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What Can We Learn From Our Peers?

A huge amount, is the simple answer, but of course, there’s a lot more to it. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people with similar values and vision has massive value, which is one of the reasons that I recently spent four days in Dublin attending the Global Speakers Summit hosted by the Professional Speaking Association (PSA), at the legendary Croke Park.

This was an opportunity for speakers from all over the world to come together and share ideas, make new contacts, and enjoy some quality social time over a pint of Guinness or two!

I’ve been a member of the PSA for nearly ten years and a member of the board for nearly a year and it’s been an amazing association to be a part of. I’ve been able to learn a massive amount from my new peers and have found a whole new group of friends.

Coming together at these annual events is so valuable for many reasons, which is probably why over 200 people spent four days together in Dublin. These are the five things I got from attending:


At the summit, we were able to enjoy numerous keynote speeches and workshops, all individually tailored to our industry. We could watch masters of our craft at work and see how they deliver award-winning content - there was a huge amount to learn from just watching and being in the room.

One of the features of the event is our annual “Speaker Factor” competition where emerging speakers deliver a 5-minute keynote on any subject they like.

They are then judged on their stagecraft, script, delivery, and bookability. I entered in 2014 and although I didn’t win, it was a great learning experience. The standard gets higher every year, so congratulations to every finalist this year, in particular the winner Hilary Briggs.

I’m very fortunate to belong to an incredibly supportive and creative mastermind group. Together we learn, grow and hold each other to account. Events like these are an opportunity to get together and compare notes, which also enhances our learning. There are five of us in our group and fortunately, David Abbot and Michelle Mills Porter were also in Dublin this year, so we made sure we were able to get some time to catch up and share insights.


At our awards evening, we celebrate individual achievements and acknowledge those who have contributed to our association, as well as the wider speaking community, over the previous year. This is also the time when we thank our outgoing National President, Dr. Lynda Shaw, who did such an amazing job over the last 18 months when there was so much turmoil in our industry.

We also welcomed our new National President, Nathan Littleton who announced his theme of “Just one thing”, which will be carried through the year at our events and regional meetings. It's an opportunity for us to refresh our perspectives, so again very valuable.

Talking of regional meetings, my responsibility on the PSA board is to look after our twelve Regional Presidents, who do such an incredible job running monthly meetings throughout the UK and Ireland. These meetings are the lifeblood of the association so it was great to be able to acknowledge their hard work over a meal and a few drinks.


Just being amongst people who are experts in what they do is so valuable. I call it learning by osmosis. It’s those conversations over coffee and lunch, sharing thoughts and ideas, where you gain so much. I’m a huge fan of Jim Rohn and this is a quote of his gets repeated many times:

I think it’s absolutely right, but according to research by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler the influence goes beyond your immediate circle of contacts to contacts of your contacts, so even more reason to attend this type of event.


It’s always good to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone, and for me, this was taking part in the annual comedy night. Is it daunting coming up with 5 minutes of brand-new material and delivering it for the first time in front of 200 of your peers?

You bet it is, but you learn so much from the experience and get that lovely feeling of achievement when you finish without completely embarrassing yourself!


I don’t think you can ever underestimate the power of friendship. I find you learn and gain as much from the social time being together as you do in the formal sessions of the event. It’s an opportunity to cement existing relationships, meet new colleagues, gain new insights, and discover opportunities for collaboration. If this can be over a Guinness or a walking tour of Dublin, then all the better.

As I look back at the 12 pages of notes I took, and start conversations with my new connections here on LinkedIn, I start to realise how much value the event was, and most of all, what I’ve been able to learn from my peers.

Whichever associations you belong to, I cannot recommend enough immersing yourself in the conferences and meet-ups – you’ll be glad you did because the value is simply huge.


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