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.