Speakers Corner does the #10yearchallenge
Speakers’ Corner 2009
Picture this. A small family business run from Cheryl’s garage, arranging speakers for small events in London. This was the reality of Speakers Corner 10 years ago. The start-up’s existence lacked the need for huge databases, multifunctional websites and internationalisation. Instead, each with a cup of coffee, family members answered incoming phone calls with Sydney (their black Labrador) sitting at their feet. It was a simpler time.
A typical day would involve Nick and Tim ensuring focus on their master plan to turn Speakers Corner into the greatest bureau in the world, while relaxing by the pool side eating ice-cream or playing 7 card poker on the computer. Helena was the first non-family team member to be hired, and came in to join the embryonic Logistics team, organising the travel of speakers to and from events. As calls flooded in, the team scrambled for a pen to write details on a purple piece of paper. The brief, contact name, contact number and company name would begin the service, followed by a scroll through the simplistic database of small but diverse speakers. Even from the early days there was, and still is, a big focus on the client and creating lasting relationships. It’s something we pride ourselves in.
It was also around the time that Speakers Corner moved from the comforts of the home garage to office space in East Finchley, conveniently located just around the corner from where Nick lived and a quick walk from local shops. It was a novelty at the time to be able to walk and get lunch, enjoyed by the then-5 staff and self-appointed receptionist, Sydney.
Sydney was the most loved member of the team, but not necessarily everyone who came to visit thought the same. One of Nick’s favourite stories was when they were organising Pension Schemes, the poor guy who came to discuss the options was given quite a fright when he saw Sydney and bolted for the meeting room. But don’t fret! Once they were introduced, they got on very well, as did everyone who met her. The only downside of having a dog as a receptionist was that she would interrupt mid-phone call, and the people on the end of the line were confused by the loud, and somewhat distracting, barking.
The team were very happy in the new office, which allowed them to welcome more staff into the Speakers Corner family. Fresh out of university and a lover of organising, Rebecca was the next team member hired on the Logistics Team. Lou was next in line, assuming the role of Account Manager. Then along came Paula . Her thick Glaswegian and endearing accent occupied the other end of the phone for the Logistics Team.
It was at this point that Nick and Tim realised that perhaps playing 7-card poker was no longer an office activity.
The big turning point for Speakers Corner as a business was recognising a gap in the market. We realised that speakers could come into the office, try out their presentation and show us how great they were. Some memorable speakers from 10 years ago include Charles Hazelwood who got the team singing together, and John Peters whose story of courage and strength in one of the toughest situations imaginable has stayed with the team.
Fast-forward 10 years and Speakers Corner looks dramatically different from the outside, but at our core the values we hold are the same as that small family business from North London.
The team has moved offices twice now, with us now located some way from the garage, in Holloway Road. Now a bustling team of 21, we have team members from all corners of the world, literally. Canada, Ecuador, and Australia are just some of the places our team call home. It’s safe to say the footprint of the team is drastically different. The same can be said with our speakers and clients: we are a truly international company. Now boasting dedicated teams for Account Management, Logistics, Marketing and Finance, we have grown to best accommodate our clients and lead the way for speaker bureaus globally.
Our expert of experts, Nick, has developed a louder global voice on the speaker bureau circuit. He is an active member of the IASB, and is also governor! You can catch him commenting on trending topics, see him at events, and even hear his industry secrets on podcasts. This is just the start, he has big things lined up so don’t expect him to hide away in the shadows any time soon!
Technology was a huge driver in the evolution of Speakers Corner, opening a multitude of channels including videos, webinars, podcasts, not to mention social media! We have also developed an exceptionally sophisticated database that holds over 7,500 speakers, with speaker categories becoming increasingly diverse and international each week. This even trickles down to incoming phone calls, which can be diverted to Tim in Barcelona in an instant, bridging the gap of our international counterparts.
As readily-available now as we were 10 years ago, we are operational 24/7. Although, our schedule is more regimented today, and we work collaboratively to achieve our 24/7 availability.
The enquiries we get have changed, too. What was once a high stream of After-Dinner Speakers, we now get incredibly diverse briefs, ranging from accompanying groups at sporting events, motivational speakers for all occasions, school presentations and large corporate keynotes.
Our focus on client experience has grown over the years as well. We take pride in building strong relationships and having as much contact with clients as we can. We have even gone as far as becoming a registered book shop, so we can provide entire events with speaker’s books to make it a truly memorable event.
I guess to summarise how Speakers Corner has changed over the years, it can be put simply as we’ve grown. Our values haven’t changed - we always have, and always will, strive to build strong relationships with all who we work with – similarly to that little garage business. At our core we are the same, just think of it as our family expanding.
And yes, we know what you’re all thinking – Paula’s thick, Glaswegian accent still permeates the office. I for one need subtitles when she talks.
For further information or to book one of our speakers, call us on +44 (0)20 7607 7070 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
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