Celebrity Speakers – They’re human too!

On the 29th June 2015, I joined JLA as a newly appointed agent from the world of music and film, and little did I know what I was getting myself into, but a year has gone by and wow what a ride it’s been. I’m spending my JLAnniversary on my annual family holiday in the South of Spain, with an ice-cold beer on one side, laptop on the other and I’m reflecting on what life has been like as an agent for celebrity speakers and the people I’ve met.

Now, some say that you should never meet your heroes, well I’m so delighted to tell you that in most cases everyone I’ve met, has turned out to be…drum roll…very normal, even lovely. None more so than Matt Dawson (my scrum half rugby hero!). I, like a lot of people would have thought that Matt would just be happy to talk about his Rugby days and A Question of Sport. No, this is simply not the case. Matt has a new life these days, and he talks to you about the similarities between sport and business; such as with the right leadership, strategy and teamwork you too can be the worlds best. From a personal point of view, it’s amazing to speak to my hero about how the current England team are performing and maybe get an insight or two into what’s going on at the moment, and pick up a few pointers myself.

As an agent, we’re here to help and consult you to pick the best celebrity speaker possible for your event, and very often they may not be someone you’ve readily heard of. Take Marc Woods for example, easily one of the best speakers I’ve seen, and yet (and I hope Marc doesn’t mind me saying this) not a household name. Marc developed cancer as a young teenager, and at the time was a county swimmer. He lost his leg as a result of his cancer, and then went onto become one of Britain’s most successful Paralympic swimmers! Marc doesn’t just inspire and motivate you to become a winner, but he talks about leadership, teamwork and how even the guy that cleans the pool helps you reach the top. When I first met Marc, he let me hold one of his gold medals and that’s the closest I’ll ever get to holding one again, but I do feel like he’s taught me that I can achieve anything I want with the right attitude and help from my team. The last time I saw Marc, he was walking across Marble Arch holding an award for inspirational speaker of the year, having shared a couple of bottles of wine too many with me at the Dorchester. He’s easily one of the nicest men I’ve had the pleasure of coming across.


Only a few weeks ago, I had the absolute pleasure of attending an event that I had booked Baroness Manningham-Buller to speak at for my client. As a real life M from the Bond films, I was both terrified and excited. Do I ask her if she had to brief Judy Dench on how to play the role of M? Had she really told operatives that yes, it’s ok to meet some of the most beautiful women on this planet? No, I’ve got a job to do. But unfortunately on this occasion, Eliza had broken her ankle a couple of days before the event, so she was wheelchair bound. Whilst pushing her around in her wheelchair, she complemented me on my wheelchair pushing skills, to which I responded, ‘I’m not trying to suggest anything Eliza, but my family ran a care home for the elderly for 20 years, so I’m kind of used to it’. In my head, I could see her putting her finger to her ear, and the words ‘take the shot’ were spoken. But instead she laughed and a relationship was instigated to both professionalism and friendship. I don’t expect to be put forward for the newly vacant 007 role, but I’d like to think that if she’s after a carer in the future, she’ll know who to call.

I want to leave you with a moment in my life that I will never forget. I had helped the Duke of Edinburgh Awards to get Chris Hadfield to be the guest celebrity speaker at their 60th anniversary awards in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. Firstly I got to mingle with the rich and famous in the palace itself, and for a day, I was with Chris as his go to man. Now if you’ve read a JLA’ers blog before, you’ll already know we love Chris and just how much of an amazing speaker he is. However, after spending 5 hours inspiring every single attendee of the awards about how they can be anything they want to be, how to further themselves and what life in space is like, I asked him if he’d like me to get him a car to take him back to his hotel. His response is something I’ll remember with a smile for the rest of my life, ‘No thanks good sir, my hotel is in Kensington which is about west, and the sun’s due west, so I’ll just follow that, thank you for this, I’ve enjoyed every minute, bye! I believe my official feedback to all of my colleagues was, ‘Chris Hadfield is such a dude!

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