October saw the first virtual event from the PSA in the shape of the Speaking Business Summit. Guy Clapperton attended by wandering into his spare room, remembering to put trousers on most of the time and wrote:
It was the best of times, it was the best of times…
October 2019: Steve Bustin became National President of the PSA and like all people of the same title, the peak of his year was to come at the end of 12 months with a three-day conference. Retitled the Speaking Business Summit it would take place in Warwick University and it would draw together friends old and new.
Then 2020 happened. Covid-19 meant we couldn’t meet in person so we did the next best thing and Steve and his team put on some of the best content and networking facilities I’ve seen.
Everyone will have gathered something different depending on which parts they attended (there was no compulsion to go to it all) and what you were looking for. It would be wrong to single anyone out just because I thought they were great – suffice it to say that after a couple of decades of speaking I picked up plenty of tips on sales and productivity while others will have looked towards the wellness sections and just about everyone should watch the panel with the bookers; on the lighter fringe activities I also enjoyed playing (AND WINNING AND NO I AM NOT GOING TO FORGET) the silliest quiz in the universe while others learned to juggle, did some disco dancing, mastered photography on their phones or just networked.
The networking was a highlight for many, some of the informal feedback suggests. The platform, Hopin, allowed for ‘speed networking’ sessions in which you just told it you were available and it hooked you up with a random fellow member. Speaking personally I’ve been reunited with people I hadn’t seen for a while, made several new friendly connections and actually ended up quite frustrated that these sessions could only last five minutes – there is plenty to follow up!
Some people spent entire afternoons enjoying the camaraderie of colleagues in this way. This and the sheer quality of the speakers meant that the early part of the week ended up not as the curtain-raising warm-up that many had envisaged but as a central part of the Summit.
It went spectacularly well. The technology held up the vast majority of the time but more importantly the people were terrific. We actually ended up having our longest convention (six days!) and also our biggest in terms of ticket sold, and the expert speakers delivered. This was all due to the dedication of the small team who were unaware they would need to do much of this only a matter of months before and of course due to the superb choice of speakers. It would be invidious to single anyone out for praise but I will mention that Sara Beth, Hazel, Steve, Rebecca and Nathan were slogging their guts out behind the scenes offering impromptu support to members struggling with access; the fact that most people won’t have noticed is a tribute to their efforts.
Also a big thanks for all the donators and bidders who contributed to the foundation auction. We raised over £7000 due to your generosity.
Nobody can know what’s coming next year. But for the moment it’s clear that whatever the circumstances, the PSA will adapt spectacularly!
Written by Guy Clapperton – Regions Director 2020 – 2021 and Editor of Backstage Newsletter