Are you the next Speaker Factor Winner?

21st May 2024 | By David Duffett

Are you the next Speaker Factor Winner?

Are you thinking of entering Speaker Factor 2024? Read the inspirational journey of David Duffett, from PSA new boy to winner of Speaker Factor 2023. All the encouragement you need is below. 

About a year ago, Paul Lloyd, a friend from the MSP (Managed Service Provider) Sales world, suggested I attend a PSA meeting.

I had not considered attending a meeting for speakers and aspiring speakers for many years, following a single visit to a Toastmasters meeting a long time ago. While I realise that many people enjoy and get value from Toastmasters, the meeting I attended did not resonate with me enough to want to go back.

Paul suggested the Thames Valley PSA meeting and even connected me with a couple of the people he knew there, Duncan Bhaskaran Brown and Fiona Brennan-Scott (by the way, not everyone at the TV PSA has long names!).

My first meeting was in April, and I was enthusiastically welcomed by everyone I met, Mark Lee and Tony K Silver being amongst the first.

In addition to the warm welcome, everyone seemed keen to help each other on their speaking journey, which was great.

The talks given at the meeting were helpful in terms of watching other speakers speak, but more than that, the content of the talks was not only relevant to me as a speaker but also full of useful, actionable information.

I was hooked!

I joined the PSA as an Associate and attended all the following TV meetings in 2023.

[Temporarily moving to Brazil in January, from where I am writing this, and returning to the UK in May, makes attending UK meetings in person more difficult!]

Almost immediately, the Speaker Factor contest was mentioned, and Lara Lauder (TV RP at the time) and others positively encouraged me to participate.

Competitive speaking was not something I had considered, but as pretty much all my speaking/training experience until then had been within the world of technical conferences and events, the thought of ‘benchmarking’ my speaking abilities against people from all walks of life appealed to me.

I began to think about Speaker Factor, and several handy things fell into place in the weeks before the Thames Valley heat of the contest at the July meeting.

First, I had been asked to MC/moderate a conference track at CommCon (a conference for people involved in the technical side of RealTime Communications systems – voice, video, data) in June. On the afternoon of the last day, there was a lightning talk session during which anyone could apply to deliver a 6-minute talk. I thought it would be a good idea to try to help the audience up their presentation skills game by doing a talk on how they could enhance their careers by being a ‘Geek that could speak’. I delivered the short talk, and it seemed to go down well—to the extent that I began to think about how I could take its bones and transmogrify them into my Speaker Factor entry.

Second, I received an email invite from the wonderful Michelle Mill-Porter to an in-person New Members Day on Friday, July 7th, in Birmingham.

This was an excellent opportunity to learn more about the PSA and meet other new members, so I booked a place and attended. It was a great day, meeting new people, and Michelle shared lots of helpful information about many aspects of the PSA. When she got on to Speaker Factor, she mentioned that if people were interested, they should go to the London PSA meeting the very next day, as their regional heat would be happening then.

So, I did just that and received another hearty welcome! Watching the Speaker Factor heat there was immensely instructional for someone who had never witnessed such an event. It gave me an understanding of how the contest was run, the approach other speakers were taking, and the way the judging worked. Jeremy Cox was announced as the London region winner.

The day of the Thames Valley SF heat came, and I had been refining and practising my talk out loud against the clock quite a lot, but at this point, I had yet to deliver it to a live audience.

The judges at TV were Chantal Cornelius, David Abbott, and Derek Williams, and the contest was the first thing on the agenda. Three contestants were in the 2023 TV Speaker Factor heat, and after the talks were given, the judges retired to consider their verdict.

I was honoured and humbled to be declared the TV winner later that evening.

Although the win was a memorable occasion, I also remember the excellent talks from Derek Williams (Secrets of Winning Repeat Business for a Professional Speaker) and David Abbott (How to Price Your Platypus).

In the days following the contest, all three judges were gracious and generous with their time, giving me feedback on my talk and what they thought was needed to make it a national-winning speech.

Hilary Briggs (2022 National Winner) and Chantal Cornelius also gave helpful advice and suggestions. Even wardrobe advice!

I was serious about doing my best for the National contest and engaged with Fiona Scott-Brennan to work on my vocal delivery and, as it turned out, my stagecraft. Hilary Briggs had worked with Fiona the previous year, so I knew I was in good hands!

Putting together and optimising a targeted, coherent talk that lasts precisely five minutes is quite a task – so I was grateful for all the helpful advice I received.

August seemed to fly by, and it included another MC assignment at a Communications Tech conference in Chicago. In September, the TV PSA kindly allowed me to deliver a practice version of my SF entry at the meeting to get feedback from those present. This was very useful and provided pointers for further optimisation.

The lovely Yvonne Emery was in charge of running the Speaker Factor semi-final and final contests at the Speaking Business Summit in Solihull. She created a WhatsApp group for all of the regional winners to join so that she could brief us on what to expect and provide the kind of loving support that Yvonne does.

The Speaking Business Summit came around quickly, and I found myself in Solihull on Friday, 13th October, for day 1. This included two rounds of semi-finals, each having six of the twelve regional winners deliver their speeches to a room full of conference attendees and three judges (Charlotte Kemp, Susan Heaton-Wright, and Simon Zutshi).

These sessions ran in parallel with some of the other conference tracks, and it was very encouraging that so many people chose to come and support the competing speakers.

It was over by 1:00 pm, and the finalists were announced soon afterwards.
I understand that generally, four finalists are chosen. Still, on this occasion, ‘the standard was so high…’ that five finalists were selected to go through and deliver their speeches in front of the whole conference on the main stage, and of course, to the judges.

The ultimate winner was announced at the Gala Dinner that evening.
When the time came, all 12 regional winners were called up to the stage to recognize their achievement in making it to the semi-final and for a photo opportunity. Seven then left the stage, leaving the five semi-finalists. The National winner was then announced.

To my surprise and delight, it was me!

I had been genuinely ready to congratulate any of the five finalists, as I could see merit in each speech and each speaker. Everyone seemed to feel that way, as comments like “I don’t envy the judges this year” had been heard amongst the conference delegates.

Of course, I was pleased to be judged the winner, and I knew that behind the scenes, I had put in the work and focused on the goal. I am sure the other finalists had, too…

I’m incredibly grateful to Charlotte, Susan, and Simon for agreeing to be the judges in 2023 and—of course—for their judgment!

The prize consisted of a framed certificate, a cut glass trophy, and a 15-minute speaking slot on the main stage at the 2024 Speaking Business Summit, which will be held at a great venue in the Cotswolds.

My fellow finalists were very gracious, and two of them (Kevin Quantum, the Magician and Chris Cook, double Olympian) made introductions to people that led to speaking opportunities.

Soon after winning Speaker Factor, I completed the application to become a Professional Member of the PSA. This allows me to use the PSA logo in my communications and deliver 20-minute showcases around the regions.

The application was quite demanding, requiring details of previous speaking engagements and revenue from paid speaking gigs, along with proposals and seconding by current PSA members (Professionals or Fellows) in good standing. My application was approved on November 13th, 2023.

Knowing I was heading out to Brazil at the year’s end, I fit in three showcases before Christmas! Each of these opportunities netted valuable feedback.

I was blessed to be invited to moderate some technical Panel Sessions at the IT Expo Conference and Trade Show in Fort Lauderdale and to host/MC a corporate event in Miami in mid-February.

Coming from the Telecoms sector, where some of the ‘industry awards’ are effectively bought by companies that pay to enter certain categories, I was a bit circumspect about announcing that I am an ‘Award-winning Speaker’, however I found that conference organisers do like to mention it if you are speaking for them.

As I look forward to coming back to the UK in May, showcases in various regions are being added to the diary, along with other speaking opportunities.

I’m very grateful for my PSA journey so far, and I would like to thank everyone in the organisation who has been so kind and encouraging, from the Board and the excellent HQ people to the regional committee members and monthly participants.

If you are an Associate Member reading this and wondering whether to enter Speaker Factor 2024, I would thoroughly encourage you to do so. I am sure everyone who took part got lots of positives out of it, as well as the opportunity to give their speech on several occasions.

It has been heart-warming to see the progress that so many of my co-competitors are making on their speaking journeys, too—and the PSA is precisely the right place to be on that journey.

Looking back at everything that’s happened since April 2023, I’m filled with gratitude and feel very blessed to be part of the PSA.

Join the community

Be part of a thriving community of business leaders and professional speakers

Reasons to join the PSA

  • Supportive community
  • Learn from others
  • Join an one of our 15 regional centres
  • Meet like minded people
Read more