Speakers Corner Away Days: Empowerment, Team Bonding and Dragons Den

28 January 2019

It was that time again, in the 2nd week of January, when the Speakers Corner team decamped to a hidden hideaway for 2 days of strategy building and team bonding. With instructions to pack for the outdoors, we made our way to Liverpool Street Station to board our train to Diss, Norfolk, with little to no idea of what the next two days would bring!

So Here We Are

Gathering in the lounge of Ham Hill House, our MD Nick stepped up to present an overview of the last 12 months.

A kick-off session is perhaps the most important one to sit in. It not only sets the agenda, but delivers a clear objective which we’ll need to focus on. I’m always reminded in these scenarios of the time I saw Ben Hunt-Davis deliver an internal keynote address at a former employer.

In it, he demonstrated why working towards one common goal, in his case the 1996 Olympic Games, is pivotal for success. Every training session, every meal, each piece of kit etc – all their decisions were made with the simple question in mind – Will it Make the Boat go Faster?

So, with clarity in mind, we made our way into breakout rooms across our splendid surroundings.


We embarked on a new, twin-stream format, for this year. We would spend half the time in our internal teams, and the other half mixed up with other teams.

In our internal teams, we needed to evaluate what we’re currently doing, what do we need to perhaps improve on, and what should we be doing? At the end of the trip, we needed to present back to the wider company, so there was an implicit level of responsibility to ask some hard questions and set lofty ambitious goals.

Our cross-department teams would embark on idea creation with all suggestions encouraged, in fact the loftier the better!

A Walk in the Country

They say fresh air is conducive to new thinking, so with a change of footwear into our wellies, our hats and scarves tightly fitted, and gloves worn, we set out in our mixed teams.

Our goal was to come up with one, maybe two, quality ideas which we could use to improve our service. The eclectic DNA which makes up the Speakers Corner family really sparked some fascinating conversations in the Norfolk countryside, probing deep into new frontiers that perhaps we’ve never discussed before.

Upon arrival back at the house, we were informed later that afternoon we would have one hour to formulate our idea into a 5-minute presentation pitch, Dragons Den style!

Team Bonding

It’s at this point we need to take a break and focus on the things in life which bring us closer together. Yep, you’ve guessed it, good food and good wine.

A good team building exercise will of course always help gel relationships, but humans are social beings who crave interaction. By sitting down as one team, elbows squished together, plates passed back and forth, we shared snippets of our non-work lives, our favourite moments, stories, successes, and a lot of laughter.

Into the Den we Go...

It’s perhaps the bonding we’d been through earlier which helped even the most introvert, junior members of the team stand up and deliver eloquent pitches in our Dragons Den. The Dragons, a mixture of team members (highly recommended not to consign to just managers!) were incredible at taking a concept elevator pitch and helping each group evolve their idea into one which could make a real difference to the company.

But more than just making a difference to the company was the skill set development each team member went through. The empowerment led to exposure across each facet of a business, from business strategy, finance, product development, creativity, messaging, presenting and finally proving ROI, all of which if you asked each team member individually if they possessed those skills, the answers would be negative.

Each idea was unique, and we all had the opportunity afterwards to be part of one, regardless if it was our idea or not.

So Now What?

We spent the final morning in our individual teams, presenting back to the company. With mission statements complete, objectives identified, and responsibilities delivered, it’s up to us to walk the walk!

After lunch on the final day, and a quick game of pool, we headed back to Diss to catch the train to London. The easy work, to some extent, had been done. It’s fun to come up with ideas, present back to colleagues and form stronger friendships. But the hard work starts when you arrive back in the office.

When leaders empower their teams to plot a pathway to success, it’s critical that empowerment continues into the daily office grind.

What we’ve done here at Speakers Corner is two-fold. Our individual teams are required to feedback on a monthly basis to ensure we deliver on our promises. And our special project teams now have a team leader, who will book meetings, set the agenda and act as the champion to, again, ensure we deliver.

We can’t wait to see what happens over the next 12 months!

For further information or to book one of our speakers, call us on +44 (0)20 7607 7070  or email  info@speakerscorner.co.uk .

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