Kelly Pluff – PA Awards 2019
I was being nominated, who would ever have thought? Not me, that’s for absolute sure. I love being a PA, always have. I certainly wasn’t looking to be recognised for the support I provide in my role as a Personal Assistant, but here it was, ‘ME’, competing for a chance to have my name in lights. Scary? Absolutely! But with the encouragement of my boss and work colleagues, I took the first step in a process that would fill me with giddiness, excitement, nerves and anticipation all at the same time – here is my journey .
Step one - completing and submitting the application form. The questions on the form are tough. They make you delve deep into the experiences/challenges you have encountered in your role as a PA/EA, at the same time championing you to give the judges an insight into the character and person behind the nominee.
If I had been given the same form 20+ years ago the questions would not have aligned with my PA role at that time and would have been completely alien. Where is the question asking me how many words a minute I can type; how quick my shorthand is; do I have the ability to copy type; knowledge of the latest phone system - those days, are thankfully behind us and “good riddance” I say. PA’s/EA’s have evolved to a place today where their role plays an integral part in making key decisions, managing budgets, project managing. They can lead and influence while still providing crucial support to their Executive.
I hit ‘send’ on the application form – no going back now – I felt a buzz that was quickly overshadowed with nerves. What if I didn’t make it to the short list for the next round of the interview process? Did I do enough to promote myself on the application form? Did my boss position me in a shining light with his comments supporting my nomination? WAIT !!! Did I really need to be recognised that much? Would it make me any better at my job? Would my boss and/or colleagues appreciate me more? NO! Getting to the next round wasn’t about any of that – it was the sense of community that came from being a part of something bigger than me, the emotional awareness that I was sharing this experience with my peers external to the business environment I worked in. It was a “high five” to all of us for believing in ourselves, for pushing forward with our careers, setting ourselves apart, growing and developing as individuals and adapting to the ever changing landscape of technology – this was a platform we deserved!
I didn’t have to wait long for the results of my application. I had made the short list. However, it was not for PA of the Year but for Event Organiser of the year. The judges had considered my application and believed my strengths were more suited to this category. I won’t lie, I was elated. My role for the 18 months prior to submitting my application had been dedicated to the Events side of our business. The judges’ decision made complete sense.
After catching my breath and relishing in the thrill of being shortlisted I knew I had to park the emotion and focus on the next stage of the process.
BEST TELEPHONE VOICE
In advance of the telephone interview the PA forum provides each nominee with examples of the types of questions they may be asked. Phew – at least I get to be prepared! I do turn into a nervous ninny on these type of things! My telephone interview was scheduled for 16:00 on a Thursday. This would be very informal and the objective was for the judges to get to know the nominees a little better. Roll on Thursday – I would be ready!
The butterflies kicked in the second I turned on my computer. That little box, generated by my Outlook calendar flashed up in the right hand corner of my screen reminding me of my day’s schedule and there it was in bold, PA Awards Telephone Interview 16:00.
Four o’clock arrived and I punched in the conference call code – breath, it was going to be OK and it was. The judges relaxed me the instant the introductions were made. It was over so quickly yet it had only been a whole 10 minutes – seriously, I swear it had only been 2!
I waited less time for the results this round, than I had with the application form. They were emailed the same evening – the first line read MANY CONGRATULATIONS, YOU ARE A FINALIST AT THIS YEARS BIRMINGHAM PA AWARDS!
OK, I was at home and I may have let out a little squeal of joy and danced with my puppy around the kitchen to celebrate. Isn’t this normal behaviour?
A FACE TO THE NAME
There was still one more stage of the process to go, the face to face interview with the judging panel! Like the telephone interview, we were given a preview of the type of questions we would be asked. The interview would last 20 minutes, after which, the judges would deliberate and select the winners to be announced on the 20th July.
The nerves overwhelmed me when I arrived at the city hotel where the interviews were being conducted – these were quickly annihilated by the ease in which the judges put me under. It was like déjà vu, no sooner had the interview started and it was over. I wanted to challenge them on the time – surely I had not had my 20 minutes?? It had actually been a tiny bit longer.
I already felt like a winner by getting this far but there was still more to come.
AND THE WINNER IS …..
Fast forward to the big night. I realise I may have emphasised on my nerves a few times throughout my detailed journey to this point, well sorry folks, but I’m going to dramatize those nerves even more by saying they were now off the grid!
The nerves quickly dissipated when I walked into the venue. WOW! Everyone looked stunning. The room was a vision of glitz, glamour, excitement, buzz, elegance and grace. There were hugs being shared, air kisses, selfies being taken, red carpet picture poses – I took a moment to reflect, soaking
in all that surrounded me and I felt truly blessed to be a part of what would continue to be an exceptional evening.
The evening was pure delight from beginning to end. The venue - The Vox. The decoration – Eventologist. The entertainment – Elegant Entertainment. The host – Adam Joyce and most importantly, the guests and nominees who were there to celebrate the event in all its glory. We were all here because of one truly amazing individual, the founder of the PA Forum, Daniel Skermer. With the support of the PA Award Committee and the fabulous Sponsors, Daniel had made the evening “our special night”.
To elevate my excitement even further, on what was already a magical evening, my boss and work colleague surprised me by having my brothers and their partners attend so they could revel in the experience with me. Thank you, Brid & Ian J
I was floating on a natural high. I still had to pinch myself to make sure I was not hallucinating off the high and this was all real – and it was. Dinner was served, which was delicious. My middle brother is somewhat of a food snob and I kept waiting for his “little” critique of the slow cooked beef but it didn’t come. He even pinched food off my plate !!!
My modesty continued throughout the evening – I truly did not expect to win. I felt I had already won by making it as a finalist.
Then it was time – the winner of each category was about to be announced. I needed the butterflies to stop fluttering and give me a minute. My youngest brother had my walk to the stage already mapped out and even made suggestions on how I should walk – really?? My boss kept teasing me about how embarrassed I was going to be (you will always find me at the back of the room); my boyfriend kept reminding me not to trip over my dress “you know what you’re like” …. But the words and noise bounced off me. I wanted to hear the name of every nominee and winner – I wanted to share in their achievement and glory and stand up and cheer, clap and scream “You are f&*%ing awesome” but the reserved nature of my personality only had me sit there and clap as each name was announced. My inner voice though was screaming in celebration with each of them. I want to use this post to personally congratulate each and every person who was nominated. For those who didn’t make it this year – do not concede defeat - there is always next year. For those who reached the finals – a huge well done - don’t forget there is next year for you too. For the winners – congratulation - sit back and enjoy your moment and compete again next year.
Suddenly my category was being announced – 5 names in all were mentioned. Then the surprise of all surprises. The judges announced 2 joint winners – Elliott Packham and Kelly Pluff – NO WAY! Seriously, NO WAY! What do I do now – in a nano second I hugged my youngest brother (sorry Steve) and made my way to the stage. I left out the cartwheels and back flips – it was not that kind of event and I would never have pulled it off anyway – they would have been carting me out on a stretcher!
To stand on stage with Elliott, both of us Event Organiser of the Year was a moment that will live on with me for a very long time. I wish I could tell you what went through my head from leaving the table, walking up to the stage, accepting the award and getting back to the table, but my brain was a fuzzy, foggy mess. Once my brain cleared, I savoured every second of every minute until I was home and tucked up in bed. I gave myself a little pat on the back, took a breath, hugged my award closer and out loud told myself “let’s do it all again next year”.