Leaving a Legacy in the PSA

By Steve Judge, outgoing (very!) RP at Yorkshire

Did you have a vision for 2020? How did that go for you?

As I took the role of Yorkshire Regional President for 2020 my main goal was to open the doors to first time guests and non members, to show them what the PSA is all about. Believe it or not there are some people out there who have never even heard of the Professional Speaking Association…I know, I was shocked too!

My year started off with a record-breaking attendance extravaganza for Yorkshire resulting in our event having to be moved to a larger room in the hotel. A fantastic start to the year and a hint of what was to come from the year ahead moving onwards and upwards month by month, or so we thought. 

Guests and non members were visiting PSA Yorkshire and the feedback was incredible. I say incredible but also interesting as I was a little bit perplexed at an ongoing theme. A lot of the feedback seemed to state that visitors were surprised at how relaxed, funny and entertaining the event was. I couldn’t help but ask myself “What were they expecting?” What was the preconception of visiting the event, why was it like that and where have they got that idea from? Either way it was now my responsibility to ensure that people knew what the events were really like and I so excitedly organised a videographer to capture the true essence of a typical event which of course would include exceptional testimonials. This would give potential members a more realistic view of what to expect when attending one of our fabulous and fun events. All was set up for the March event and we were all very excited. Speakers , camera, testimonials … an ideal scenario, what could possibly go wrong?

Don’t change the goal, change the plan

In my role as Regional President one of the things that I had definitely not planned to do within the year was to cancel an event, but that is exactly what I had to do in March due to the pandemic hitting the UK. One of the hardest decisions that I’ve had to make, it was horrible. As a resilience coach I was well aware of the process that I was going through, from shock to denial to anger, sharing and then hitting rock bottom. This wasn’t fair and this is definitely not what I had planned and I was quite well justified in my sulking. It wasn’t just me that this was affected; many people had bought tickets and were asking about the event. I had to take accountability of the situation, roll up my sleeves, put some good music on, adapt and adopt and investigate in this thing called ‘Zoom’.

One vision

In my keynote I talk about being aware of your vision and seizing opportunities. My vision for the year hadn’t changed and now I had to see this new situation as an opportunity. This is where my resilience knowledge and expertise was really going to come into its own. I had to start thinking about what I could do rather than what I couldn’t do. I told myself “Don’t change the goal, change the plan.”

As a speaker this virtual world was going to be the new platform, at least for a couple of months – or so I thought (always the optimist). Learning about Zoom and the technicalities would help me in my business. Hosting an event on Zoom was way out of my comfort zone, but as we all know, that’s what you need to do if you want to move forward and be successful.

Think about what you can do, not what you can’t do

Over the months, as a region we seized opportunities and took action. We marketed our events even more, with three promotional videos going out over all social media platforms. I spent my hours individually contacting over two hundred potential attendees per month. The speakers that we secured were of the high level that we desired and we attracted PSA members from around the UK and Ireland to easily attend; we even had international participants. I think it’s fair to say that as a region, Yorkshire had now gone global (like I said earlier, always the optimist.)

The PSA’s statement is to Speak More and Speak Better and now all events were enabling speakers of all levels to do this using the online platform. Members were accepting open feedback from the showcases so that we could all learn and improve. The events became a safe haven to practice new online techniques as well as software and hardware, always looking for continuous improvement.

Of course we had some technical difficulties at the beginning with unstable wifi, microphones not working and participants unable to find the Zoom link email. We all understood though that these ‘glitches’ are not seen as failure but more as feedback and so we were able to adapt and adopt and improve. These learnings are so important to sort out between ourselves in the speaker community instead of dealing with them in front of a client.

Stand and deliver?

Events became a great place to share experiences of performing online as well as supporting, helping and sharing. We had discussions on microphones, lighting and the pros and cons of using a green screen … the debate goes on. As always in the speaking world some debates are never closed out like the very important issue of standing or sitting! “Well is it a keynote or is it a workshop?”

Seeing and testing all of these scenarios through the regional heats of the Speaker Factor competition was enlightening and great to see. Our winner, Laura Serrant, took her performance to the Speaking Business Summit where, competing against other top professional speakers, she did us proud. The conference also showed all of us what could be done and how to do it to a high level which helped us to open our minds and realise the possibilities we had going forward.

Committee, team or just friends?

Running the regional PSA events has not been a solo project and I couldn’t have done it without my team, my committee, my friends who helped and supported me on my journey. I’m not going to name them all because they know who they are and how they have helped Yorkshire PSA throughout the year from admin to marketing, to membership and technical operations. I think some of the roles haven’t got official titles but all the important stuff that goes on behind the scenes.

So as we came to the end of the year I looked back and reflected on my time as Regional President of Yorkshire and I asked myself, “How did it go?”

I’ve had so much positive feedback with congratulations and admiration for the energy, enthusiasm and sterling work that I have done through a challenging year. I’d like to think that I’d leave some kind of legacy but most of the time this is not known until you look back from later years. 

So what’s my legacy?

I know I will be remembered for the introduction of posting out Yorkshire flat caps to invited speakers, with a polite nudge for them to produce a promotional video for their upcoming performance. I know I will also be remembered for eating all of the chocolates during the celebration session that we have, encouraging members to share their achievements over the last period. (Although I didn’t eat the Bounty bars as I don’t like them!)

But for me I know that I have achieved my goal in my vision on opening the doors of the PSA to others (Do you remember? Those people that have never even heard of the PSA!) From the figures that I’ve collected I can see that we’ve had an increased average of 40 people in attendance throughout 2020 and an astonishing 42% of them were non members or first time guests. 

Almost 100 people have been introduced to the PSA where they have been inspired and encouraged to share their voice or their story and ultimately speak more and speak better. Those figures make me smile and say to myself “Job done.”

No more clock watching

So, as I pass over the reins to the new Yorkshire regional president Olga Geidane, I know that she will take it from here in her own vibrant way. Of course I’m going to stay involved within the PSA but I’m also looking forward to taking a back seat for a little bit and enjoy just listening to the speakers rather than watching the clock and reading my notes and checking the agenda. 

I wish everybody the best for this year and as I always say; “Be aware of your vision and seize those opportunities.”