Showcasing The Knowledge Guild 2014

Jason Smith 19 September 2014

Being a speaker bureau we need to, every now and again, show off and we do this with a showcase that takes place once a year, or two if we’re feeling particularly ostentatious. It allows us to invite clients along, in a less formal environment, and highlight a selection of speakers, usually three, with a well known figure moderating.

Over the years Speakers Corner have used a number of venues for this purpose, over the last 2 years we’ve built a great relationship with The Brewery venue. They’re centrally located in The City, so easy for that going ‘home from work via event’ scenario and they have some great meeting/conference facilities that work whatever the delegate numbers. It’s a partnership in every sense of the word and one that’s working really well. With this in mind we developed between us a new brand for the showcase called The Knowledge Guild.

Every time we put on this kind of event we give a lot of thought to the theme. It’s no use having a disparate group of speakers who do not share a common ground of some kind. Last year it was Futurist/Technology with Leonard Brody , Alex Hunter  and Shaa Wasmund  with Kate Silverton  moderating. It turned out to be a great event with feedback being extremely positive during and after the event.

This year we decided to go for a sporting theme and set about thinking, meditating even, on which speakers might work. This year we settled on: John Steele , who is the former head of the RFU, ex CEO of UK Sport and current CEO of Youth Sport; sports journalist David Walsh  who is best known for ousting Lance Armstrong as a cheat and the delightful Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson  who is – are you ready for this - Paralympian Gold Medallist, crossbencher peer of the House of Lords, Laureus Sport for Good Trustee, Transport for London board member and an International Inspiration Ambassador for UNICEF!

This year we had the very erudite* and glamorous Fiona Bruce  facilitating who did, as expected, tremendously in the role.

*After the showcase section, Fiona thanked the audience for their perspicacious questions to the panel. Now I consider myself a bit wordy but I had to look this up. It apparently means ‘having keen mental perception and understanding; discerning’. When I congratulated her for using the word she laughed adding she just loves the English language. Go Fiona! There are a lot of words we don’t use, for example: jocundity  which pretty much details how we felt at the end of, what was, a successful night.

Meanwhile, back at the showcase event... speakers usually speak for 45 minutes but given the number of them we asked that they slim down their message to 15 minutes (which is a much harder job than you think) with Fiona taking those perspicacious and, dare I add, sagacious questions from the floor. A lot was covered in each of their allotted times so here’s a snapshot:

John was up first and talked about how Leadership, particularly the emotional kind, is key to managing teams. His speech is based around nine truths and he got to the 5th on the night leaving the audience, like a good TV episode of your favourite American box series, on some serious tenterhooks. John is someone, in your humble blogger’s opinion, who manages to get the balance between content and humour spot on and he didn’t disappoint on the night.

Next up, was truth seeker, illuminator of shadows, king dethroner and yellow Lycra unfrocker, David Walsh. An award winning journalist and chief writer for The Sunday Times, David was key in ousting Lance Armstrong as a drugs cheat. As many know, this culminated in the cyclist being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. However, this was not a quick process; it took 13 years during which he suffered vitriol from people within the sport; and from Armstrong himself in the form of threats and intimidation. David’s peers dismissed him over his evidence and his employers, The Sunday Times, were successfully sued by the man himself who, at the time, appeared to be all powerful and untouchable. David is keen to point out that when ‘the fall’ came for Lance he took no comfort in being vindicated. Here though, is a story of a man who against the odds, and with such vicious and consistent adversity from those around him stuck to his story and did not yield on what he believed to be the truth. This is phenomenal in every sense of the word and something we can all learn from personally and professionally. David delivered a an illuminating, touching and funny speech who shared with us on the night, via a rather funny tale, that Chris O'Dowd will be playing him in the upcoming movie.

Last but, as the saying goes, by no means least is Tanni Grey-Thompson.

Tanni, or should I say Lady Grey-Thompson (she’s not a Dame anymore) or Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, was absolutely brilliant. Her story is one of overcoming adversity and achieving goals through steely determination while not taking yourself too seriously.  Tanni burst onto the sporting scene in 1988 at the Seoul Olympics finishing in 2004 at Athens. She shared a very interesting sporting nugget with us on the night staying she clocked up a total of 19.5 minutes track time across 5 Paralympic Games. This punching in and out of the Paralympic clocking-in machine resulted in a medal tally of 11 golds, 4 silvers and 1 bronze. Not bad for what could be considered the average time for a tea break, remember them? After retiring, Tanni turned her focus to helping people, through sport, to overcome social and personal challenges and in The Lords contributing to, amongst others, the Welfare Reform and the Legal Aid bills.

Each speaker’s turn was excellent but it really heated up during the discussion between them with questions coming from the audience around contentious issues including the Olympic/Paralympic legacies and children’s involvement in sport to name but two. Facilitated brilliantly by Fiona this generated unexpected and exciting levels of discussion and disagreement from the panel which rounded off an outstanding showcase event.

It didn’t end there as we all gathered downstairs for food and drinks and for the Speakers Corner team to meet new and old clients along with speakers engaging in some serious mixing and mingling. Immediate feedback was very positive and conversation was energised with people discussing favourite: speakers, points raised and moments of the night. We were happy, as clients were making informal enquiries into all the speakers for future events. This made Nick our MD exceptionally happy, jocund even. We said goodbye to our last guests around half 10, had a brief debrief with The Brewery team and then we left to get home each taking, along with our clients hopefully, something with us from the night thus making us all the richer and wiser for it.

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