This Months spotlight is Simon Bucknall. Brought up in the Middle East. Simon is a renowned Public Speaking Expert, twice winner of the Toastmasters UK & Ireland Championship of Public Speaking and 2008 winner of the JCI Europe Public Speaking Championship, and 2011 finalist of Business Speaker of the year.
1. Tell us about you, your experience and time in the Middle East.
The call to prayer, desert mountain peaks and the skyscrapers of Jeddah – these are some of my earliest childhood memories, having spent much of the 1980s living in Saudi Arabia.
Since 2002, my parents have lived in Dubai, where my father is a doctor at one of the hospitals, so the Middle East has been part of my life for almost as long as I can remember. Even in the years since my parents moved to Dubai, the pace and scale of change is simply staggering…
2. Give us a brief snapshot of your business
Too many audience wish they were somewhere else – especially when I comes to business presentations. We held our clients to be more influential and inspiring through the spoken word.
2. How would you describe the culture of your business?
Entrepreneurial! We founded the business in August 2008 – right at the point in which the ‘Credit Crunch’ bit – so it’s been quite a ride. For any new venture, adaptability is key. You often hear people talk about the importance of having a clear plan and then executing that strategy. But in my experience, there’s a lot to be said for a strategy of: ‘shoot, ready, aim!’ In other words, take action and try things without getting too caught up in the strategy. Strategies can always be adapted but there’s no substitute for actually making something happen – especially when it comes to growing a business.
For that reason, we’ve experimented by working with a very broad range of clients – from corporate executives to politicians, from Best Men at weddings, to MBAs and PhD engineers at university.
3. What are your biggest challenges in the next 5 years?
Striking the right balance between continuing to scale the business while preserving the quality of service for our clients – especially for our live events where everything depends on the connection between the audience/group and the speaker/facilitator/coach.
5. What skills and competencies do you feel are important in meeting the region’s talent requirements?
In this region, personal relationships count for a great deal. And if you think about it, face-to-face encounters – be it in the form of a conversation, a business meeting or a presentation – are a vital ingredient in developing those relationships. After all, we have to talk to each other!
Yet despite this, from a professional point of view, an individual’s ability to speak is too often taken for granted. In other words, we assume that an individual’s existing quality of spoken communication is fixed. We label people as being engaging… or not; charismatic… or not; clear-thinking… or not; succinct… or not.
In my experience, a person’s capacity to be engaging, influential or inspiring is a skill like any other – and it can be developed and improved. You might expect me to say this, but it’s true!
In this region, information is a commodity. What is at a premium is an individual’s ability to process that information and convey it in a meaningful and high-value way to other people. Those people may be colleagues, clients, customers or even members of the public.
But for the Gulf Region to fulfil its potential – in employment, leadership and through inter-dependency with the global economy – confident, quality spoken communication is key.