From a casual scan of the office (I actually counted meticulously twice because everyone kept moving), it looks like our numbers have grown these past few months to a cool 14 as we welcome new team members Charlotte and Dave.
We’re a chatty bunch who like to express ourselves (particularly in the form of karaoke, but that's another story) and so, with ideas flying around as fast and enthusiastically as we eat cakes, we felt we needed a Speakers Corner Away Day: an opportunity to brainstorm together about who we are as a business, refresh and align our values, and engage in mildly passive-aggressive arguments over cheese boards (“are you really going to divide the brie like that, Nick?”).
"Guys, promise you won’t eat the cake before I take a picture for our blog”. Arriving at Coltsfoot, Hertfordshire.
Thanks to organisational powers of Louise, the end of the working day saw us wave goodbye to London and hop on a bus to Coltsfoot, a beautiful country retreat in Hertfordshire, where we pretended we were all in a Jane Austen novel for the next 1.5 days.
After celebrating not losing ANYBODY on the journey (as in the case of our lovely team member Debbie circa Christmas Party 2015), we got stuck into things straight away, quite literally, with some Pritt Stick, a board marker, and a blank canvas to set out the key issues that we hoped to address on this trip:
Who are our clients?
What do our clients expect and need from us?
How can we deliver this successfully?
Our brains buzzing (with ideas, not just wine, but there was definitely wine), it was off to bed after a delicious meal and a couple of intense games of Mafia (courtesy of official games master Lucy B).
Rebecca of Logistics gets stuck into things as she wonders, “Who are our clients?”
The following morning, we were thrilled to have one of our keynote speakers Andrew McMillan join us for bacon and eggs (or yogurt and melon depending on what kind of person you are). Known for his role in defining the John Lewis brand and its legendary customer service, Andrew got the juices flowing again by sharing with us a tailored version of his "Building a reputation with customer experience”.
He then challenged us all to think deeply about what our clients really need from us. Through the power of the post-it, we gathered and organised our collective thoughts into seven themes, which we compared to what we think our clients expect, how well we think we deliver them currently, and how well we hope to deliver them in the future.
Across the group, it transpired that:
- We strive to educate clients throughout the entire process of finding the right speaker or artist (content and style) for their event.
- We pride ourselves on our expertise and long-term relationships with speakers.
- We aim to listen, be honest, and inspire confidence in clients, whether they have put on hundreds of events before or are totally new to the game.
- We prevail with our guidance and support in the build-up before an event (e.g. setting up briefing calls, answering queries, confirming details, etc.), during (with our logistics service), and in the follow-up to ensure that a memorable result was achieved.
What do we think a client needs from us?
After waving goodbye to Andrew, we began our department-led presentations to share the various capacities in which these core company values are reflected by team members.
We kicked off with our Finance Manager Paula, whose job is to care about the…I want to say cash flows and balance sheets? Essentially, she is great with numbers, and her presentation provided a 'rich' insight into the world of the Money Money Money as well as several (highly relevant) pictures of dogs.
Repping for Account Management, Ad - “no slides” - am took us through the booking procedure (executed by himself, Lucy B, Debbie, Tim and Lucia): from answering an initial enquiry by phone or email and going the extra length to provide ideas and impartial advice, all the way to confirming a speaker for the client.
Next up, we entered the fast-paced, detail-orientated world of Logistics with Helena, whose resourceful team also includes Rebecca and Dave. A unique aspect of the Speakers Corner service, these guys draw up contracts, arrange briefings, and make sure speakers get to the right place at the right time (I once looked over at their computers to observe them sourcing a helicopter for a potential airlift).
Within this realm falls Travel, an element so important that it warranted a presentation of its own by Rebecca, who has a penchant for putting things in order. Things got pretty real with some colour-coded hand-outs.
Post-brekkie brainstorm with Andrew McMillan
And finally, over to the Marketing musketeers - myself (Lucy M), Jason, Charlotte and Tim . When we aren’t drinking coffee to “get our creativity going”, looking up synonyms, or worrying about how “that bit on the homepage could look better a tiny bit to the left”, we’re thinking about fun, informative ways to let everyone know about what we strive to do here at Speakers Corner.
To wrap up the day, MD Nick and his brother Tim thanked us for our hard work and reminded us that, not only do we work in an important industry that actually affects people's abilities and outlooks in their professional and personal lives, we play a key role as a company in changing it through our emphasis on content and the value that a speaker should bring to an event. (Read more about Return on Investment from Nick here.)
I would include a picture of the closing afternoon tea but the team, once again, ate it before I’d even got my camera out.
Instead, let’s end this post with how we end (and start to be honest) most of our days: with cakes that Paula made.
Celebrating a new year. With calories.