We talk to Alison Edgar MBE, performance and communications speaker.

18th Jan 2024

Alison Edgar MBE, performance and communications speaker chats with Jane Farnham, Director of Great British Speakers.

We talk to best-selling author and performance and communications speaker Alison Edgar MBE to learn some of her best entrepreneurship and business secrets!

Alison Edgar MBE is a distinguished authority in elevating organizational performance. With a wealth of experience advising entrepreneurial ventures, she has meticulously dissected the key elements contributing to their success. Alison adeptly translates these insights to large corporations, enriching their culture with heightened motivation, enhanced communication, and increased agility. Renowned for her pragmatic tools that teams can promptly implement, she is equally celebrated for the pioneering and enduring impact she imparts on audiences.

In recognition of her contributions to entrepreneurship and business, Alison Edgar was honored with an MBE on the Queen’s Birthday Honors list in 2020, standing as one of the few women to receive such recognition. Accumulating over 25 years of corporate expertise, she has mentored some of the globe’s foremost entrepreneurs, ranging from startups to enterprises with multimillion-pound turnovers.

Despite being dyslexic, Alison is the accomplished author of two international best-selling books, demonstrating a remarkable equilibrium in enhancing readers’ personal and professional development. Her debut book not only secured a position in the WHSmith Top Ten Business Books but also earned recognition as one of the top business books authored by a woman in 2019, according to The Independent newspaper.

A highly sought-after media contributor, Alison Edgar MBE has recently taken on the role of boardroom advisor for an upcoming business TV show set to launch on Amazon Prime UK & US in spring 2023. Her multifaceted expertise continues to leave an indelible mark on the realms of performance and communications.

Contact Great British Speakers today to book breathwork speaker Alison Edgar MBE for your next event.

Here’s the full transcript of performance and communications speaker Alison Edgar MBE’s chat with Jane Farnham of Great British Speakers:

00:00:00:16 – 00:00:09:58
Jane Farnham
Hi, I’m Jane Farnham from Great British Speakers and I’m here today chatting with the amazing motivational speaker, Allison Edgar. Hi, Allison. Thanks for doing this. How are you?

00:00:10:03 – 00:00:13:12
Alison Edgar
Oh, top of the world. Jane, Thank you so much for having me.

00:00:13:15 – 00:00:33:40
Jane Farnham
Oh, no, it’s our pleasure. I love getting to know our speakers because it really helps with the whole process. So before we actually get into speaking itself, could you tell me a little bit about your early life? Because I know you have quite a highly relatable, relatable career in the corporate world. So tell us a little bit about that and how before you got started in speaking.

00:00:33:45 – 00:02:21:45
Alison Edgar
Yeah. So I think that’s one of the things that I do when I work with audiences. They can relate to me because my background originally. So back in the day I started off in hospitality, which I think is what I call a lot of my skills from around people and really understanding teamwork at its peak. Because in hospitality it’s imperative, because everything happens in real time. And then after hospitality, I went to work for BT. So my background originally was corporate sales, and I worked in one of the very first call centers, business to business that opened and it was in Motherwell in Scotland. And then I went on to work for Derek Bear’s the coffee Company, and then spent 15 years working for Yellow Peaches. So I think it was lessons that I learned. And obviously during that time I had a lot of speakers and and they’ve done amazing things in Client Mountain’s One Olympics. You know, they’ve been to the North Pole, they’ve survived all these real huge traumas. But when I hear a speaker like that, I was always slightly like, Well, that’s really great for them, but how does that affect me? And my life? They don’t really understand what I’m going through on a daily basis. And I think that’s, you know, one of the things that does help me to work with those audiences that I get a you know, I know how department silo firsthand. I know how like when you’re not feeling like great love for a colleague who affects your mental health and coming up and how you show up at work. So I think that’s why again I tend to get back in the speaking arena is because four years of war, the shoes of the audience. So, you know, I really understand what they’re going through on a daily basis.

00:02:21:50 – 00:02:28:10
Jane Farnham
So have you always worked in the corporate arena, has always been very structured for you, or did you manage to break away from that?

00:02:28:15 – 00:03:25:45
Alison Edgar
Originally I worked in a family hotel, so I think for me that’s where the small business angle that Sweden started. And again, I think really looking at the imperative ness of how you focus on turnover and cash flow and the business side is something that I think stemmed from there. And then the other things to sort of bear in mind, although I was working in corporate specifically for T and for Yellow Pages, actually a lot of our customers were small businesses. So that was I sort of had combined the knowledge of big business and small business and I think that’s the other thing that, you know, a lot of people don’t have that experience of coming from both sides of the coin in business. And I think that’s where my knowledge level comes from, being around small businesses for 25 years as well as working in a big business. So I think that’s the level of understanding comes from there.

00:03:25:49 – 00:03:37:21
Jane Farnham
Really valuable experience. So I hear that you were awarded an MBA in 2020. Tell me how that happened and how that came about and what the experience was like.

00:03:37:26 – 00:04:24:59
Alison Edgar
Oh, Jane, I still have to pinch myself. Like, I’ve got goosebumps just to see that because that so one of the things that was on the 2020 honors list, so it was from Early Queen, which is like really special to me. And it’s for entrepreneurship and business services to entrepreneurship business. And obviously I love business like so to get some sort of recognition for something that you love so much was just incredible. And I just like the day that it came in. So it was during that period. We were right in the second boot smash it. The Art of Getting what you want some more in a personal development space. So a little bit more history. I’m dyslexic. I only realized in later life. So how does that work?

00:04:24:59 – 00:04:35:02
Jane Farnham
I mean, dyslexia and writing books, but not any book. Two books for the bestselling books. Yeah, I know. Yeah. That naturally. But to do elaborate. Yeah.

00:04:35:08 – 00:07:41:06
Alison Edgar
So I think and I think again this is the other thing that meets it will lead to a lot the audiences because we hold ourselves back And honestly I kid you not Jane. For 50 years I hid behind dyslexia as a crutch. Oh, I can’t do that. I’m not clever enough. I can’t spell. I can’t read, I can write. And then really, like one day I said, like, this is a this is not excusable. Like you’re just like creating this pathway for yourself that you can’t follow. Change your mindset, you can read, you can write, you can do it. And so like when I stand on a stage and talk about mindset, change, all these kind of things, I’m not just talking from. CV Yeah, there’s a lot of feedback behind it, but actually it’s how I’ve done it in my own life, which again is relatable to the audience because they may want to write a book or you know, what they might even want to do coach to five Key. So it’s all those kind of things that they can go, Yeah, she can do it. So can I. So the first thing I did was write a blog. So I wrote this blog and it’s called Sales. And marketing is like golf. And it’s how I explain have sales and marketing departments work together and have all say it’s up to the ground to put the ball in the team, hitting the ball in the hole and stuff like that. And I put only ten and my team had check tip, but they don’t, you know, they check it for grammar errors rather than content hers or whatever because I a lot of the stuff I speak from my heart, my passion. Anyway, that’s what a blog went a bit mad that people loved it and they want that’s really relatable. And I think this is again with the dyslexia. I used it as a weakness for years, but actually I’m really creative and I can translate things that are quite confusing and so language that other people can relate to, and that’s where they go, Oh yeah, I understand that now. I didn’t really understand that before. So the book’s sort of the first one and it’s scary coming out of your comfort zone as scary. And there was this paranoia that I had like the catastrophizing, Oh, what happens if I write this and nobody reads that? Oh, but I was if they read it and they think it’s rubbish that I can write and it’s the things that, you know, when you do things differently that it does, you know, you’re holding yourself back. So I suck to put the book out there. It was a number one around the world. They’ve translated it into Danish. It was a W Smith top ten business speak. It was voted by the Independent, one of the top business books written by a women in 2019. So again, if you don’t go out your comfort zone to do things, you never experience that magic. And and again, I think coming from a sales background, another thing that you know, I’ve had to work hard throughout my life is that fear of rejection, overcoming rejection and really focusing on the things that I can control, not what other people think about me or what I write. So and again, I think that’s something that India audiences and corporate audiences, you know, there are a lot of people who are really struggling with sort of.

00:07:41:11 – 00:08:37:45
Jane Farnham
You know, sports people or people who have had these great achievements. And, you know, they talk about resilience, but this resilience in everyday living, you know, and it’s don’t ability you know, I worked as a presenter for 20 years. I mean, I’ve got a folder upstairs. Copy that. Thick of rejection letters, you know, from every walk of life, people, you know, I mean, you just I look at them and I kind of go and I still kept going. I still worked at a really successful career for 20 years. And, you know, it’s it’s not that well, I call it back to back ability because I just think you’re able to you might fall for a little while 24 hours. It’s the ability to get back up on your feet go right. Okay. Well that’s today’s a different day. I’m going to do this and it’s little baby steps. And those are relatable and you have that. So then it’s relatable to the audience rather than climbing a mountain, which not many people do, is amazing news. And it’s like heroic is the essence.

00:08:37:49 – 00:09:43:01
Alison Edgar
Yeah, I love what you just said there too, about that. It takes a while to get over that rejection, and I think that is time. Yeah. And I think sometimes people think, Oh, she’s the role model. She doesn’t suffer from that. I do. I just have to work really hard to not let it hold me back because it’s the same, you know, yourself from the, the, the industry in that, you know, you might be up against other bureaux who are putting other speakers forward and you’re not going to win them all. And the ones that you think, Oh, I got on really well with them. I definitely thought that that one was going to happen and that it would be some sort of form of feedback that you thought, Oh, I can’t believe that I was. I really wanted that. But again, it’s it’s the length of time you allow to fester, because sometimes people feasted on that for a long time and they’re not then, you know, pushing themselves forward to to be able to find the next one because they’re still harbored in on the one that they’ve lost. And I think it’s not know, it’s the grief cycle really, isn’t it? And it’s how long does it take you to get back through?

00:09:43:06 – 00:10:26:44
Jane Farnham
But then when they talk, we don’t talk. They’re always as children. I mean, this is just you know, I’ve got three young boys and I just think every day all I want to teach them life skills and tools. And I don’t think I was aware of when I was brought up by my parents, bless them. I mean, they just didn’t they weren’t aware of them themselves. I mean, you just see that ability to get back on your feet and, you know, every single day is not going to be easy. But it’s, you know, working through that and working hard and maintaining your integrity throughout it all, because I do kind of believe in a bit of karma as well. So you then moved into a little bit of media, didn’t you tell me about your media career?

00:10:26:49 – 00:14:06:47
Alison Edgar
Yeah. So sort of bizarre. These things just happened and no coming back. This is all sort of happened in about the same time as the first book, and it kind of created just a little bit of a pause. And I think, you know, from a brand and perspective, from a personal brand perspective, like I’m I do see your stuff on LinkedIn. I’m very getting the press releases. I’m good to the profile. But again, a lot of that comes back to purpose. You know, Jane, that so to me, I do want to be famous, right? So I don’t want to be on like I’m a celebrity or any reality TV show because that’s that’s not the direction I come from. I come from the business space. But the thing with it is, you know, the second big smash hit, The Art of Getting what You Want is more in the personal development space. And honestly, people that arrange it, they love it. It’s changed people’s lives and I don’t take that lightly or jokingly, but that’s the feedback that I get. So it’s but if people don’t know who I am, I can’t help them. So it’s my duty to be in the media so that my profile is raised, so that people are aware of what I do and the books and so that can help them. So the first sort of break, for lack of a better word, was a few years ago and BBC Breakfast were running. It was when Steph McGovern was still doing the business talks and they were running a little session in Bristol around politics and government things and they were reluctant to speak to small business owners, which I am. So they kind of signed me because I’ve won an awards in Bristol. And then I did this thing on the media and they said, Oh, you kids, can you come back? And I’m like, Yeah, when do you want me? Here’s my diary. And I came from your media background and that’s where you know, if it’s opportunities they are you just let’s at least say yes and you make the things happen around it. So I went up to sulfur and did a session up there and then I ended up there. I managed to then go on another sofa with just me and Dan Walker and I think staff. And again, I was like one of the experts in that field. So and again, I think it’s about building your resume. Isn’t that, you know, from your media background that, you know, once you’ve got a few little blocks and you’ve got evidence and I think this is a thing a lot of people sort of talk the talk, but you do walk the walk, whereas when you’ve got your media walk the walk, people can find it easy to find on Google. And then sort of as a result of that, you know, I’ve done GMB, I’ve done the Scottish version of Question Time and I’ve just done a new Amazon Prime shows from the business mentor on Steam business mentor for the show and I’ve got another shoe and latterly I had a cold with ITV studios yesterday. I, fingers crossed will be commissioned and pilot be commissioned for a prime time shoe but I’ll be the business adviser in helping the participants in the show. Can’t see too much because it still runs are a bit of a wrap. But yeah and I think you know that’s that’s the stuff that I don’t really want to be a media person. But you know, from the speaking perspective, Jane, like you will get requests coming in. Can I have and you’ll know the names. I’m not going to see them for A, B, C or D because they’ve seen them on some of the high profile business shows or the high profile shows, and it creates a demand. So again, that’s the thing. Like if you really believe in what you do and I know I’m a great speaker, I know I get great results, but the audience that it comes back to, that it’s my duty to do that so that I can help people.

00:14:06:52 – 00:14:28:36
Jane Farnham
But I mean, also, you know, if it’s something that you enjoy do and you genuinely helping people, then of, you know, obviously you going to do it. But I mean, particularly to you know, the tenacious person that you are, you naturally gravitate towards things like that anyway. But let’s talk about your speaking for a moment then, because that’s what we’re here to discuss. And tell me about some of the topics, the three play, three topics that you cover.

00:14:28:40 – 00:17:48:43
Alison Edgar
So I would say the one that’s most in demand is around in shops in your ship. So how this sort of came about, I’m known as the entrepreneurs go to mother, right? So that’s going to work with small businesses. We know me as the entrepreneurs go to mother and what I did was I had been approached from a large retailer and they said, look, can you like do a talk for our team around improving customer service? And honestly, I think, oh, sometimes the customer service stuff can get quite preachy, it can get quite dull. You know, it’s and I think as you know, it’s about China engage as many of the audience members as possible. And sometimes that really does work with the title. If they say oh it’s I’m just coming in to talk about customer service, like part of the audience are going to be great. Customer service is great. I don’t really need somebody to talk to me about that. And you’ve lost some of the audience before you even jump on the stage. So when I looked at the customer service perspective, I mean, I did all the research, so I did lose the research on, well, what do the top performers do? So what did the top performers do when it comes to customer service, when it comes to sales, when it comes to productivity? And the main thing that I came up with based again, on my own experience and working with other people was they always felt like it was their own business. They always felt that although they were employed, it felt like really personal, like it was they were running their own business. So when I did the research on that, this is what I came up with in shop inertia. And I thought, Oh, I like that because it really floors. It makes me the expert in the field because it flows between entrepreneurship and entrepreneurialism. But I was shocked, really shocked to find out the original white paper on Inch shop Inertia, which was written by Gifford Pinchot. This part was written in 1978. And yet if you were to do a pool of people to see, like, have you heard of their ship or how much do you know about it, it would be so low. So again, when it brings through all the aspects of mindset, So I saw a theme around what would you do if it was your first day? So you know yourself when you start a new job, when the first year excited, you know, you’re all like, Glad you’re ready. But when you’ve been in the job for 1001 days, sometimes that enthusiasm yields. So we look at how you change your mindset, but also around change, because one of the things large organizations and all organizations are really it changes is ongoing. It always has been there, but I think corporate has heightened or speeded up the pace of change. And yet you will have people in organizations who are petrified. So I talk about metaphysical phobia and how you overcome that. So that sort of fits into the first section. And then the second thing again, based on the research, looking at how teams bond and this is are again, having worked in big organizations like I’ve seen firsthand the BEC here in this silo when the.

00:17:48:48 – 00:17:50:16
Jane Farnham
Fed for all aspects of.

00:17:50:31 – 00:17:54:54
Alison Edgar
All of that stuff.

00:17:54:59 – 00:17:59:16
Jane Farnham
And I’ve never really worked in a corporate environment but.

00:17:59:29 – 00:19:50:44
Alison Edgar
I think what I always managed to do was kind of keep my head above the water and not get involved in too much of that and always bonded really well with most people in the team and most of the customers, you know. So a lot of that comes back to the desk methodology. So again, around the had had some people of task focused on the people a relationship, some people into other people an extrovert and really that self awareness piece but also how do you really create a brilliant high performing team to get the right players. So that’s just a second part. And then the third part, which I really absolutely love, is what would you do if it was your business and I think again, the research showed that a lot of people blame time. Oh, I don’t have time for this. I’m too busy. I can’t work, you know, the whole tune of time to communicate with this person. But time is the biggest commodity that we have. You know, people think it’s cash, but it’s not because the toll is one thing specifically. Life is short and time is precious. And really maximizing what you get in a day is is so important. So we look at I took the Eisenhower fortune, which is argent important for arts. And again, as a dyslexic, I find that really complicated. How do I explain to other people, this is such an important stuff? So I’ve translated into Alison Edgar’s big bowls. So I talk about basketballs, tennis balls and ping pong balls, and how do you manage your time in the right order? Because again, coming back to the cross of how we behave, we do the things we like to do fast. So again, like, you know, we’ve just been taught and so we could talk all day, but then we need to do.

00:19:50:49 – 00:20:24:54
Jane Farnham
Something else that’s I do. I sit here and I go, Oh, well, I’ll do that this morning, and then I’ll do that later on. And yes, it’s ordering the things that are the priority and the real, you know, important tools that can help you. Software tools that can help you with that. Yeah. Hearing throughout as you’re talking, there’s obviously lots of key takeaways that you’re giving to an audience. What the best takeaway is for an audience that you were talking to about entrepreneurialism.

00:20:24:59 – 00:23:25:59
Alison Edgar
So we usually end on sort of three takeaways sort of spread throughout the talk and then summarize it at the end. So the first one is when we talk about entropy in your ship, I actually introduce one of my actually heroes. I’m reading his because I’m listening to his book and his name is Tony Video. And Tony for Dale was actually an employee of Apple, and Zeke invented him and his team not just have the Apple iPod. So the iPod obviously then evolved to the iPhone and changed the way we think. But we associate with Steve Jobs, who’s the entrepreneur, but actually Tony Fidel’s the enterprise nurse. So one of the takeaways is think like Tony today, like think outside the box and try and do things differently. Think like it should do in business. And then the second one comes back to desk. And if you look at like most people were brought up to treat other people how they want to be treated, and I genuinely believe that you should treat people with respect and value. But when it comes to behaviors, don’t treat them how they want to be treated behaviorally. If you think about the piece, the tone, how you address people, you know, those kind of things is what makes a great team when you understand that. And then the third thing comes back to literally time and that, you know, time is precious. And if you use Alison across big balls, not only does it give you more time, but it helps the communication because, you know, coming back to one of the challenges, you know this from the research in a lot of it is breakdown in communication departments are siloed and it comes back to the disparity of the balls. So like, you might need to give somebody some piece of information for a report and you need to get that done. Maybe you’re going on holiday, that’s your basketball. But somebody somewhere in the organization has not given you the information you need. And they’re treating your basketball as a ping pong ball and that’s where the communication breaks down. So when they start and it’s I’ve been watching with more Hennessy so obviously one of the biggest brands in the luxury market. And now they talk about Alison, it is fake phones, which is hilarious because I’m thinking, oh, they think going to like that, they’re going to get it and it’s changing the game for them as far as communication goes. So I think I usually stick to three. But as you well know, Jane, it depends on the brief of the client. And I think this is where the bass speakers are really, really good at. T letting the delivery and the takeaways to the brief rather than just telling their story in the way that they want to tell it. Because that’s where I think sometimes the impact gets lost, that it’s not anti-LGBT as much and not using the same phrases that the organization does. So I think the reason that the feedback that I get is so good, it’s not really just about what happens on the stage on the day. It’s about what’s happened in advance so that we know that there’s no surprises on stage and we’re really making that impact for the audience.

00:23:26:04 – 00:23:43:21
Jane Farnham
Well, you know, I can see what applause you get from speaking. And it’s a pleasure to have you on the great British speakers. And I’m really looking forward to kind of putting you in front of my clients because, yeah, I think you’ve got lots to offer. So, Alison, thank you so much for your time. It’s been so inspiring. I do appreciate it all.

00:23:43:21 – 00:23:46:33
Alison Edgar
Thank you so much for having me, Jane. Literally, I have loved it.

00:23:46:33 – 00:24:01:21
Jane Farnham
Thank you. Well, we’ll get this podcast out soon, but if you’d like to book Alison and get your your team super motivated, then simply contact myself or Steve at Great British Speakers on 01753439289 or you can email bookings at bookings@greatbritishtalent.com.

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Alison Edgar MBE, performance and communications speaker at Great British Speakers

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