I have just returned from three fabulous days in South West England where I was a guest speaker at two conferences in Devon and Cornwall. The organisation was Enterprising Women and delegates were female entrepreneurs at different stages of their business lives – from pre-start up to developing an exit strategy to leave the business. It was a privilege and a joy to meet everyone there, including the other speakers.
The Keynote Speaker was the incredible Alex Polizzi, who was wonderful. Of course there was so much excitement beforehand: she is a well known and loved TV personality, but the reality was even better. Her speech was intelligent (she’s an Oxford graduate), articulate and honest. And everyone in the audience left with a glow in their hearts.
So what made her such a good speaker:
1. She graciously thanked everyone for inviting her to speak! There was no Diva like behaviour or expectation from her. It is always a privilege to be invited to speak.
2. Alex knew her audience; the pitch and content of speech was perfect for the audience of women entrepreneurs. She didn’t talk down to us, and shared her challenges. I am sure the content would have been quite different if she had been speaking to a predominantly male audience, students or even school children. The content ‘spoke’ to us as it was relevant and it was delivered in a very personable way.
3. Alex was great at story telling, to illustrate a point. There is nothing more powerful and engaging for an audience, than being told a relevant story to illustrate a point.
4. The speech included humour – some jokes at her expense (in the nicest possible way). No one wants to listen to a serious speech, or a totally grim, sad one. Life is about ups and downs and a range of emotions. Of course Alex’s talk was up beat and positive – and it included humour to touch another emotion.
5. She was well prepared; this wasn’t someone ‘winging it’ but a totally professional, focused speaker. I have seen many speeches where people have been underprepared (either they don’t know the audience, think they can get away with it or they rely on hiding behind power point slides). It was clear that Alex had considered her audience and appropriate content. She had also familiarised herself with the speech. I listened to it on two days and it was equally polished on both occasions.
6. She was honest and humble. Of course we all looked up to her, but instead of being big headed, and arrogant, she was honest saying that it is a challenge to juggle everything with small children and something has to go – in her case, socialising in the evening. Like every good entrepreneur, she was honest saying that she’d made mistakes and learnt from them. She also was honest saying that the TV programme edits so it appears she shouts at entrepreneurs all the time, when in fact this is a small conversation within hours of consultancy with clients!
More than anything, I left the events knowing that I had met a wonderful human being. And what’s more, she was so approachable to have a conversation with. In fact the caterers had the courage to ask for a photo first! Of course we all followed suit. Alex knew this was part of the process of being a TV star and a key speaker.
We can all learn from her, and what a privilege for us all.