4 Inspiring Speakers From Our In Conversation With Series
As MD of Speakers Corner, I’ve been lucky enough to meet some incredible people. In our In Conversation With series, I have the chance to interview world class business leaders, sports personalities, experts, musicians and more.
Each speaker has a fascinating story to tell. In these highlights from the series, I’ve selected 4 incredible speakers who have given me a new perspective, challenging my assumptions and offering shrewd insights into the post-pandemic future.
Author, speaker and professor Rachel Botsman is a trust expert who analyses the impact of trust across our society. As I spoke with Rachel, I realised that the concept of trust permeates everything — from each individual to big tech companies.
Many conversations about trust in big tech revolve around free speech. Social media sites fascinate me because they give everyone the platform to speak their mind.
As a thought leader, I expected Rachel to value free speech above everything. Instead, she discussed the value of regulation on these platforms in line with public interest, and why this is so important for creating a culture of trust.
Rachel spoke at our final in-person showcase before the pandemic hit, so we also discussed how she’s adapted to virtual teaching and speaking. Rachel highlighted the shift in the relationship between the speaker and audience. With this new interactive format, more students began to speak up and challenge her, and suddenly she was learning as much from them as they were from her.
This conversation offered a fascinating look at how trust infuses every aspect of our culture, especially as we move into a tech-focused post-pandemic world.
Naomi Sesay is a diversity and inclusion speaker, and head of creative diversity at Channel 4. We talked extensively about the purpose of diversity and inclusion, and how businesses and individuals can create a workplace where everyone feels valid and valued.
Naomi emphasised that D&I isn’t about strategy: it’s about people. The only way to bring about change is for individuals to take personal action and responsibility.
The idea of moving away from the idea of D&I as something that can be done right or wrong really resonated with me. Instead, we need to move towards a place of understanding. It’s not wrong to get things wrong — it’s all about asking questions and taking an active role in your own development and understanding, even if it’s a clumsy or uncomfortable experience.
Naomi also talked about language, and how making smarter language choices can have a huge impact on inclusion. Acronyms like BAME are unhelpful because they group together a huge range of people who come from vastly different backgrounds and cultures. Sometimes, in an effort to recognise others, we actually ostracise them. I realised how classifying people and making assumptions like these can really harm D&I efforts.
For Naomi, modern businesses are more likely to create the raised consciousness we need to build truly inclusive workplaces. Legacy businesses that resist change and don’t focus on their people will eventually suffer from low staff retention and larger skills gaps. So our ability to change has as much to do with our environment as it has to do with ourselves.
Ben Page is the CEO of market research company Ipsos Mori. When he speaks he brings clarity and thought to his discussions — as well as stats, which automatically raise the gravitas of his argument.
Ben talked about how the pandemic has accelerated change, rather than brought about new change. Although we perceive it as a huge impact on our lives, many of the changes we’ve experienced could have happened anyway.
This is a really interesting point, especially as we now recondition ourselves to what our new society looks like. It solidified my belief that we’re just at the beginning of our post-pandemic journey; the ultimate impact will take years to manifest.
Like Naomi, Ben talked about the danger of making sweeping generalisations about large groups of people, such as generations. It made me realise that this is part of the value of a speaker: they question the assumptions we make everyday.
Unlike the media, which tells stories with broad strokes (and often a political agenda), speakers offer tangible information that you can then interpret however you like.
Maggie Alphonsi is a former Saracens and England Rugby Captain. She won the World Cup in 2014, and is now a rugby commentator and leadership speaker.
As an athlete and captain, Maggie has a fascinating insight into what makes a great leader. What’s notable about her leadership style is that she chooses not to lead from the front. Instead, she focuses on bringing the best out of her teammates, treating them as individuals, and changing her actions to help them succeed. I’m a big fan of this leadership style, so it was wonderful to hear Maggie talk about her supportive approach to leadership.
What was also fascinating is how this approach has helped her forge better relationships with her coworkers even outside the team.
Maggie talked about the value of time, and how spending time getting to know someone on a personal level can really improve your professional performance. As a commentator, working with people she knows means their conversations are so much more dynamic.
For me, the concept of time is also really important in the context of running an event. In fact, bringing people together and sparking collaboration is just as important as having a clear purpose for your event.
See all the fantastic speakers from our In Conversation With series here.
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