Top Tips! From ‘Ask the Experts’ PSA Spring Conference, 2nd April 2022

Wasn’t the Spring Conference a stunning event!  Oodles of learning and fun.  Everyone was so committed to embracing the event with gusto. And our ‘Ask the Experts’ did us proud.  Each of them has offered their top tip to continue to help us in our speaking businesses. So, it is with pleasure and gratitude that those tips are below. Hope to see you in Dublin!

Dr Lynda Shaw

Sarah Fox TOP TIP: If you’re sharing your expertise in a podcast, get an agreement to manage expectations, avoid disputes and confirm who owns the copyright in the recording. If you’re a podcast guest and need a sample to give to the host, click HERE.

Richard Hagan TOP TIP: Before you even start to write your book:

1. make sure you have really locked down the lifetime strategy of the book for you, your business and your audience

2. make sure you have upskilled from informational writing to immersive authoring (where you can create remote influence and control without any feedback from your audience)

3. make sure you have a highly detailed structural plan of the transformation journey your reader will experience in your book

Then you can write with confidence and competence! A bit cheeky to fit that all into one tip, but all three bits create the magic!

Janice B Gordon TOP TIP: How to make your selling process exceptional, personable, and memorable?

Think of sales as service; think of service as the unique value you add and the value that is relevant and meaningful to the buyer and customer. Make your customer the hero: think about and implement what can you do to make their experience exceptional, personable, and memorable?

Lee Warren TOP TIP: Don’t make the mistake of believing that getting a gig is the successful endpoint of your marketing. Getting a gig should be the BEGINNING of a long-term engagement with a client. Thinking this way will change everything about how you engage with people. 

Dave Henson TOP TIP: To determine if you should be using a slide for a point in your presentation, use RICE. Would a slide help to Reinforce, Illustrate, Clarify or Explain the point you’re making? Click HERE for help on making the right choice.

Alan Stevens TOP TIP: Be genuine. No one likes a fake. “Fake it until you make it” is nonsense. Be genuine and authentic all the time. HERE is my ‘Ask the Expert’ tips.

Darren Harris TOP TIP: Schools often theme events around awareness days, weeks and months. Know when these are and which ones relate to your expertise.

Alex Owen-Hill: HERE is the link to the sheet from my ‘Ask the Experts’ session, along with an associated video to explain to people how to use it: 

Jackie Handy TOP TIP: Consider Universal Design.
Whenever you create content, products or services, always ask yourself, ‘who can’t access this easily?’ It could be as simple as adding captions to video or audio links to written text, but the more you can demonstrate your commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion to your customers, the more they will appreciate you. And potentially, it could lead them to favour your offering over and above that of your competitors.

We’re Back in the Room!

By Jenna Davies

Jenna Davies, PSA Spring Conference, 2022.

Arriving in Wales on 1 April ready for the Spring Conference felt pretty special; this was the first in person PSA event I had attended since my very first PSA encounter in January 2020.

The excitement was buzzing, the energy was high – and the pressure was on, as I was compering the event!

But like most of us, I consider a stage and a microphone to be the best toys to play with, and I knew I would be sharing the stage with some incredible speakers. And I wasn’t wrong!

The pre-conference dinner was the perfect kick off to the big day, catching up with new and familiar faces and trying to fathom how everyone was so much taller than they seemed on Zoom.

Getting to the ICC venue nice and early meant I could get my bearings for the conference and get in the zone, which for me means getting the energy levels up. This wasn’t difficult, thanks to the national cheerleading competition taking place at the same time as our conference!

Cheerleading

I spied on a few rooms that had essentially turned into a nightclub scene and witnessed some impressive acrobatics to the beats of Sean Paul and Michael Jackson. Now if that doesn’t get the energy levels up, I don’t know what does.

Over to Room 3 where we would spend the day and the atmosphere as members arrived was epic. As I stepped onto stage to kick off the conference it was a joy to see the smiling faces staring back at me. Everyone was ready for an awesome day. Let’s get this party started.

Conveniently I had brought along some pom poms and planted them with members in the audience so that we could channel the energy of the cheerleaders in the venue. And my goodness did we give them a run for their money.

Getting Going

Chairman Rebecca Jones had us all in awe as she welcomed us in Welsh, before National President Dr Lynda Shaw continued the excitement with her talk on the science of pleasure. I’m pleased to say we all now know what a pleasure umbrella is.

The schedule that followed was phenomenal; Alex Williams and Shelley Bridgman shared their incredible stories with wit, humour and passion that left us not only with invaluable takeaways but a sweet rollercoaster of emotions to channel into our businesses.

After the much anticipated coffee break that had for the last 2 years been in our own kitchens, we ventured into three mini keynotes and panel discussion with Della Hudson, Nathan Littleton and David Hyner, wonderfully hosted by Elsa Caleb. It was brilliant to feel the audience’s engagement with questions coming left, right, and centre for the panellists, who were refreshingly honest and direct with their responses.

Rewarding

The excitement continued after lunch and the room came alive during the Ask The Experts session; members gathered around tables that were each hosted by an expert and focused on a particular topic. In between preparing for my next stint on stage I could see people frantically making notes and hanging off every word of their table host. A sure sign of some brilliant nuggets of wisdom being shared.

It wouldn’t be a spring conference without some much-deserved awards being presented and an exceptional range of speakers were recognised. Among the winners were Jackie Handy who hit the hattrick with three awards for best speaker in two regions and the award for overall Speaker of the Year, while Lee Jackson was rewarded for his inspiring efforts on the PSA board and leading the PSA Foundation. 

Buzzing

When you venture into the final break of a full day conference, the energy sometimes plateaus, but witnessing the buzz in the room from start to finish was an absolute joy to be part of. Members danced their way back into the room and continued to wave their pom poms and I knew it would be an electric end to the day.

Sarah Furness got us to tackle our fears of rejection, inspiring us with her 20 years of experience in the RAF before one of the founder members of the PSA, Kriss Akabuse MBE wrapped up the conference in heroic fashion. As I stepped closer to the side of the stage ready for his finale, Kriss treated us to a live commentary of the iconic 4×400 metre relay at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo when the British team clinched gold. We knew the outcome but in the audience we still shouted and cheered, encouraging Kriss to beat his US opponent to the finish line.

A suitably out of breath finish to a jam-packed day. It was time to hit play on Paul Simon and dance the conference away.

Learning

I always learn so much when I MC events and I came away with a huge amount from the PSA Spring Conference. Here are some of the highlights I have reflected on that might prove useful:

  • It’s all in the prep – doing my research on what was happening at the venue, the speakers and liaising with the team massively paid off and helped the day run smoothly 
  • It’s all about the speakers – I’m there to be the glue. The speakers are the stars that the glue helps to position in the best way possible and I always aim to get this balance right
  • Fill the gaps – have some filler content prepped and ready. I was glad I could use some of mine and it even got a much better reaction than I had anticipated (there are 10 million sheep in Wales!)
  • If you’ve got a good memory, use it – there are times when I need notes on a cue card, but I trust I know my content and stick to my style
  • Wear comfortable shoes – says she who was in 6 inch heels … but they are the only heels I can run the length of a room in and still stand up. Go with what works for you!

Huge congratulations to all the speakers, the members and the whole team for making the day so awesome. I had a blast and I hope you all did too.

Back in the Room! The Ups and Downs of Booking Venues

By William Buist

Before the pandemic we had a lot of venues to choose from, when looking for places to hold events. Many of the venues had a lot of spare capacity. In that highly competitive market the customer held the cards, venues made slim margins and they offered many add on services. Many larger venues had their own in-house teams for AV support and catering that could be used, for reasonable extra costs.

The pandemic changed the landscape significantly, causing a few headaches for anyone booking a venue. Lockdowns and the furlough support meant that staff were retained, but were not working. Most venues were closed, except for basic maintenance. As time went on, debts mounted and furloughed staff were made redundant, to save costs. Some venues failed to survive.

As lockdowns ended and events started to happen again, the landscape changed again. Sales and booking teams had been trimmed down to the core staff. Many worked from home, were harder to reach and were much less responsive than they had been. Capacity had fallen both in individual venues, due to covid restrictions, and in the market due to venues closing. Demand was still very low and many people were unwilling to gather in large numbers, yet many venues needed to reopen, or risk missing the revenue that was available. For many this was a time of significant losses, along with the acceptance of debt such as the CBILS or Bounce Back loans guaranteed by the government.

How it Looks Today

Today venues face price pressures from the costs of servicing additional debt, general inflation and the costs of energy. Extras such as AV support is now often outsourced and therefore more expensive. In one venue we know of, asking to use just one microphone for an event brought with it a non-negotiable requirement for an AV team to be booked, to support its use – at a total cost of over £700 for the day. In some cases, that can double the per person day rate of an event!

 Catering has also been outsourced in many venues, giving them a loss of flexibility. For some venues, catering numbers and dietary requirements are often needed days, even a couple of weeks, in advance. Yet bookings are still happening much closer to event dates, as people are unsure about whether or not to book. After two years of uncertainty, attendees aren’t willing to commit weeks in advance, in case the situation changes. Hardly surprising.

Yet for an association like the PSA, where bringing members together is so crucial for the connection that members enjoy, these pricing challenges are tough. As a profession we too have had challenges; many members are cost conscious, whilst others are uncertain about the wisdom of gathering. The Association and our hard working Regional Presidents, are keen to minimise the cost of attending events whilst maximising the experience. That has never been more difficult than it is today. We want to encourage as many of our members to come back to meetings, to connect with other speakers, to learn and share. Some aspects of events may look odd, irrational, short-sighted, or even downright bonkers. You might want to question some of the changes and please do. We will be completely open with you about the costs being imposed on our events by venues.

For a while we will have to live with their decisions and their costs. Looking forwards, currently closed venues will be bought and redeveloped. Then we will have more options in a more competitive market. At the customer, we will hold the cards again. In the meantime, we will continue to work hard, negotiate hard and create the PSA events that bring you together with your fellow members, so that you too can focus on the future of your speaking business.