Stirring speeches can ‘change lives’
Paula Beauchamp | Herald Sun, October 5, 2016
In the late 1980s, the entrepreneurial urge was awakening in Melbourne school teachers Winston Broadbent and Nanette Moulton.
The pair loved their jobs but were eager for a new challenge.
The mother of a colleague was looking to sell her business, Saxton Speakers Bureau, which she ran from home using a Collins diary.
Former governor-general Sir Zelman Cowan was on her books.
The pair had found their perfect fit – bringing their cutting-edge technology and communication skills from the classroom to the boardroom.
“We bought the business not even knowing what the word corporate meant,” Ms Moulton laughs.
“It was a steep learning curve, but we had the skills we needed.
Good communication skills are essential in this job and they are important for teachers too.”
Over the 28 years, Saxton established itself as the biggest speakers’ bureau in the Southern Hemisphere and a major industry world player.
It became one of Australia’s first business to launch a website and now employs 38 staff, including employees with 15 and 25 years’ service.
Equally impressive is Saxton’s stable of speakers, which includes Ita Buttrose, Layne Beachley and Gill Hicks.
Right from the start, the pair pledged to offer only speakers of substance, people who had achieved in life and wanted to share their experience and inspire others to greatness.
“It is a lovely industry to work in,” Mr Broadbent said.
“When you spend 28 years talking to all of these generous people, it’s an enormous privilege.”
Over the years, Mr Broadbent said the importance of, and demand for, speaking engagements has continued to grow.
“You really can’t compete with the power of a live presenter and the spoken word,” he said.
“When you go to a conference, what sticks in your mind is the speaker. It’s so important to get that right.”
The pair had no idea of the potential scale of their business when they started. Two years of positive growth seemed miraculous in the beginning but success has grown year after year.
Mr Broadbent said there was a lot on the line each time a presenter spoke.
Gathering 1000 employees in a room for an hour equates to multiple working weeks.
“It often costs less than the dessert, but it’s important to get it right because it can be so powerful,” he said.
“It can change lives.”
Bryce Courtney was one Saxton speaker who came with a “warning”.
Typically, at least two people in the audience would quit their jobs after listening to the esteemed novelist speak, spurred to follow their dreams.
Buttrose, who has been with Saxton since 1990, can deliver up to three speeches a week, but prefers to do one.
“In the beginning I was very nervous like most people, but the more you do, the more comfortable you feel,” she said.
“It’s like giving a performance and I did once hanger to be on the stage.”
Even though Buttrose has been delivering speeches for many years, she never gives one without researching and rehearsing it first.
“You owe it to the client,” she said. “If you rehearse, it is always better.”
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