The most interesting thing about working for a speaker bureau is being given the opportunity to view wider business trends. Our client base is cross sectional and on any given day, it’s not unusual to speak to a manufacturing trade association, large financial services company and a small tech start up.
We are in the privileged position of being asked – in some small way – to contribute to their businesses and inspire their teams; how to keep that innovative culture whilst staff numbers increase, enhance the bond between hardworking teams and inspire company loyalty or improve the way one speaks to one’s customers. The reason my job continues to interest me is the variation in the speakers I’m being asked for.
Once upon a time, everyone wanted a speaker on green energy and renewables, then after the financial crash, we had a spike of bookings for big name economists. More recently, clients have been asking for insight into Brexit and guidance on what AI and robotics might mean for the future of their workforce.
There has been one common brief in all of these years, however, And that’s for the sometimes maligned, but in my opinion, constantly valued motivational speakers.
It’s almost 20 years (eek) since Ricky Gervais brilliantly mocked the internal company meeting and I guess in some ways, the value of motivational speakers. When done well though, it’s easy to see why companies of every size continue to engage this type of talent.
I’ve been in a room at that magical moment when staff shift forwards slightly on their seats, stop looking down at their phones and the atmosphere changes as people realise that what they are listening to might change the way they work, but some cases also the way they behave outside the office. I’d like to talk about 2 speakers in particular who have done this in practice.
I first heard Mandy Hickson speak at a JLA Breakfast back in 2012 and have been booking her fairly consistently in the years since. I had the opportunity to listen to her speak again only a few weeks ago and was completely blown away by her speech. From the opening line of “welcome to my office” complete with amazing visuals of Mandy flying RAF Tornado planes, you know you’re listening to an accomplished presenter.
The speech is laced with humour and self deprecation, but at its core, it’s a story of daring to dream, setting ambitious goals and persevering through tough times to achieve them. Mandy failed her pilots exams and was only accepted on the RAF training scheme after pushing and pushing for an exception on the rules. It wasn’t plain sailing during the training and she talks in detail about failing a crucial test on more than one occasion. But she kept pushing and had an illustrious career.
At the end of the speech Mandy received a standing ovation. It was clear that the audience in the room had been inspired by what they’d listened to.
I was fortunate enough to listen to Ben McBean at a large software company conference in November. I hadn’t heard him speak before and 10 minutes in, that moment happened in the room – except 3,000 people shifted forward in their seats and the atmosphere became electric.
Ben was walking about the horrific injuries he sustained whilst on military service in Afghanistan. His attitude to being blown up however was quite simple. He set a goal of crawling forward a small distance to reach his injured colleague.
Ben then kept setting goals, firstly to stay alive, then to walk again and eventually to run the London marathon. His speech was wonderful. At times it was really funny – he talked about a comedy stunt that went wrong at school whilst trying impress his childhood crush – and at times utterly heartbreaking. His attitude to overcoming a setback is one that I think anyone could learn from and apply to their professional and personal lives.
I have no idea where the big next business trend may lead, but I really do hope a brief for a motivational speaker continues to be evergreen. I’m convinced of their value to companies big and small.
These are just two of the people we work with at JLA. If you would like to know more about any of the names featured, or if you need any further suggestions, please contact us .