Olympia’s National Hall in London was buzzing with activity over 12-13 September as 3,687 attendees – including senior level personal assistants, office managers and executive support professionals from thousands of organisations based all across the UK – came out in force to support the third edition of office* and its 2nd annual National PA Day.
Firmly established as the UK’s leading event for office support professionals, this year’s office* was packed with thousands of highly-focused and informed visitors looking to source the latest business solutions from 175 leading suppliers and service providers (up from 165 in 2011). Visitor numbers aside, which were slightly up on last year’s 3,675, it was the much commented upon quality of the attendees that impressed countless exhibitors. As a result, 60% of exhibitors have already rebooked for 2013 – when the show will return to Olympia National Hall, on 8-9 October.
“The reaction to this year’s show has been fantastic,” says event manager Ali Mead from organiser Diversified Communications UK. “There was such a great ‘buzz’ across the show floor and it truly felt as though office* had found its home in the National Hall, Olympia. The overwhelming feedback we’ve received so far from many of our exhibitors and visitors is that they loved the new venue and that the show had really found its ‘wow’ factor for 2012.”
“Whilst we’re delighted that visitor numbers are up across the two days, it’s the astonishing 25% increase in seminar bookings that really shows how office* has grown in reputation over the past 12 months. office* truly is the biggest and best platform for uniting the PA and office manager community to connect, support, share and learn
from each other, and this was clearly reflected in the significant presence of high quality, career-focused visitors in attendance. Which I’m happy to say, didn’t go unnoticed by our exhibitors,” adds Mead.
“We’ve had a great show. There was a definitely a better quality and calibre of visitors this year – and last year was great,” says Stewart Anderson, VP of marketing at Durable.
“It was the first time the HBAA had exhibited at office* and I have to say what a great event. Everyone, without exception, that was part of our village was delighted with the quality and quantity of attendees,” agrees Andrew Deakin, marketing chairman of the HBAA (Hotel Booking Agents Association), which hosted a new dedicated HBAA Village at the show.
“office* is definitely the best exhibition I have found for promoting our independent, London hotels directly to our target audience,” says Lisa Morley, director of sales at London Bridge Hotel & Kensington House Hotel. “Key bookers and budget holders attended our stand again this year providing an invaluable source of leads and a really measurable return on our marketing spend.”
Show sponsor Mitsubishi Pencil Co. UK Ltd was equally upbeat, saying that “this year’s office* was yet another great success for us”. Bekki Griffiths, the company’s marketing manager, praised the event as being “instrumental in raising the profile of the uni-ball brand and an ideal platform to successfully launch new products into the office market.”
Whilst researching new products and services for their company and colleagues remained a practical draw for many visitors to the event, the exceptional show content – including ten Keynotes, 32 seminars, and ten office* Interactive Theatre sessions – offered a host of practical advice and tailored training. Whilst many seminar sessions were sold out well in advance of the show, the free Keynotes also enjoyed packed, standing room only crowds. The notable highlight for 2012 was, of course, the show’s headline speaker, top business investor and Dragons’ Den regular Deborah Meaden.
Commenting that he had “never seen the Keynote Theatre so full” in his introduction, Carsten Holm, managing director of the show’s organiser Diversified Communications UK, was just one of hundreds of attendees held in rapt attention by Deborah Meaden’s session.
“Deborah’s talk was inspirational and fun,” says the session’s sponsor Neil Westwood, founder of The Magic Whiteboard Company; one of Meaden’s investment companies. “This is the real Deborah.”
Offering candid entrepreneurial tales of her successful investing career, Meaden’s inspirational Keynote offered a refreshing counterpoint to her Dragons’ Den persona. The much anticipated Q&A at the end of the session saw a relaxed and receptive Meaden answering topical questions that ranged from top tips to business start-ups and delegation techniques to the qualities that she looked for in a PA. Responding to the latter, she was unhesitating in praise for her own PA Charlotte Clark, who she called “the best PA in the world”, citing “honesty, directness and a sense of humour” as key attributes.
Whilst a question via twitter after her Keynote session on whether she thought “a good PA was vital to the success of a modern business?” drew a succinct but immediate response from @DeborahMeaden: “Quick answer…ABSOLUTELY!”
It wasn’t just celebrity Keynote speakers like Deborah Meaden, Debbie Georgiou and Grace Woodward sharing their thoughts on office* to the Twittersphere however – as once again social media played an integral part in building the show’s vibrant atmosphere both before and during the event. The #office12 and #nationalpaday hashtags saw hundreds of uses across the country – including many by PAs that were unable to attend this year. Reed Learning’s experts were videoed answering questions live from office* via its #askreedlearning stream (the results can be viewed on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/reedlearningholborn?feature=CAQQwRs%3D), and the show’s new office* Interactive Theatre featured two #adminchat LIVE sessions on Thursday 13 September (sponsored by BeMyVA), which enabled office* visitors to be a part of Twitter’s largest international chat forum for administrative professionals.
It certainly wasn’t all work and no play for office* 2012 visitors. From Star Wars Storm troopers from the London Film Museum and a David Beckham lookalike on the Conference Care stand, to the Benefit Pamper Parlour and delicious cupcakes to mark the 125th anniversary of Pitman Training – there was plenty of fun to enjoy across the show floor.
“What a stunning success,” says PA Karen Whitbread from The Nielsen Company. “It was my first opportunity to attend this event and I was so impressed with all aspects and have already put next year’s date into the diary. I came away from the event absolutely buzzing, and felt as though I had been given a real boost.”
“I had only meant to stay the morning but ended up staying most of the day given the excellent range of speakers, the amount of networking I got up to and the amount of stands to visit,” says the Ministry of Defence’s Gill Quirk, executive assistant (diary) to defence senior adviser to the middle east.
Summing up his office* visitor experience, Mark Walsh, PA at the NHS, concludes: “office* has been an extremely productive day out of the office, which is always so hard to justify. I’ve found everything here – fantastic, informative seminars and a huge range of products and services.”
office* returns to Olympia National Hall, London, on 8-9 October next year. Following visitor feedback received at the show, new initiatives will include the introduction of a dedicated business travel area and recruitment area for 2013.
The 2012 show was supported by The Institute of Administrative Management (IAM), Association for Administrative Professionals (APA), European Management Assistants (EUMA), SecsintheCity, PA-assist.com, The PA Club, The London Chamber of Commerce, Miss Jones, Reed Learning, Hemsley Fraser, Castalia Coaching & Training, Jeans For Genes Day, Global PA Network, Executive PA Magazine, The Business Travel Magazine, Business Info, Hospitality & Events North, The VA Magazine, Square Mile Magazine, Executive Secretary, Olé and PA Life magazine.
For more information and to view the results of the UK’s 2nd annual National PA Survey launched on National PA Day on Wednesday 12 September, please visit www.officeshow.co.uk.