At Speakers Corner, we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to experience countless incredible speakers who we work with, who visit us at our office, and who we see while out and about at events around London. These chances to hear from mountain climbers, marathon runners, CEOs and Olympians can’t help but spark excitement and drive inside us.
With that in mind, we spoke to Accounts Manager Debbie to find out who has inspired her. Having worked here for nearly five years now, Debbie has a wealth of speakers to choose from. She shares with us her top 5 and how they have impacted her life!
Miles was one of the first speakers I saw when I joined Speakers Corner, and his messages have stayed with me ever since. Championing the idea that “nothing is impossible, it just hasn’t been done yet”, Miles truly challenges us all to think about the way we live our lives.
Like Miles, not wanting to let my life slip away, of course, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to sign up for 140km bike ride. Oh Miles, what have you done?!
As soon as I’d signed up for it, with a solid 8 months training time ahead, I totally forgot about it until a reminder that I'd set popped up a cool 6 months later - with only 2 months to go and no training yet to be done! But, just as Miles (who has undertaken a host of extreme endurance events) doesn’t let his blindness hold him back, I couldn’t let myself be held back either.
Endurance and adrenalin junkie, Miles Hilton-Barber
Miles believes there are more blind people in the sighted world, as people are blind to learning and opportunities, and his words got me through my bike ride. When I was at 12 miles before the end, the organisers asked me to jump in their van as I was so late finishing, but I begged them to let me cross the line on my bike because, as Miles says, “the only limits in your life are those you accept yourself”. I came last about 2 hours after everyone else – but I did it!
Naturally, when I told Miles, he said, “Well done my friend, what’s next?”
The next speaker who has had a huge impact on my life is Jess Thom. She is the founder of Tourettes Hero, a social enterprise, as opposed to a charity, dedicated to raising awareness about Tourettes and 'changing the world one tic at a time'!
She is such an articulate, engaging, open and honest person, and she welcomes ANY questions about her Tourettes and about her life. Encouraging people to laugh with her at her Tourettes, Jess wants people to embrace her tics and to not be afraid of people with Tourettes or speaking to them. Believing that fear creates barriers, she works as hard as possible to break down these barriers and let people understand her.
Tourettes Hero, Jess Thom
I felt that this was such a learning curve for all of us in the office that day. Sometimes, able-bodied people can fall into the pattern of being fearful of people with disabilities, and Jess broke down this common misconception, which I found to be so refreshing and eye-opening.
It really helped me in my personal life too. I do a lot of volunteering, especially with Mencap, and Jess helped to give me a new perspective on this. Since I’ve been more open with the guys there, I now feel unafraid to ask questions and enquire how they want me to assist them, whether this be in a mental or physical sense. The experience with Jess was so much fun. We all had a great laugh with her, and it’s made me realise the simple fact that we are all humans.
The third person that I think is brilliant is Peter Avis. The office visited him at the Babylon Roof Gardens (Richard Branson’s restaurant that he manages), and it was an incredible experience.
He told us his rags-to-riches story, from how he moved from a council estate in Liverpool to become UK Restaurant Manager of the Year, but he has never forgotten his roots – or the people who helped him along the way. What is so unique about Peter is that he is so grateful for everyone who has helped him in his life and career. He continues to ‘pay it forward’ as a leader and mentor to his staff and young people. He has what he calls ‘cappuccino time’ - taking the time with each and every member of staff to talk to them about how they’re doing and to make them feel part of the team and that they can talk to him about anything.
He is also passionate about great customer service. He wants his restaurant to be the best it can be – and customers to feel they have had the greatest service. As he says, it’s not rocket science, if you make people feel special, they will keep coming back and will tell all their friends about their experience.
Peter Avis, Restaurant Manager for Babylon Roof Gardens
I use Peter’s lessons in customer service every day – with my external customers but also my colleagues and managers. It’s all about treating people as you would want to be treated yourself. I try to make simple changes to my behaviours in order to really get to know both the people I work with and my clients – whether this be just asking them about their weekend plans or remembering how they like their tea. These little pointers make people feel valued and help boost the morale of the whole team.
Also, we’ve just started an in-house mentoring scheme, so I will be having my own cappuccino chats with my colleague and mentee, Dave. Outside of the immediate team, I have felt my business relationships have improved because of Peter’s techniques. People remember me more now, and remember to come back to Speakers Corner.
Finally, I’ve found Peter has helped me to be more open to feedback from colleagues and clients. I try to take all opinions on board, as we can learn so much from everyone around us, no matter what age they are and the level of experience they have.
The fourth person that inspires me is Mark Gallagher. He has taught me to be creative, always look for new ways to innovate and to keep questioning traditional practises of the workplace.
He is such a lovely, down to earth guy who is a confident, passionate, engaging, and has such gravitas and credibility, even though he is not a famous name. He knows what makes companies tick having been on the board and part of senior leadership teams for F1 teams, so he is an expert at tailoring everything specifically to the client.
Mark says that young drivers are so good because they are brought up on Xbox and Playstation games, so they understand the tech in the car and are not phased by it.
F1 expert, Mark Gallagher
These new techniques of working, that Mark both researches and practises, inspire me to not get complacent at work. I’ve worked at Speakers Corner for nearly 5 years, and it is easy to fall into the pattern of thinking that you know everything. Mark taught me this is not the case - there is always something to learn and there are always ways to innovate procedures.
After listening to Mark I’ve aimed to embrace change, even though the idea of change scares me. My job is so reactive that by 9.30am my plan for the day may very well have been thrown out the window, so I always try to be on the ball and be creative when things don’t go to plan – it is Mark who has helped me develop this mindset.
Lastly, a huge inspiration for me has to be Ade. He is so humble and passionate. He received an Honorary Degree from the University of East London, and his acceptance speech was so emotional, heartfelt and real. He said to believe in yourself, don’t let anyone hold you back, and always have passion and love for what you do.
The message that hit me the most was to not be afraid to make mistakes, “I succeed because I have failed many times. Every day is an opportunity to become better at what you do or what you want to do so don’t waste a second of your life”.
Paralympic Champion, Ade Adepitan
I feel that his speech and method of approaching his life has given me a mantra for mine. I try not to dwell on things when they haven’t gone to plan. It is so easy to be a Debbie downer about life, but really I am so lucky to be fit and healthy - I have nothing to complain about. All these inspirational speakers have triumphed through adversity, so I try to use this as an ethos for my life, to remember to think positively and to take inspiration from these incredible people.