Executive Office in Washington DC. Another year followed and then she applied for a vacancy within Senator Clinton’s Executive Office; she worked with the Senator for a further two and a half years when she became Secretary of State before being recruited for her present role in Seattle.

In her current job the biggest challenge she faces is “achieving balance”; she elaborates: “It’s elusive and rarely do I feel it is within reach, but I’m always chasing it… it comes with the territory, especially in this line of work.”

Looking ahead, Lauren feels that the role of the PA will become more essential than ever, as executives across all sectors of industry grow increasingly busy. “More and more companies are scaling up the role of PA to its proper place in their hierarchies.” She concludes with an acknowledgement of the importance of the assistant’s position: “When companies hire excellent administrators and then empower them, the return on investment is off the charts.”

Lauren Jiloty spoke at this year’s Executive Secretary LIVE. Visit executivesecretarylive.com for more information

Wifi is better than breakfast for business travellers

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Much has changed since air miles and upgrades represented the height of perks for business travellers. A recent study of employees in the UK, France and Germany shows that mobile tools and constant connectivity are at the top of the list for a productive trip.

In a shift of priorities, complimentary wifi is now deemed twice as important to those surveyed (67%) as free breakfast, (32%) according to research conducted by Egencia, the corporate arm of online booking platform Expedia. Hotspots are also more popular than parking, as only 33% of travellers prefer a free space for their car.

The research supports previous Egencia insights, which found that employees expect to move seamlessly from one device to another and from online to offline and back again. Mobile devices act as their personal assistants and 61% say such technology is a must to maintain productivity, followed closely by the 54% who prefer to use a laptop.

Attitudes about business trips in general are also changing, as 62% of employees believe seeing different places and having new experiences are the best aspects of travelling for work. When asked what they felt about being away from home, the top two emotions mentioned were stress (48%) and exhaustion (41%).

PAs in the news

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Politicians are not always the best-loved public figures, in fact they often inspire outbursts of unreserved loathing, but it seems that some of them at least are thought of with fondness by a certain section of the population – their personal assistants.

Barack Obama’s former PA, Reggie Love, has brought out a book that details the habits of the US president, noting that he eschews fried foods and mayonnaise in favour of healthier dishes such as grilled chicken and fish. Love describes his ex-boss as “an attentive father, devoted husband, trash-talking basketball player, feisty card shark and a loyal friend with a wicked sense of humour.”

Even presidents who are no longer with us are still feeling the love from the PA community, with the former assistant to Ronald Reagan talking affectionately of the decade she spent with him in a professional capacity. Speaking at an event organised to commemorate what would have been Reagan’s 104th birthday, Peggy Grande said that the ex-Governor of California treated everyone as equals, irrespective of their position in society. “He interacted [with people] with respect and kindness”, she recalled.

Meanwhile, the former assistant to the late South African leader Nelson Mandela has been accused of sparking a race row online. According to Toronto newspaper The Star, Zelda La Grange tweeted that she was fed up with the attitude of ruling ANC party leader Jacob Zuma towards white citizens in the country, asking the plaintive question, “Why can’t we coexist without it having to be at the expense of one another?”

Twitter users have been quick to condemn the lady nicknamed “the Rottweiler” for her fiercely protective attitude towards South Africa’s first black president, labelling her attitude as racist. She has been accused of playing down the troubled past of the indigenous community and her comments have resulted in the hashtag #ZeldaDoesntEvenKnow, which provides examples of discrimination still suffered today by the country’s black citizens, who make up the vast majority of the population.

Work within the bounds of good behaviour

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Setting boundaries in the workplace is one of the key issues faced by PAs today – you want to show your boss you’re flexible and ultimately indispensable, but where do you draw the line? The PA Life training day session conducted by the directors of website PA Access All Areas will outline appropriate methods of coping with this dilemma.

CEOs Merryl Futerman and Josephine Green will take delegates through issues such as identifying boundaries by examining real life, topical examples; analysing the many different strands that the role of the management assistant encompasses; considering ways to say no without actually saying no; and questioning the boundaries of acceptable work demands.

The presentation will also cover the topic of creative problem solving and discuss how to negotiate day-to-day crisis management, as well as featuring interactive problem resolution exercises.

The training day takes place on Monday, 15 June at the ILEC Conference Centre at the Ibis London Earls Court and features 12 compelling courses, each individually tailored for the PA community. Delegates can choose to come for the full day for £249, or for just a half day at £125.

The full-day option includes a networking lunch where attendees get the chance to mingle and chat with administrative professionals from a whole range of different backgrounds.

To book your place, or for further information, visit palife.co.uk/trainingday, email trainingcourses@palife.co.uk, or call Jack Risley on 01992 374100.