As we “officially” launch our new social media platforms this week, I thought it might be fun to reflect on the Speak The Speech journey so far; where we are now and what might lie ahead for us in the future. Let me present therefore, The Ghost of Speak The Speech Past, Present and Future! So come with me if you will, dear reader, back to January 1998 and to two young (ish) actors, fresh out of drama-school.
I’d like to be able to say that Speak The Speech was the brainchild of those two forward-thinking, quick-witted entrepreneurs, Jon and Boo. But it wasn’t. It was actually not our idea at all. It was Boo’s lovely and long-suffering wife Michelle. Boo and I were just out of drama school you see. Boo was convinced that he was going to be the next James Bond (the nearest he eventually got was a commercial audition for Brook Bond). I thought I would be playing Hamlet at the RSC. Alas poor Jonny never got to fulfil that fantasy either.
Michelle, who was managing an IT training company at the time, thankfully had her feet firmly planted on the ground and suggested to Boo that it could just be possible that he won’t become the new James Bond and that maybe he could put his newly acquired skills to good use by training business people to speak nicely. She could then offer the training to her clients. Shaken but not stirred, Boo reluctantly agreed and decided he needed a partner in crime. Enter Jonny Bacon stage left.
I’d like to be able to say that our combined drive and determination led to us instantly creating our first course but, again, this would not be true. The trouble was that whenever Boo and I would get together at his flat to thrash out the course outline we would inevitably start with a little beer and a chat about football. Then we would have another little beer and a chat about cricket. Then another one and….well you get the picture. Michelle would despair. But eventually we got there and by summer of 1998 we were ready to go with our first Power Of Speech Presentation Skills course. The problem was that we didn’t have any customers. So Michelle enlisted 4 brave and foolhardy clients/guinea pigs to be our “pilot” audience.
I don’t think I have ever felt as nervous as I did before that course. “What if they don’t like us?” “What if they think we are talking rubbish?” “What if they think Boo is funnier than me?” - these ridiculous and irrational thoughts were just a few that were crashing around in my head.
We were a hit darling!! A massive hit! They LOVED me, I mean us. They LOVED us!! Oh the relief! We hadn’t made complete fools of ourselves. We HAD something!!
I’d like to be able to say that from there we soared and immediately started to take over the world. This would also not be true. For several years we kind of limped/staggered along, only running courses when Michelle got us work. We were still ACTOOOOORS you see and those dreams were still very much alive. In fact we weren’t even called Speak The Speech back then. We had made the schoolboy error of taking the first letters of both of our names and called ourselves BJ Training. You should have heard some of the phone calls we got. Michelle suggested that perhaps we might think about a different name and so, eventually, “Speak The Speech” was born. There have been several rows over the years as to who came up with the name but I DO know it was definitely not me. Michelle thinks it was Michelle. Boo thinks it was Boo. Who to believe?
It wasn’t really until 2005, that Speak The Speech became our prime focus. Boo had achieved success in the world of TV and I had been producing and acting in plays out in Budapest with two dear friends Mike and Matt (more to come from one of them later…) But by 2005 and with mortgages to pay, we both agreed that whilst acting was fun, it was not going to keep us in the manner that we would like to be accustomed to. So, we ditched the acting and, I am pleased to say, have never, EVER looked back……….Looking back, I still sometimes wonder how we managed to go from just those opening one or two clients that Michelle had got us, to the hundreds we now have all over the world. I think the answer lies with my business partner. Boo was/is a brilliant salesman. I won’t give away ALL his techniques as you have to PAY for those! But I will share my favourite Boo story of how he managed to pick up one of our favourite and longest surviving clients. In the summer of 2005 Boo found himself in Nottingham for a Bob Dylan concert. Arriving at Nottingham train station a little bit early he saw the building of Capital One opposite the station and thought “oh I’ll just pop in.” He went in and got chatting to the receptionist who, as luck would have it, was also a Bob Dylan fan. Pushing his luck, he asked her who he should speak to about delivering training courses. Fifteen minutes later, Boo had a meeting organised with the head of Learning and Development. The rest is history. He has no fear when it comes to sales. It’s a real gift.
So what about the present? Well here we are now in 2016 and the fact that I am typing this in a hotel in Dubai tells you that Speak The Speech is now a global company that spreads its skills and techniques to all corners of the world. It is no longer Boo and I. Remember my actor friend Mike from Budapest? He has now been with us for 5 years and has brought a touch of star quality with him. He was never James Bond but he did actually work with James Bond. He, Daniel Craig and Kate Winslet were in a film together and were good mates during the run. He is also a Hollywood actor having just had a part in the Matt Damon film, The Martians which won an Oscar would you believe! We are lucky to have him. Same applies to the legendary Janis Rees who is basically the company mum! I don’t know where we would be without her to be honest. She is also a brilliantly, clever coach who has added another dimension to our offering. Add in our Associates, Hugo and Ben, together with three new and exciting actors Matt, Graeme and Brittina and you have a fantastic team that offers innovative and inspiring courses.
For any of you that have been on our courses you will know that we transform people every single day. For us it is all about achieving consistent quality in communication. We do it with the simplest, but most effective techniques and are proud to constantly receive the highest feedback results from our clients. The courses are dynamic, high impact and most of all, fun - you can’t learn if you can’t enjoy. But, most of all, it is all routed in authenticity, honesty and humility. The best communicators listen more than they speak.
And what about the future Jacob Marley? What will that bring? Well we are living in uncertain times so no one can be sure. But what we do know is that we all love what we do and are committed to helping people continue to grow their skills and their confidence. In spite of the incredible growth of digital, it is pleasing for us to see that people still need to speak. Building relationships is as important as ever and we see it as our jobs to remind people how to be effective with their mouths as well as with their fingers and thumbs. But we want to move with technology, not fight it. We understand that businesses are under pressure, that resources are stretched and that staff across the world are being asked to do more for less. As such, we are expanding our digital offering so that our courses are now available as a mixture of online and face-to-face learning. We see this very much as the future.
But what excites me most about the future is teaching and coaching our young children to take on the world. Look at how the GB Olympics team have developed over the last few years thanks to proper funding and proper coaching. They are an inspiration to us all and have turned a nation that was once ridiculed for being useless to one that is respected around the world. I would love that same level of quality to be seen in the communication skills of our children. So, Speak The Speech will be looking to offer courses to schools and universities and also to spread the word amongst our clients who are parents. It is so important that your children don’t get lost in the worlds of Ipads and tablets. One little tip that has totally transformed the speaking skills of my 6 year old twins; I used to ask them “how was school today?” I am sure you know the sort of answer I would normally get “er, yeah…….Ok…..” Silence. Like getting blood out of stone. Now we play a game at family dinner every night. I say “tell me about your day at school for one minute and you are not allowed to say “er” or “um”. Works every time and even my shy daughter is now able to speak freely and without hesitation. Give it a try. This stuff starts when you are young.
So I hope you have enjoyed reading this and that you like our new social media platforms on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Over the coming months we will be doing blogs on a whole range of subjects like “How has Donald Trump done it?!” to “Vulnerability” to “Communication in Leadership” I hope you enjoy them and would also ask you to feel free to contribute or ask any questions.