Lessons in inspiration from the Stonewall Workplace Conference

Olly | 28 April 2017

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For the last five years, I’ve had the privilege of serving as a trustee of Stonewall, the charity that works tirelessly to advance LGBT equality in the UK and internationally.

Stonewall runs a plethora of events throughout the year, but the one I look forward to most is the Workplace Conference in London. The theme of the day is ‘people perform better when they can be themselves’ and the event brings together 800 trailblazers from the private, public and third sectors who are working to create truly inclusive workplaces. 

As well as learning from progressive organisations, the event is also an opportunity to see and study the art of inspiring communication – a subject very close to our hearts at Belong. 

So, whether you’re about to address hundreds of people, or just run a team meeting, here are three engagement principles I took from this year’s conference:

1. ‘Neutrality is not an option’
One reason that presenters at Stonewall’s Workplace Conference get such a good response is that they give people what they want from leaders: a sense of direction, a picture of the future and a challenge to rise to. Time and again during the day people made the point that for organisations to become inclusive they must take action. EY is an example of an organisation for whom ‘neutrality is not an option’ - check out this video about how they’re working within local laws to create an LGBT-inclusive culture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jfKjXLK0MA

2. Take a risk…and overshare
La-Chun Lindsay is the MD of GE Aviation in Wales. In her frank and funny keynote speech, she talked about a challenging moment in her career that became a major turning point in her life. It proved that if you want an audience to ‘lean in’, you need to make it personal and show some vulnerability. Later in the day, William Bush from the Premier League talked about the early days of his career at the GLC, and the struggles to get diversity on the political agenda. Again, by making it personal, he got the audiences to put down their iPhones and give him their full attention.

3. Roam the room
John Bercow MP was one of the final speakers and burst onto the stage in a blaze of energy. It was just what we needed after a long day of concentration. One simple reason he could be so engaging: he eschewed the podium and used a neck mic. This allowed him to rove around the stage, make full use of his body language and connect to everyone in the room. MPs do get rather a lot of practice in public speaking, but all the same, Bercow proved the point that podiums should really be a last resort.

If this has whetted your appetite to attend a Stonewall event, the next Workplace Conference is in Manchester on Friday 22 September 2017. Check out the details here: http://www.stonewall.org.uk/workplace-conference-manchester-2017

And you can find out more about Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme for employers here: http://www.stonewall.org.uk/dc