From: Herald Sun 'Money' (2002)
How did you become involved in the public speaking industry?
In 1988 I was Head of Mathematics and Computer Science at one of Victoria's leading private schools. My wife and partner, through a friend of hers, was introduced to Joan Saxton. (Joan founded the first public speaking bureau in Australia in 1965.) Joan was interested in selling the Bureau, and our background in technology, management and public speaking made it a very attractive proposition. From very modest beginnings turn over has increased by over 3000% in 10 years.
What is your day to day role?
Overseeing the running of the Bureau which involves negotiating speaking and endorsement contracts, liaising with speakers and clients, and all the usual day to day business operations including financial activities.
What makes a good public speaker?
There is no simple formula for this, but certainly a speaker must have "earned the right to speak" ie. he or she must be credible as a result usually of some extraordinary achievment in business, sport or some other field that can provide lessons for conference delegates. He or she must have good communication skills and humour is essential. Having said all that , however there is a certain indefinable bond between a good public speaker and the audience which only manifests itself when that speaker stands behind the lectern.
Is it essential to be a celebrity?
No - but it is essential to be an authority. (in finance, health, business or in some other area of life). A good public speaker has the power to change the lives of the people listening and that is usually borne of their own achievement.
Can the average person aspire to a public speaking career?
I think every person should aspire to improving their public speaking skills and I believe that public speaking should be taught in schools - it is a most valuable life skill. To become a professional speaker, however, is a huge challenge. A few are successful by simply being great communicators but the vast majority are achievers who can by way of the spoken word help others to emulate them in some way.
Is there a standard speaking fee?
There is no standard fee. The fee depends upon celebrity status, skills as a speaker, and the normal market forces that occur in business. Fees in Australia can vary from $1000 to $15000 and these fees are very much an investment. If you consider 1000 people in a room for one hour - there are 1000 hours or 25 working weeks on the line - if you have a critical message to get across then a high quality speaker may be the best invesment that you ever make.
Who are Australia's best public speakers and can you give us an idea of how much they would make?
When referring to Australia's best public speakers there are a number who come to mind... business icons James Strong, Rod McGeoch and Bob Savage, media legend Alan Jones and, from political backgrounds Dr Barry Jones, Rt Hon David Lange, Graham Richardson and Hon Gough Whitlam. The role of MC is critical in the corporate world and I would look at Peter Couchman and Richard Morecroft as being at he top of the tree. Speaking is a small part of their financial makeup but suffice to say that for speakers of this calibre no one suggests that the investment is too high.
Are you a good public speaker?
I have been told that I am, and I certainly work very hard at it. There is an excitement about delivering a good speech and I believe that's why a lot of leading Australians speak who don't need to.
What was your biggest career break?
Purchasing the Saxton Bureau in 1988.
If you lost all your money, how would you make it back again?
There are always opportunities appearing - the real skill is to pick the right one - if you can make money once you can do it again. You don't lose the skills that you have aquired - you have to find another situation to use those skills
What job would you like to do for a day?
I'm a frustrated classical guitarist - I'd like to be an elite musician in the vein of John Williams or Julian Bream.
What was your best investment?
A wedding ring in 1976 for my wife and long time business partner, Nanette.
What do you like to waste money on?
I enjoy fine food and wine but I would probably call those investments.
What is the happiest experience money has brought you?
While money is essential, time is the ultimate currency. Time with my family brings me most happiness.
The most disappointing?
I don't believe that money in itself creates disappointments. Money brings you opportunities to make decisions. I've made some, that in retrospect, were poor but that is business and life and you simply have to draw a line in the sand and move on.
If you could buy yourself a skill, talent or physical change what would it be?
I'd become the world's best cricket coach, move to England and arrange to have the English Team win a test series.
What has been your most satisfying achievement to date?
Growing a business to be the best in its field - in fact, the largest outside the United States and the sixth largest in the world. It was particularly satisfying to aquire our biggest competitor bureau in 1996 (Harry M Miller 's Speaker's Bureau). Money aside there is a satisfaction that comes from building on a heritage and simply doing something better than everyone else can - and everyone can do that.
How would you invest, or would you spend $1000?
Dinner and a night at a concert with my family.
How would you invest, or would you spend $10,000?
Relatively low risk shares - I've become older and wiser.
How would you invest, or would you spend $100,000?
In some form of property development.
Before you had the money to buy it, what did you really want? Did you get it? Was getting it as good as you had expected?
I enjoy travelling and seeing new places and it is certainly as good as expected.
What has been the key to your success?
The most important ingredient in success is people - primarily my wife Nanette and family and having a world class team working with me (speakers, the Saxton team and clients). Choose the right people and your success is almost guaranteed. You can spend your life studying business , installing the latest technology etc... but whatever your criteria for success - it all boils down to people in the end.
What would you like to do that you haven't done yet?
Climb Mt Kilamanjaro.
Finish this sentence - "If I had the money, I'd like to...
I am not driven by money and more money would not change what I do - I would like to make some impression on some of the inequalities that exist in our society.
"Always a pleasure to work with the Saxton's team. I think the service is outstanding."
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