A huge thank you to everyone for attending our webinar last week on Encouraging Diversity in Public Speaking at PI LIVE 2019 and to Helen Southgate, managing director of EMEA at Acceleration Partners and Anjulie Blunden, managing partner of Connected Path, for providing their insight and experiences of public speaking and discussing their initiative, Turn the Talk. If you haven’t done so already, fill out this survey to share your thoughts on diversity and how as an industry we can come together to make a change.

With Friday March 8 being International Women’s Day, the webinar was a chance to discuss a very important issue in the performance marketing industry for some time – diversity – and how, as an industry, and with PI LIVE in mind, we can implement change to encourage broader applications and a spread of panelists, speaker submissions and talent. Helen Southgate’s recent article on diversity and equality provides a broad overview from the affiliate marketing sector and calls upon event organisers, business leaders and individuals to speak up and tackle this issue head on, with the help of the Turn the Talk to support the industry in becoming more inclusive and diverse.

A real challenge

In the webinar, PerformanceIN asked Helen and Anjulie several questions around their industry experience, diversity and equality in public speaking and overall approach at business events. Despite them both presenting at PI LIVE last year in addition to other industry events, Helen expressed that opportunities are “very few and far between”, resulting in a real challenge to find the right events and positioning the right speakers for them. Anjulie, who has worked in the industry for over a decade, said she enjoyed presenting for the first time at PI LIVE, in what was a transitioning period having recently launched Connected Path with co-founder Anthony Clements.

“During my time in affiliate marketing, I’ve worked with people who were always happier to take to the stage, which often meant in previous work I ended up adopting a more production-like role with the ideas and the content but quite often behind the scenes. That changed last year when launching Connected Path. It was important for me to present my ideas and get up on stage,” she explained.

Presenting on stage

When it comes to presenting on stage, both Helen and Anjulie agreed that it takes time and preparation when presenting your idea to an audience and determining a topic that you feel confident and passionate about is essential at the start of the process. When forming a topic, Helen said it is important for speakers to ask the people in the industry what they want to hear, rather than what you want people to hear; seeing what trends are being discussed in the industry, what the main concerns are and what people would value the most.

“The most important thing is to be interested and passionate about it. I’ve turned down speaking opportunities and panels because they were about subjects that I felt I wasn’t knowledgeable about or had an interest in,” said Southgate; “Also, you need to think about the audience, with the key thing being ‘what do you want them to take away’ and ‘what do you want to tell them that’s valuable’. I write these down and everything I do focuses on that so the presentation comes down to what people want to walk away with.”

Submitting a stand out speaker submission 

Sharing her top tips to submitting a stand out speaker submission, Anjulie highlighted the importance of reading the submission criteria, referencing PI LIVE as an example, or if it is a smaller event, to talk directly with the event manager to find out what their goals are and the type of audience coming to the event. 

“The most engaging submissions are the ones where a speaker’s personality comes across,” said Blunden; “When submitting an application, do it in your own voice and make sure it’s a blueprint of what you’re going to say. Putting your personality in the submission will not only help people but you’ll end up making sure the content is addressable to you and the people who will need to understand it.” 

Overcoming nerves

Continuing the conversation, one of the most common challenges is confidence and overcoming the initial nerves at the beginning. Anjulie explained that it takes a lot of courage to get up on stage and present in front of strangers – even more so in front of an industry where there are familiar faces that know you and you have worked with. 

“You’ll never overcome those nerves, and it’s very rare to find people who would have no problem whatsoever getting on the stage. So, the more we talk about it with people, the more we can say it’s okay to be nervous, but the key thing is how you manage it,” Blunden added; “Nerves will help you focus when you get on the stage, help you think what you are going to say and give you a sense of elation when you’ve finished presenting something you’ve worked hard to prepare. I think it’s important that we’re a bit more open about how people feel when they take on that challenge.”

Sharing her tips on how to overcome the nerves and building confidence, Helen said that it’s vital to do your presentation in front of someone as it makes a huge difference once read aloud a few times but, more importantly, that person can give you feedback, outlining what went well and what didn’t etc.

“It’s really amazing how much you don’t know until someone tells you. Once you know, you’ll be much more confident on stage. It’s really about practice and experience but you’ve got to enjoy it as well,” she said.

50/50 pledge is just the first step

PI LIVE is aiming for a 50/50 split for panel sessions, following feedback from exhibitors and attendees last year. Expressing her thoughts, Anjulie explained that although the 50/50 pledge is a great idea going forward, it’s just the first step and these sort of changes must be done in a thoughtful way, not just doing them to tick a box or mitigate bad press, but in order to get to the root cause of the issue.

“Specifically looking at panels and events, a lot of it comes down to the event organisers working closely with the industry. Just saying that people are not coming forward to speak at events is not enough,” Blunden explained; “For me, the question is ‘how do you get people to feel comfortable about coming forward and wanting to contribute?’ My answer to that is changing those formats. If keynote presentations and panels are the only choices then they’re not going to be for everyone and suit every personality, so if we think more about different formats, and hopefully the voices that will come forward will be more varied.”

“People should be on stage for their merit, regardless of gender,” added Southgate; “One the challenges when I speak to people that run events is they have trouble finding individuals that want to speak and those outside the normal group of people that want to do it. This is something we really want to work on.”

“How do we get more people and have a really diverse set of opinions and ideas on stage that come from different angles?” Southgate continued; “Businesses, board directors and senior management really need to encourage people to speak publicly on stage and to lead and have an opinion which is absolutely vital. Event organisers have also got a responsibility to do their best to get a good, diverse range of people on stage, and I think it’s lazy not to. It’s a great industry with some brilliant people involved so we should always have people on stage that reflect that.”

Turn the Talk and next steps

In addition, a new collaborative initiative set up by Acceleration Partners and Connected Path has been introduced to support the points in the discussion, call for change and empower more diversity and wide-ranging access to speaker opportunities.

“The aim of the initiative is to raise industry awareness and make sure we’re properly representing the people in it. This is to make sure we can broaden the talent we can attract to the industry, which is a key thing, plus of course, making sure we can retain that talent,” said Blunden; “The initiative is also to help people who want to move up and progress into senior and influential roles in the industry.”

Anjulie highlighted that they’re working with a number of event organisers, including PI LIVE and Affiliate Huddle on solutions while looking to work with other businesses to help form their own projects around the initiative. In addition, the initiative will support individuals who are looking to present on stage. The survey, which has already received a significant number of responses, will identify key areas that are of most concern with the team using the feedback to shape further projects and events going forward.

Join the conversation and support Turn the Talk by completing their survey, which closes on March 18. Follow the website and PerformanceIN as we take the next steps to support a more diverse and thriving industry.