The Only Way is Ethics

By William Buist, PSA Ethics Officer

Back in 1980 I joined a professional organisation and was asked to agree to abide by their Code of Conduct. Since then, I’ve been striving to work as professionally, as responsibly and as decently as I can. That’s probably true for most of speakers and for anybody who’s a member of the Professional Speaking Association it is true today, too.

A Code of Conduct or Ethics isn’t just about setting a standard by which to abide. It’s an opportunity to create a broader sense of trust and certainty for all the people, audiences, bookers, clients, suppliers and the public who interact with any member of an organisation. That trust is critical to creating the reputation and unlocking opportunities for members of an association to be recognised for the standards defined. A Code of Ethics creates a consistency at a minimum level. Did you know that the PSA has such a Code of Ethics, which you have agreed to, as a paid up member?

Whilst it provides a certainty of a minimum standard that everybody should adhere to, a Code of Ethics can only do that if there is also a clear mechanism for dealing with those rare occasions when someone does not adhere. An effective, fair policy becomes a powerful marketing tool for members of the Association.  I was talking to a Fellow of the PSA a few weeks ago who had just secured an important speaking opportunity. In the course of negotiating the gig, they’d been asked by the client for a copy of their Code of Conduct. The PSA’s Code of Ethics provided that standard – at no extra cost to the Fellow. The PSA’s website provides details of both the standards that we all agree to adhere to and the mechanism for raising a concern. The Fellow’s client felt significantly comforted by the presence of the Code and the process for independent review. The speaker won the gig, delivered professionally and everyone was happy.

In a situation where your client is making a choice of speaker based on having such a Code of Ethics and an unaffiliated speaker who does not, it provides another reason for you to be selected.

I was asked a couple of years ago to help develop a new Code of Ethics for the PSA and I have been the Association’s Ethics Officer since then. In that role I evaluate any concerns that are raised. There have been a few during that time and I think that’s healthy.

Most of the concerns raised have been due to misunderstandings, some unrelated to the PSA. Some have been more about clarifying how to respond to a situation professionally and in line with the Code. Most have been resolved quickly and easily by clarifying the position, or offering advice to the parties involved that has allowed a resolution to be reached.

We are a very diverse group, with keynote speakers, trainers, stand-up comedians, after dinner speakers, Masters of Ceremonies and more. Of course, most professional speakers will upset the status quo through their speaking in order to entertain, inform and engage their audiences. It’s not just as an acceptable approach, but an ethical and professional way to get your message across. The skills of the Fellows and Members of the PSA, the collective wisdom that is shared by us all to support the profession and to deliver value to the clients and audience we serve is second to none. Yet it is not referred to often enough or widely enough, particularly beyond the boundaries of the Association. We can’t control that, but we can influence it, not least when we are referring speakers (or the Association) to clients, bookers and our other connections. I know that when I make a referral, I am referring the particular speaker’s skills and their specialist knowledge; I am also referring my reputation. Referring members of the PSA to others, knowing that you will act in line with our Code of Ethics, should give us greater confidence to make the referral.

If you haven’t read the code of ethics lately, take a look here. Put a link in your email signature when you are emailing someone about your speaking or when making a referral, and when you meet a prospective member of the Association. It’s your Code, so use it to your advantage. If you have any questions about how you can use the Code, email me at [email protected].

Ready for a Refresh?

Are you ready to refresh your business thinking, your speaking skills and your plans for the next few months? PSA Refresh on Saturday 24th April will do just that with a line up of top speakers for the PSA’s newly refreshed Spring convention. Have you got your ticket yet?

The exciting line-up includes:

A keynote from Ben Afia, helping us to refresh our language by discussing how your business language reveals who you really are, what you truly believe in and what you think of your customers.

Three concurrent breakout workshops with the top experts in their fields:

  • John Young, former BBC presenter, helping us to refresh our on-camera skills
  • Thorsten Jekel helping us to refresh our tech and the way we use it when speaking
  • Sam Rathling, refreshing our results from LinkedIn and social selling.

Our pre-lunch keynote comes from Charlotte Sweeney, telling us how she embraced crisis and chaos to refresh her business though 2020.

After lunch we’ll have our popular Ask the Experts, with your chance to put your questions to the people who can help you refresh different parts of your business and speaking. Line-up to be announced very soon!

Our closing keynote will be from Steve Head, exploring how he had to go back 300 years to solve the problems thrown at us in 2020, in order to refresh his approach to business.

Plus there will be panel discussions, speed networking sessions, Fringe events and more.

If you’ve yet to secure your ticket, priced at just £35+VAT for members (£50+VAT for non-members), do so right now, right here and mark Saturday 24 April in your diary.

See you there!

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.”