An Interview with Julia Hailes
If you could speak at any event, past or future, what would it be?
Actually, I'd really like to speak on Question Time. When I listen to it, I often imagine what I'd say. And I’d love to participate in a Question Time style event organised by the National Trust at the National History Museum.
How did the corporate speaking start?
I started public speaking in 1987, but, it was little while before I started making corporate speeches to large audiences.
Can you remember your first speaking engagement?
Yes - it was at the Royal Society of Arts. I was very nervous. When I was at school I was always fearful of going on stage. But once I got going I've found that I rather enjoy it. The most intimidating event I spoke at in the early years was the Green Party Conference in 1989. I was booed and heckled from the audience with someone shouting, 'why have we got someone making money out of the environment?'. Also, there were lots of media and photographers taking photos of some rather whacky tights I was wearing...
And your last event?
I spent all day at the Dorset Schools Eco-Summit alongside Dick Strawbridge from 'It's Not Easy Being Green' and 'Scrapheap Challenge'. The brief was pretty vague so we just had to react to whatever happened and ended up speaking for 4-5 hours during the day.
Which event has been your favourite and why?
Location-wise, I most enjoyed a brief trip to Dubrovnic in Croatia. I was speaking for AISE, the European Detergents Industry Association. I managed to walk the medieval walls of the town, have a boat trip and swim in the sea, all in the space of 24 hours. I've also spoken in Istanbul for Unilever - and spent a wonderful weekend there with friends. But speech-wise my favourite was probably being the key-note speaker at the Green Funeral Exhibition. I've got a lot to say about 'green death' and was intrigued to see all the different types of 'green' coffins and other paraphernalia on offer.
Who would you most like to share a platform with?
That's a tricky question because if they're too amusing it can be difficult to compete. I made a speech at the Eden Project and was introduced by Tim Smit - he made me laugh so much that it was difficult to perform. But, he'd be a great person to be on the panel with. I'd like to meet Prince Charles, so speaking alongside him would be fun.
On average, how many times a year do you speak at corporate events?
Between 10 and 20 times - it's quite variable.
Do you use PowerPoint?
Yes, I do use PowerPoint - but I don't have to. All my slides have pictures and very little text.
Are you as happy speaking to 50 as to 1,000 people?
Yes, I don't mind the size of the audience. With smaller groups you can have more detailed discussions but with bigger audiences there can be a real buzz, particularly if you hit the right note.
How do you like to be introduced?
I prefer to be introduced with a personal anecdote rather than someone just reading my bio, which the audience can read in the programme. I generally refer to myself as an environmental consultant and writer.
Do you always like to do a briefing call before the event?
Yes, I think it's very important to know who you're speaking to and what your client wants to achieve. Also, the more detail they give you the easier it is to make up a speech in advance.
What are the most asked for topics?
Most speeches I made had to include something about the impact of the recession on green issues. Clearly, my topic is always environment related but I'm asked to come at it from lots of different angles. Recent speech topics include nappies, detergents, packaging, cleaning products, chocolate, tourism, energy, waste and schools.
Is your speech at all interactive with audience participation?
I quite often ask the audience for their views on something - it's a good way of getting them engaged.
Do you have any funny/embarrassing speaking anecdotes you care to share?
A while ago I went to a conference in Norway which was designed to go on all night. One of the stunts they did to keep us all awake was to pull a large red piece of material right over the audience.
Your favourite film?
About a Boy, with Hugh Grant. But I also love anything with Audrey Hepburn - she was so beautiful and charismatic.
A book called 'Aztec' by Gary Jennings. It's a fiction but historically accurate and extremely gripping.
Favourite holiday destination?
I went to New Zealand to make a speech to their Chamber of Commerce over 15 years ago. We then explored the South Island and it was wonderful. But it's unlikely I'd go again. I like exploring France and so far Provence is top of my list.