An Interview With Debra Searle

10 August 2017

Debra Searle beat the odds by rowing solo across the Atlantic after being abandoned at sea. As a motivational speaker, Debra uses her powerful story to leave her audience in no doubt of their own ability to achieve the extraordinary.

We chatted with Debra about her speaking career so far.

What motivates you?

I have a whole heap of strategies I call my Attitude Ammunition that I rely on to motivate me and to help me choose the right attitude as, unfortunately, I am not one of those people that leap out of bed in the morning full of the joys of spring. They really work and have worked for thousands of other people that I have had the opportunity to tell my story to. One of the best feelings is to get an email, sometimes years later, from a delegate saying that they are still using this one or that one. To find out what they are you’ll have to book me as a speaker though!

How did the corporate speaking start?

When I finally arrived in Barbados after rowing across the Atlantic I was greeted by a significant press reception. Robert Hall was sent to cover my story by the BBC 6 O’clock News. They ran my story over three nights. After the first night someone on the production team at the BBC received a call from an event organizer who had been tasked with tracking me down for Vodafone who had a major conference soon after I was due to arrive back in the UK. They kindly passed on the contact and my first speaking engagement was set up. I also received 2000 requests from companies, charities, schools and production companies from around the world via my website following all the media coverage. It was a busy first year on the speaking circuit and I loved every minute of it.

Can you remember your first speaking engagement?

That first event for Vodafone was a baptism of fire! There were 1200 people in the audience, which was set in the round. It was all very grand. There were Vodafone branded Formula 1 cars outside the venue and thought to myself, “what am I doing here!” I had never spoken in public before.

And your last event?

My last event was for a large furniture company. Last year I was appointed to deliver sales training to all of their new sales staff so I am regularly on the train up to their training centre. Training and coaching combine the best of my past careers as I started life as a teacher, then launched a Dotcom at the end of the 90’s, before working for the BBC as a presenter. I can combine all of the skills learnt in those jobs with the motivational strategies I rely on during my expeditions to create dynamic but very real-life exercises for the delegates, often helping them to develop their own goals and strategies to achieve them.

Which event has been your favourite and why?

This is a hard question. There have been some amazing events like the keynote I delivered for Microsoft in Mauritius (I had to go SCUBA diving with the delegates after my speech – it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it!). Then two days after that I delivered a keynote at the Nokia Global Conference held in Sun City in South Africa. That was a good week at work!

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