An Interview with Justin Hughes
How did the corporate speaking start?
It naturally evolved from my consultancy business running seminars and training events. Big break was when someone I knew personally in a large corporate recommended me to the agency his company used. They took me on and significantly raised my profile and numbers of engagements.
Can you remember your first speaking engagement?
Yes – it was an after-dinner event at the end of 2002.
And your last event?
In Munich, booked through you guys!
Which event has been your favourite and why?
Institute of Directors’ Annual Convention 2004. It was exciting due scale (3000 people at Royal Albert Hall), other speakers (Gordon Brown, Michael O’Leary, Duke of Westminster), and the fact that I had only been speaking for a year.
Who would you most like to share a platform with?
I have been rather spoilt to date, having been on the same agenda as Lord Coe, Sir Richard Branson and Kofi Annan amongst others. However, the dream slot for me would almost certainly be Warren Buffet; I have the greatest respect for the rigour, clarity, and objectivity he brings to complex business issues combined with his personal integrity.
On average, how many times a year do you speak at corporate events?
It varies quite a lot with both client demand (largely a function of the economic environment in this context) and my own availability. 20-30 engagements is about comfortable for me; my busiest year was in excess of 80.
Do you use PowerPoint?
Generally, but only pictures, as well as video footage.
Are you as happy speaking to 50 as to 1,000 people?
Yes – see above re big audiences – I have even spoken to an audience of 15 after dinner at a senior management event.
How do you like to be introduced?
What are the most asked for topics?
High performance teams, leadership, operational excellence, risk management. I also like to talk about ‘why senior leadership teams don’t work’.
Is your speech interactive with audience participation?
Some interaction, although Mission Excellence also runs fully interactive seminars.
Do you have any funny/embarrassing speaking anecdotes you care to share?
I have been introduced with a reminder of how good last year’s speaker was and had a fire alarm whilst talking about contingency planning – everyone assumed it was a set-up!
Your favourite film?
Impossible to choose one. Schindler’s List, The Usual Suspects, American Beauty, Pulp Fiction and Love Actually would all make the top ten.
Again, near impossible to choose one. My most recent favourite book is The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawic. In terms of impact on my thinking, Boyd: The Fighter Pilot who changed the Art of War, and Warren Buffet’s Letters to Shareholders have both been hugely influential. For fiction, anything by John Irving, especially A Prayer for Owen Meany.
Favourite holiday destination?
Anywhere off the beaten track. Did the Trans-Siberian Express, which was great.
What’s your tipple – wine, beer, champagne?
Wine, although I became a vodka convert on a couple of rather hazy nights in Russia recently.
Country or townie?
I live in Richmond – not exactly country, but best of both worlds, with Richmond Park, the River Thames on your doorstep and the ‘real countryside’ is very easily accessible.
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