The power of the spoken word: We chat to Nick Gold MD of Speakers Corner
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Three reasons you should be watching them
- We are working with the best speakers across the world, to deliver excellent content and insights to both companies and individuals which works to inspire, educate and challenge
- We are working hard to provide guidance to the marketplace on the speaking industry, through improving visibility and helping clients understand our practices to ensure they an receive exceptional service and real value
- We take pride in having a deep level of understanding of our speakers, so we can provide the best guidance for our clients, not just based on content or credibility but also around ‘fit’ for event on areas such as style, stage presence and other less tangible attributes
- Company: Speakers Corner
- What it does, in a sentence: We provide an honest, friendly and impartial consultancy service, committed to working alongside clients to book speakers and hosts for their event or conference
- Founded: 1999 - London
- Size of team: 16
- Your name and role: Nick Gold – Managing Director
What problem are you trying to solve?
Through the rise and exposure of platforms such as TED, the power of the spoken word and a natural human inclination for self-improvement, and for challenge, has resulted in an increased volume of speakers who are offering their insights and guidance on every subject matter available. We bring these stories and lessons from the speaker to the consumer, through advice and guidance we inform the client as to what a speaker will be bringing and what value this can add to their event. We also work alongside our client from the original enquiry till after the event making sure the speaker is fully briefed, all teams are happy with the speech, content and messaging, the speaker turns up in the right place on time and the client is extracting the maximum value for the fee.
How big is the market – and how much of it do you think you can own?
We haven’t set out to own a particular amount of the industry, competition is good as it drives us to continually improve our services and network of speakers. Our belief is in the education of the marketplace around the opportunities having a speaker can provide, whether it be imparting a memorable goal or catalysing delegate’s realisation of key messages of the event. The value and guidance that a speaker bureau can provide is the size of the market for us. As long as we continue to gain trust from clients at the consultancy and the advice we offer them is focussed on delivering the best experience, then in turn the market will continue to grow.
How do you make money?
Our fees come from a commission from the speaker’s fee. This means that the advice and ideas that we deliver to our clients is essentially free as we only make money if they book through us. On face value, it can appear we are delivering our value for free but our challenge is to educate the client on the journey of the event and beyond. We work on behalf of both parties to ensure the right speech with the right content is delivered, and everyone is happy with the terms and services. We also provide that level of comfort that with our network of over 7,000 speakers, if for any reason, the speaker cannot attend the event, we can provide a replacement at any moment.
Who’s on your team that makes you think you can do this?
We are privileged that the team we have built are absolutely passionate about what we do. They, in turn, are privileged to have exposure to some of the greatest speakers in the world - might be the reason we feel constantly motivated, inspired and humbled! We as a team genuinely believe in the impact a speaker can have on an individual, when someone grabs you and takes you on that journey, they have the ability to impact the way you think, your ideas, energy and focus. This potential impact coupled with the driving force of the team means that we have no doubt we can achieve our goals and together, we will reach the service levels we aspire to.
Who’s bankrolling you?
We made a decision after the financial crisis in 2007 that our main aim was self-sufficiency. We heard from some of our speakers from the world of economic and politics about the turbulent times predicted ahead, so we knew we had to become masters of our own destiny. This meant we needed to be free from financial constraints. We understood it was critical for the team to buy into the long-term vision, we made sure we understood what the aims of the company were and what we were trying to achieve. In effect, we worked hard on our costs and revenue streams, and reached this goal.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs trying to secure that kind of finance?
If finance is required to start or grow a business, the critical element is that investors are not offering funds because of numbers on a piece of paper, but they are investing in the individuals or teams who are creating their business and have a belief in the idea that the start-up is trying to grow.
I would say, make sure the people providing the finance are with you for the journey, not necessarily for the destination. The destination should be seen as the long-term dream and will no doubt change many times along the way.
What do you believe the key to growing this business is?
Love what you do, celebrate the freedom growing your own business brings, but more importantly, take the stresses with a smile on your face. Don’t be concerned about making the ‘right’ decision, it is more important you make a decision when the business needs it to be made. You can deal with the fallout from the decision if required after - but remaining in a place of limbo about the decision inevitably means the business is in a place of stagnation.
One other piece of advice is don’t take the growth of a business as a purely empirical measure – growth is not always defined by data, take pride in growth being about engagement of your team in the company, and how this influences the outside world of business.
What metrics do you look at every day?
We particularly look at feedback from clients from our events, the number of new enquiries that come in every day, and we use Google Analytics to measure the engagement in the website and social media channels.
What’s been the most unexpectedly valuable lesson you’ve learnt so far?
That the most powerful thing in our armoury is to admit that we can get it wrong or that we don’t understand something. Business is too often, built on a bravado, but breaking this down and taking the time to reflect on mistakes should be seen as the only way to improve.
For me, this unexpectedly valuable lesson was learnt as a junior employee in a previous workplace. In a meeting with some very senior people I was expected to understand every three-letter acronym that was being thrown around. After a while, one of the most senior employees just said they didn’t understand what was being discussed and could people explain it in English rather than fantastic acronyms. The effect was like a house of cards falling, as it slowly dawned on everyone in the room they were all in the same position as the senior person who had spoken up. At that point, a real discussion with productive outcomes ensued.
What’s been your biggest mistake so far?
After 2007, we moved offices – at the time we considered buying a property in Kings Cross. This was prior to any development and was a very different area to what it is now. The investment would mean a taking out a large loan, but based on a vision of what Kings Cross would become rather than the then reality. We decided that the financial burden was too great when considering the area, so the move would not be prudent. Now, I can only imagine what that property is worth and how lovely it would be working there. But, with reference to my earlier comments about financial self-sufficiency, it still remains the right choice for us, allowing us to focus on our core business.
What do you think is on the horizon for your industry in the year ahead?
On the horizon, there are two main challenges for the industry. First, we are working to ever shorter event timescales and yet still, the same level of content is expected. The other challenge is that we are seeing companies wanting to control the message of the external speaker more and more. This is due to concerns with the rate of change in the world (especially where the speaker is referencing this change), companies worry their delegates might be scared into providing the “wrong” message. We as an industry, need to educate and work with our clients to provide them with reassurance that the delegates are being educated on a wider context to help form their own opinions and aid the company in delivering on this.
Which London start-up/s are you watching, and why?
I am currently fascinated by the companies which are launching around the fresh food delivery service – companies like Marley Spoon and Gusto which are providing the recipes and raw materials to cook meals. My fascination stems from the fact they provide us with an education on portion size, food waste and they expose us to a variety of meals. In London, it is almost de-facto accepted that eating out is the only way for people to dine together, but these services could be a pathway back to home cooking and the joys of creating something delicious yourself.