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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.”

The PSA Christmas Party – 18th December 2020!

Christmas is coming

Santa’s getting fat

Join us at our party

And wear your favourite hat!

We know how much members of the PSA love getting together, so this year we’re treating you to a very special Christmas Party on Friday 18 December!

Where? On Zoom of course, from the comfort of your own *office/sofa/kitchen table/sleigh (*delete as applicable.)

What? An evening of fun, frolics and festivities, as well as a chance to catch up with PSA buddies and meet some new ones.

How much? Only £10 for the whole evening, with ALL proceeds going to the PSA Foundation, which is there to support you. Can’t afford a ticket or a posh frock? Let us know and we’ll see if Santa can send you an early Christmas present in the form of a discount.

Why? Well, because!!

Book your ticket here and now! Only £10 +VAT!

Here’s the rough plan for the evening (subject to change, depending on what the Elves decide to arrange for you.)

First up at 6pm – Lee Warren’s Speaking Stocking-Fillers. It’s time to get into the Christmas Spirit (literally) by joining Lee Warren and Steve Bustin in conversation, over an online gin and tonic, giving you loads of ideas for your ’Speaker’s Christmas Stocking’. They’ll be discussing what’s changed – for better and worse – for speakers throughout 2020. And what we can look forward to in 2021, including understanding how to embrace technology without being a slave to it, new ways of preparing keynotes and workshops in a ‘virtual environment’, what really ‘works’ online, what bookers will be looking for in the New Year, and ways of creating, and maintaining client relationships during turbulent times. Expect gossip, laughter and plenty of non-obvious ideas you can use straight away.

Then at 7pm bring along your takeaway or Christmas dinner and a glass of bubbles. Eat, chat, network, pull crackers, be crackers …

At 8pm the Fringe is back! There are three great presents for you to choose from:

Deborah Henley will ask What’s in Santa’s Stocking? It’s full of all kinds of lumps and bumps but as we pull out each one, we discover what’s really hidden within its red and woolly folds. In this case, some great yarns and extraordinary tales. This is a fun impromptu speaking event to hear about the stuff that other people keep around them in their own space when on a virtual call. Brought to you by the creator of QuizTag, Deborah’s disclaimer says that rules may or may not be comprehensible on the day!

Cathy Towers invites you to Free Your Funny Bone in Time for Christmas. She’s going to share the stage with all of you – so long as you are willing to play! She likes to say yes, and… see what happens. She invites you to do the same in this improve session. Cathy has run improv sessions for a dating agency, a birthday party and the PSA Summit. Are you ready to join in and have fun tonight?

Join Pam Burrows in the spa for some seriously powerful battery re-charging! The most common feedback this session gets is “afterwards I had the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a very long time”. If you’re frazzled and in need of some pampering, this is for you. You can just turn up but to get full benefit from this, be in a peaceful, comfortable place, have a bowl of bubble bath for your feet, a towel, some body lotion, maybe even light a candle! Pam will show you how to give yourself a foot spa, some self-reflexology, a self-massage, some stress reducing breathing techniques and a Maldives beach experience!

Then at 9pm the bar is open with Scott Johnson, or put on your dancing shoes and head for the disco with Lee Jackson. Finally, toddle off to bed, hang up your stockings and see what Santa brings you!

Tickets are just £10 +VAT for PSA members. If you’re not yet a member, sign up as an Associate Member NOW (on the PSA website) and then we’ll let you in. 

If you have any questions about the event, please get in touch with the Elves at PSA HQ, by emailing [email protected].

Book your place now and come and join us!

We look forward to seeing you online on 18 December 2020. Christmas jumpers/fancy dress are optional!!

Six Days That Shook the World of Speaking

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

A Warm Welcome from ‘Somewhere Near the Middle’

Some confusing geography from East Midlands Regional President, Pam Burrows

“Where actually IS the East Midlands?!” ask people from the north, south and the west!

Well, bearing in mind our East Midlands airport is called ‘Nottingham Airport’ when it’s actually in Derbyshire and on the cusp of Leicestershire, you’re forgiven for being confused!

Then there’s Robin Hood. The one thing people know about this fine area is that Robin Hood came from Nottingham. 

Except he didn’t; his arch enemy the Sheriff was the Nottingham resident, while Robin and his merry men were busy frequenting the forests of Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire. 

So where on earth are we?

That brings me to the Professional Speaking Association’s East Midlands Region. Our members travel from as far south as Northampton and Peterborough and pop down from Sheffield, as well as the standard Derby, Leicester and Nottingham East Midlanders.

Of course, we’re meeting online at time of writing, and that’s meant we also gather interested parties from even further afield. We meet to hear keynote talks, showcase talks and get stuck into fun and valuable discussions too.

At EM PSA we set out to make sure our sessions are mostly interactive and directly relevant to our speaking and our businesses. Our focus is ‘Growth’, so there’s often useful content that we can directly apply.

There’s always cake (yes, even when online!) and always a warm welcome to everyone who comes along. Guest speakers are awarded the Golden EMPSA (which looks uncannily like a cheap Oscar rip-off.)

We’re known for being a friendly region, and the baby of the family, being the latest of 13 UK and Ireland groups. We launched in December 2018. Our founder, PSA Fellow Adam Harris, is so well known for making things happen (but not necessarily in the most conventional way), that when he and his family emigrated to New Zealand, we launched a regional award in his honour. The Adam Harris JFDI Award is for anyone taking a brave foot forward without having all their T’s crossed!

If you’re thinking of making us your regional home, or just popping in for a meeting or two, be assured you’ll be welcomed as one of our mixed, fabulous and slightly bonkers, family! 

Making everyone feel a part of things is one of our core values. After all, if people don’t even know where we are, we should at least be nice to them when they turn up!

What Did The PSA Ever Do For Us?

By Roger Fairhead, RP at Staffordshire PSA

Some years ago I decided I wanted to get fit and lose some weight, and so I started cycling. Initially it was just an occasional trip out with some friends on our Mountain Bikes, and as my interest and fitness improved I started to enter some local races too.

Soon I decided I wanted to become a better cyclist so I bought some cycling magazines, and I found that I was reading all sorts of different stories explaining how different top cyclists had managed to improve their performance. One recommended a high protein diet, another a high carb diet; one recommended short high intensity training sessions while another emphasised the need to “get the miles in”.

I was confused, until the realisation dawned on me: amidst all the different articles explaining how to succeed and get to the top in their sport, actually the most important thing was first to select the right parents. With the right DNA, many of these top athletes could actually have got to the top level even when including some less than effective practices in their training programs.

That’s when I decided I needed to join a cycling club, so that I could meet up with and have a conversation with other cyclists and find out what actually works for them. That’s when my standard of cycling began to improve significantly.

So, when I was considering taking my speaking career up a notch, I asked a good friend who is also a great speaker – Tony Burgess – and he recommended that I consider joining the Professional Speaking Association (PSA).

My local group is in Staffordshire so I went along and found a really warm, friendly welcome. Although I had picked up some speaking tips along the way in my career in sales and delivering training courses, I started to discover that I had only just scratched the surface of all there is to know about speaking professionally.

In those first few months I developed what have become some great, lasting friendships with other speakers in our group, and I also started to visit other groups nearby and found an equally warm and friendly welcome.

I discovered that our group had been founded fairly recently by another speaker who has become a good friend, David Hyner, and he said to me:

“PSA Staffs was my baby… and it is fast growing up. When I founded the group, it was with the specific intent of it being a small, friendly and focused bunch of speakers, all of whom wanted to drive their speaking business forward.

I am so proud of what our current and past presidents and members have achieved, and I am so lucky to have learnt in these rooms all I needed to know to grow and run my speaking business. #mytribe”

When I joined initially we met in Stafford near the railway station, so that gave great access for visiting speakers. However, there were no refreshment facilities available other than tea, coffee and biscuits, so with a 6pm start that usually meant eating out or taking something along with me to eat before the meeting.

Then these offices closed and we had to move, and around the same time I took over as Regional President. That’s when we found another venue that suits our needs really well. The Potters Club is just over the road from Stoke Station (on the mainline from London to Manchester); it has private parking and some really delightful meeting rooms. It also has a fabulous bar and restaurant and we are able to offer our members a lovely buffet of sandwiches and chips before we start. Since we moved to this new venue the number of people attending has gone from single figures to 20+ attending each meeting. 

Andrew Deighton, our Vice President, recently said this of our group:

“Even though I live in Derby, PSA Staffordshire feels like ‘home’. When I joined the PSA it was the closest group to me and I still travel to every meeting. It’s a small but perfectly formed friendly and supportive group. We’re continuing to grow our numbers of regular attendees and visitors. We meet in a great venue with on-site parking and two minutes from Stoke station. The chips are worth the entry fee on their own. I hope to see you there in the near future.”

Of course the current pandemic has caused us all to move to a digital first environment, and I think that we were probably the first region to do that. Since then we have been able to explore the fascinating online world of speaking on a digital platform. This has given us all an opportunity to get more acquainted with this area that has been around for a good number of years. 

As it happens I had a head start since I have been working with clients in the US, Europe and Australia for the better part of 10 years, both speaking and leading training, so I was delighted to be able to share some of my experiences as we all got started in this world. It’s been great to see so many colleagues engaging in this digital medium now; necessity is the mother of invention, and this pandemic has offered us a great opportunity to invent new ways to engage with a wider audience.

When I decided I wanted to improve my cycling and take it to the next level I joined a cycling club, and when I decided I wanted to improve my speaking and take that to the next level I joined a speaking club. I owe so much to the many speakers I have listened to and learned from, and I have got to know many of them now as really close friends.Once we have opened our doors for physical events in Staffordshire we would love to have you come along and join us, and you too can experience our sumptuous surroundings and legendary chips. In the mean time you would be very welcome to join us online, and we would love to extend a very warm PSA Staffordshire welcome to you soon. Find us online here.