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Report on Talent Summit Cork

June 27, 2019



What a conference! Last week’s Talent Summit in Cork was thought-provoking, inspiring and, thanks to the various contributors and a lively audience, a lot of fun. 


Former champion athlete David Gillick opened proceedings with a thoughtful and open account of his experience dealing with the ups and downs of a sporting career




This was followed by compelling keynotes and engaging panel discussions on issues of leadership at a time when recruitment and retention of talented staff is a crucial issue. 


Neil O’Brien, an expert on Mental Fitness, Human Potential and Engagement, took the stage at 10am for the first keynote, ‘Leading Change’.  With wry humour and in his trademark relaxed style, Neil explained how to practice resilience, approach change and be authentic in the workplace.




Some of the highlights of Neil’s keynote were:


  • The need to reframe our thinking around states of mind. Arguing that  “a cynical person is just a disappointed person’, Neil invited the audience to view states of mind as moods rather than something fixed. And because moods are governed by choices, if we make different choices, our mood will change.  


  • Practice resilience when things are good - don’t wait for setbacks.  “Ask anyone what happened to them when disaster struck, and they’ll say “I went back to basics’.  A resilient person is someone who never neglects brilliant basics. 


  • “For goodness’ sake, tell people what you admire them for!” A few chuckles were heard as Neil told of a 22-year wait to hear what his bosses valued in him when he worked in a bank; it wasn’t until his leaving do that he found out.  The upshot?  Don’t wait to tell people what they’re appreciated for.  


Some lively panel discussions followed, and a moving talk by Commander Tony Geraghty (Irish Naval Services) about the importance of values-based leadership. Then Dr. Niamh Shaw - performer, artist and engineer - delivered the final keynote, “Leading Against the Odds’.  




Why ‘against the odds”?  Well, it’s Niamh’s mission to get to space as a citizen (not an astronaut), and while she knows the odds are stacked against her, she isn’t allowing that to stop her.  


Niamh is an upbeat speaker with an infectious energy, and her story of how she has ‘allowed’ herself to pursue her dream was moving, funny and inspiring. As she said, ‘Why do we wait for people to give us permission to be the people we always knew we were”?  


In a short interview that followed with Sigmar CEO Robert MacGiolla Phadraig, Niamh also shed light on what managers can do to help when we don’t reach our goals. For those who want to lead effectively, Niamh suggested that “it’s how we make others feel about failure that‘s important, not failure itself.” Food for thought indeed. 


Feedback from the event suggests that both Neil and Niamh contributed greatly to the success of the day, with relevant, timely and engaging presentations that people wanted to hear. 


Both speakers are available for keynotes and workshops for events of all sizes.  For more details and information, please contact or call 01 4750 360 


Some other quotes from the day: 


From Adrian McGennis, COO Sigmar

“Real engagement builds trust, and trust gets you through the bad times.” 


John Goulding, CEO and co-founder WorkVivo

“The most engaged employee believes in the organisation and what it’s trying to achieve, and if you’re engaged, you bring that to everything you do.”


“In staff retention, marginal gains are huge”


“I’m a great believer in the purpose piece - it needs to excite people.“


From Siobhan Hourihan, Cloudera

“If you don’t have data to back up what you’re saying, you’re just giving an opinion.”


From Conor McCarthy, EY

“Bots are not always the best tool for screening candidates.  You need to consider the EQ element and coachability more than competencies”.

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