Can you remember your first speaking engagement?
At the Prowell Women’s Conference in Peterborough. That was my first paid engagement and the moment the lightbulb went off: that I loved doing it, but that I could also be paid to do something I really, really enjoyed!
How did the corporate speaking all start?
I found I was being asked more and more to give speeches for free about the story of Green & Black’s, and then pow! Someone paid me to do it. And I thought, ‘I’m missing a trick here.’ So, I immediately e-mailed Christine Hamilton – who famously dug herself and Neil out of a huge financial hole via public speaking – and asked her if she had any tips. Within 10 minutes, with Christine’s custom efficiency, I had a list of military-style instructions! And I haven’t looked back. (We have been friends ever since I gave her a ‘makeover’ for YOU Magazine, and she ditched the celebrated black velvet hairband!)
Which event has been your favourite and why?
Any women’s enterprise event, basically. Women particularly like to hear the story of a woman who’s smashed through the glass ceiling, who left school at sixteen with 6 ‘O’ levels but has gone on to create a £100 million brand while juggling all the things women have to do (make sure there’s food in the fridge, loo rolls in the loo and kids are picked up from school, etc.) Entrepreneurs generally (of both sexes) do especially enjoy the story of our rollercoaster ride at Green & Black’s.
Who would you most like to share a platform with?
Bill Clinton, Arianna Huffington and Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, and who decided it should be free, thereby changing the world as we know it. It wasn’t until I saw a BBC documentary recently that I realised someone had actually had to decide whether the web should be a free resource. What a huge debt we owe him…
On average, how many times a year do you speak at corporate events?
I had 25 engagements last year.
Do you use PowerPoint?
I have a mouth-watering holding slide with chocolate which usually gets the audience salivating, but I believe that mostly, PowerPoint is a distraction. I know if I’m watching a PowerPoint presentation, I tend to drift off and not look at the slides. My slides are only ever visual with a few words, so that I can weave a story around them. But I’m happier not using it at all, except for the one opening slide.
Are you as happy speaking to 50 as to 1,000 people?
Either is fine. There’s an intimacy with 50 people but for some reason I don’t get butterflies even when it’s 1,000 (as at the 02 Marketing Conference). My father was the Science Editor for ITN and then had one of the first businesses doing media training, so I had a lot of coaching from him when I was in my 20s. I’m much more terrified walking into a cocktail party of friends and acquaintances than stepping onto a stage in front of 1,000 strangers
How do you like to be introduced?
As Co-Founder of Green & Black’s Chocolate. My husband Craig Sams and I are always very fair about giving each other credit.
Do you always like to do a briefing call before the event?
As someone who’s been a journalist for 30 years (blimey!) the brief is everything. So yes, yes, yes. (And I’m also always happy to do any media surrounding the event, if it’s feasible.)
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