In March 2019, Acceleration Partners and Connected Path announced the launch of an industry-wide diversity initiative Turn the Talk. The launch was supported with a survey, asking respondents to comment on their thoughts towards public speaking, perceived barriers and how inclusive and freely available these opportunities are.

The full results of the survey were collated in a report which you can download here.

Anjulie Blunden, managing partner of Connected Path commented: “We’ve had an overwhelming number of people come forward to comment on how the initiative has resonated with them. The aim of the survey was to assess the scope of the challenge faced to make industry events more diverse, with a particular focus on how individuals felt about public speaking. Gathering this feedback from the industry as the first step has helped us to understand and identify the areas that people want to see addressed next.”

More opportunities to speak

The survey asked respondents to comment on their feelings towards public speaking, perceived barriers and how inclusive and freely available the opportunities are. It found that 42% of respondents have never spoken at a professional event, yet 74% of people said that they would like more opportunities to speak.

Unsurprisingly, the amount of time someone has worked in the industry has a direct correlation with whether they’ve spoken at an event before, with only 20% of those who have spoken at an event having worked in the industry less than five years. 

Sophie Parry-Billings, senior marketing manager at Acceleration Partners said: “The feedback we received helped us to identify a challenge in the concepts of ‘experience’ and ‘expert’. There was a strong desire from respondents for more opportunities to speak and to hear from speakers that weren’t always the most senior, or longest serving, but could bring relatable knowledge and expertise to a stage. Currently, there seems to be a belief that experts are only those who have been in the industry for a long time. This is a perception we need to change if we want to empower new voices.” 

Adequate training

One of the biggest call outs from the report for businesses who wish to support their staff is to provide more adequate training, with 76% of all respondents claiming they’ve never received any formal support or training on public speaking. In addition to this, 87% agreed they would like a formal coaching session for public speaking if it was offered by event providers.

Questions around confidence also play a big part in public speaking, with over a third of respondents saying they have previously turned down a speaking opportunity due to nerves or lack of confidence.

Helen Southgate, EMEA MD of Acceleration Partners concluded: “This survey is a great start, but I’m conscious that it tells part of the story. We know that there are statistically fewer females in senior roles across the industry, and the struggle that many event organisers have is to ensure balanced gender representation. However, what the survey uncovered is that there is a raft of people who have been in the industry for less than five years but are willing and wanting to take to the stage. We need to support those people, which will in turn help drive a future where the balance at the top is real.”

Download the full diversity survey report here and access the Turn the Talk website.