Interview: This Inspirational Speaker Is Full of Experience
Date: October 7, 2016
If you’re looking for an inspirational speaker but have no idea who to hire, we have a special article for you.
Captain William Wells has been a professional speaker for 12 years and a former member and Vice President of the Professional Speakers Association. Amongst his years as a captain and marine commercial pilot, he has many inspiring and interesting stories to tell.
We spoke with him about his favourite aspects of public speaking, how his career helped him to become the speaker he is today and what advice he has for budding speakers.
Hi Captain William. Can you share your professional background with us?
My professional background of my first career is purely maritime.
As a school boy in my native New Zealand, I won a scholarship to travel to the UK where I underwent my basic nautical training before embarking on a lifelong career at sea and rising from the very bottom to the very top.
My sea service lasted just short of 49 continuous years. As a qualified Master Mariner, I received my first command of an ocean going ship aged only 28, but spent most of the latter part of my service serving as a Harbour Pilot.
I ended my first career as the Senior River Pilot in the Port of London.
My second career as a public speaker started before I retired and continues to grow. Having joined the Professional Speakers Association, I am fortunate to have spoken to a number of different organisations – both private and corporate as well as on board cruise ships.
What was your decision to become a speaker?
I did not set out to become a speaker, it happened by accident. As the Senior Pilot on the River Thames, I spoke on behalf of the Port of London and found that not only did I enjoy the experience, but had an unknown talent for it.
My speaking portfolio started off slowly and has been building up ever since. I started speaking in public properly around 2002.
What can audiences expect from your ‘Life and Times of a Ship Pilot’s talk’?
This is a particularly lively, amusing, yet informative talk. I explain why ships need local pilots when they move around in a port, who the pilot is and his background, qualifications and training.
Then, I give a number of amusing personal anecdotes of my own (which I have collected when handling in excess of 5,000 different ships for over 36 years).
Who was your latest talk to and how did the experience go?
My last talk was in fact a running commentary on board a cruise ship proceeding up the River Thames into central London.
In addition to general public speaking, I am contracted to three cruise lines whose ships visit London. As the ships sail into and out from London, I give a running commentary on the River itself, as well as pointing out places of history and interest.
This is done over the ship’s PA system to an audience of approximately 1,000. No matter how many times I do that trip, it is always an exciting experience to travel up the River Thames and pass through Tower Bridge.
It is wonderful that you are a volunteer for Cats Protection. Do you think it is important to give back to the community?
It is very important that everybody tries to give something back to the community in which they live – no matter how small that contribution may be.
I work with the Northampton branch of Cats Protection simply because I love cats and it sickens me to see, especially first hand, how some people treat them.
In spite of that, the work is very rewarding and worthwhile.
You have spoken for some top brands. How have you managed to achieve such success and what advice have you for other speakers?
First of all no matter to whom you speak, if you do not satisfy your clients, your work will dry up very quickly!
It is difficult to say accurately how I have achieved this success, except I kept on plugging away cold calling and sending brochures out to different organisations.
I always kept my ears and eyes open for conferences, festivals etc. then wrote away offering my services which was always supported by a list of testimonies from leading clients and my brochures.
My advice to speakers just starting out? Be prepared to give talks at low-cost to start with in order to spread your name.
Get yourself a low-cost website with all your details and contact details and never give up or become discouraged as you never know who is in your audience.
Best form of advertising and the most effective I have found is that of personal word of mouth recommendation from satisfied clients.
You have had an adventerous and exciting career. How would you advise others to come out of their comfort zone?
I never feel or think about comfort zones. I suppose I have always strived to be better next time in everything I do.
What is your favourite part of public speaking?
Travelling to places I would not expect to ever visit. Meeting many very interesting people and helping people to learn about those things which matter to me and which have played a part in my life.
As you have covered a lot of speeches in your career, how do you ensure that each speech feels fresh and not repetitive?
I always treat each speech I give as if it is the first time and often ad lib from the script.
I will also tinker with it by adding or subtracting some content. Remember, the speech is not repetitive to my audience, so for them it should always appears fresh.
Do you have any upcoming events?
Yes I have bookings up to 18 months in advance. My next engagement in Eastbourne has an estimated audience of over 1,200.
Have you been inspired by this inspirational speaker’s tale and experience? Hire William Wells for your speaking event via his profile.